It’s easy to live life until you journey with someone dealing with health challenges. One of the most challenging ailments to navigate is Alzheimer’s dementia. I won’t look at the technical medical terms because they are overwhelming.
For many years it was just another term that meant forgetting and losing memory and oh well, it didn’t seem that bad until we traveled the journey as a family. What started simply as short-term memory loss gradually became clumsiness and ended in immobility.
It is a harrowing journey that families bear, often in silence because when they try to explain it to others, it seems like normal aging at first. I remember the first day I met someone who had been through the journey I almost cried. For once, someone got me, someone understood my questions, frustration, sadness, and sense of loss. Finally, someone had ideas for me on how to support my mother. That was priceless!!
Recently as we shared the journey with a dear family friend, it struck me just how much we could not and had not shared with the world when she just broke down and cried. You see, about ten years ago, Dad retreated from the public eye when he retired for the third and final time and that is the memory everyone had of him…strong, full of laughter, walking with a limp but walking. Yet over ten years he slowly lost every little bit of that and spent his last days in silence.
A couple of things happen when people retreat from the public eye that we never think about before that. Connections and relationships change, some are lost, some are deepened, and most go into limbo. Limbo in this case is neglect or suspension. Each one is waiting for the other to make the move to connect and many times it is too late before they are restored if at all.
If someone in your circle has gone out of circulation, find them. Even if you have nothing to say, just say hello, share love, hug them close or just sit with them. There is greater friendship in silence but the greatest thing you could do for a family in crisis is the gift of presence.
Be There…No Matter What!!