Thursday, December 31, 2015

Until We Meet Again


It was a complication. Nothing had been planned in advance.  And why should there be morose reflections on, "What if's," or "What might be?"  Everything was going so well, and had gone well for over 40 years.  And oh, the 40 years were very good years indeed.  Sylvia and Bob meet in high school, and it was love at first sight.  An absolutely wonderful marriage,  Sylvia and Bob's marriage was a marriage made in Hollywood!  No, not the Hollywood of today, but a marriage built on love, typical of Hollywood movie endings from the 1940's where the perfect couple falls in love, and rides away at the end of the movie, off into the sunset!!

  The beginning was just that, perfect. And although there were the typical rocky roads of financial struggles, ups and downs of raising kids, switching jobs, etc.  Sylvia and Bob had a very happy marriage. They married in the 1950's had 3 kids and became grandparents in the late 70's. Everything seemed to fall into place. And their health was superb. On occasion, one of them would have a cold, or the flu once a year maybe,  there were no hurdles other than that concerning health. No hurdles at all, just every day waking up, and enjoying life, loving each other and that was pretty darn good, in fact, Sylvia and Bob were very happy for 40 years!!

  And then, when they both entered the realm of their 80's, things started to go South, and all hell broke lose.  It wasn't gradual, either.  It was all at once like a runaway wagon train pulled by wild horses.  A tornado of awful, terrible loss that no one in the world could have predicted.

  Firstly, Bob started forgetting things. He would go shopping, forget where his car was, and would forget what he went to the store to buy, so he bought 4 of everything. His buying habits started to not only concern Sylvia, but began to annoy her. And Bob started feeling agitated, possibly from the memory loss, but would mask his agitation on political issues, oftentimes screaming at the TV in rage filled explosive rants.  When the grandchildren would come over, it didn't take much for the normally very patient Bob to completely lose his temper. It got so bad that his grandchildren would no longer visit the house without being accompanied by a parent.  The once calm and beloved Bob was becoming a grumpy,  angry, forgetful old man. Finally, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease which Sylvia was left to manage.

 Shortly after Sylvia became Bob's care partner she  herself received a diagnosis. She found out that she had aggressive breast cancer, and had to juggle chemotherapy treatments with managing her husband's late night wandering, along with protecting herself from his volatile temper.  The cancer soon started to spread and with a heavy heart, Sylvia had to admit her beloved husband Bob into a nursing home.

Sylvia went to visit Bob  frequently in the nursing home, and one day she couldn't find Bob in his room. After searching for Bob down the long corridor, Sylvia saw him sitting with his back to her looking out the window at sunset holding the hand of another woman.  Just as Sylvia was about to approach the two, Bob stood up unaware of Sylvia's presence and gave the other woman a long and  passionate kiss.   This was so shocking to Sylvia that she almost fainted, and ran away before Bob could see her. After months and months of Bob appearing detached from Sylvia, Sylvia stopped visiting him and one night,  all alone in the happy home Sylvia and Bob once created together, Sylvia died in her sleep.

Sylvia and Bob's children were heartbroken by the loss of their mother and dreaded breaking the news  of her death to their father.  (All along, everyone had been mourning the slow demise of their father, and were surprised to see that their mother was the first of the two to go.) When they approached their father to tell him of her death, they surrounded him with a group prayer and slowly got his attention. Bob's oldest son looked into his eyes and said, "Dad, Mom has gone to heaven, and you won't be seeing her anymore. She died in her sleep, but she loved you."  There was a solemn nod of his head to acknowledge what was being said, and then Bob looked up and smiled, "We will see each other again in heaven. We will see each other again in heaven."

Sometimes people with Alzheimer's and dementia's will re-live this news over and over again especially when they are unable to call their loved ones, or to have their loved ones visit them. Some care-partners choose to not bring up the subject until the carer brings it up. When that happens, according to Naomi Feil, MSW., it is best to tell them the truth.  Have a gentle way to say what needs to be said. Some people will ask a question with a question like, "Where is so and so?"  and an example of an answer could be, "Where would you like them to be?" Another question could be, "Where do you think he/she is?"  And many times they know the person has departed, but just want reassurance that everything in the present moment is okay. They may even answer their own question like Lori's mother often does by saying. "He is in heaven and I will see him when I get there."  Or "My mother is waiting for me and will meet me at the bridge."  And Lori will say, "How does that make you feel?"  And Lori's mother will say, "Like he, or she is still with me in my heart."  She then smiles and doesn't bring it up until she wants to bring it up.

Having an item that belonged to the departed person is very helpful, along with an obituary. Again, rather than dwelling on the death, it is best to let the person suffering the loss to lead you.  They will share things when they are ready to share things. And when they want more information like an obituary, they will tell you.  Lori's mother chose not to look at an obituary, and told Lori to put it in her diary. Since Lori's mother is a very private person, she will be able to have her privacy when she reads the obituary alone at her choosing, but Lori will be close by if she needs her.

 Dwelling on death day in and day out can bring up fear, loneliness and even more confusion. Lori's mother has a beautiful book filled with pictures of her loved ones and stories that she herself wrote in her younger years. Reminiscing can be healthy ways to honor a loved one and to bring back very happy memories.

  However, breaking the news is never easy and can be heartbreaking for everyone, especially the caregiver/care partner.  It is important to foster a support system of friends, family or counselors so that you the caregiver can grieve too, if you knew the departed person. (This can be especially hard if this involves the loss of a child, even if the child is a grown adult when they make their transition.) A loved one  being cared for by a family member will pick up on the family caregiver's mood of sadness, etc.  Support groups can be very helpful during this time of loss.

 (For those who have touched our hearts, and have recently passed, "May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand, until we meet again!"  RIP )

Positive Communication methods for people living with dementia:  We recommend seminars by Teepa Snow,M.S., OTR/L.FAOTA, Naomi Feil, MSW,, and her books, all of them. And the life changing, ground breaking books, "Contented Dementia," by Dr. Oliver James, "The Mindful Caregiver," by Nancy L. Kriseman, and "Deeper Into The Soul," by Nader Robert Shabahangi, Ph.D, and Bogna Szymkiewicz, Ph.D

Copyright 2015 Caregivers Get Fit! Mama  Nicey

The information in this blog is information. It is not meant to be a replacement for getting medical advice from your own health professional regarding your own individual health challenge or condition. Dr. Denise will not diagnose, treat, or give direct personal consultations/advice to you on this blog for any medical condition, but will give general examples, and scientific research on many different health topics.  How you decide to use the information is between you and your own medical/ health professional.

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