Saturday, July 13, 2013

We Only Pass This Way Once- And Mostly What We Leave Behind Are Memories

As a caregiver for a family member with dementia, I am always collecting memories and holding on to them. Each day takes him further into his own private world, which is far removed from the one we shared. As the horrendous disease claims his memories, I am the connector to his past. I remind him of the things that were important. Everyday experiences that seemed ordinary are now precious.

I went to the gardening shed to get the electrical cord to do some hedge trimming today. The bright orange professional grade 100 foot cord was neatly looped, just as he had taught me to do it on a long ago day. He was the owner of his own construction company until his disease took away his ability to function in that capacity. There were things that were very important to him. One was putting away tools properly. He taught me how to loop the cord to prevent tangles. Today, I almost cried when I saw it neatly stored just the way he taught me. It was a bittersweet reminder of the man who kept everything in order.

Now, I am the one who makes sure everything is done. His red truck remains spotless. The yard is neat and trimmed. His hours are ordered and filled with things that I know he likes. Little Debbie cakes and Sundrop are always in the kitchen. I call his old friends and hook him up with them by phone. I label the old family photographs. I encourage the familiar stories that bring laughter to his face. Today, I went inside and told him about the cord and how it was stored just the way he had taught me. His eyes sparkled because he realized that  he still has great influence on my life. He is the love of my life and the has taught me so many things. I want him to know this.
Preserving old family memories is one way you can help your loved one to hold on to reality. Label old photographs and share them as an activity.Share the stories that go with the photos.

It is a struggle to be a caregiver when I myself am a traumatic brain injury survivor. I suffer from memory loss also. As I search for lost pieces of my life, I realize the importance of holding on to what you can. It is a blessing to be able to keep up with all the important pieces of our lives. Be thankful if your little brain still works properly and be understanding of those who no longer are able to function as they once could.