There is very little we can do to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. Modern medicine currently has no path to eradicate Alzheimer’s from the body. However, there are many ways we can treat people with Alzheimer’s. We do have the means to bring joy, love, and comfort to the person with Alzheimer’s and to their family and friends.
First: Don’t fight it. Don’t resist it. Let go of your dreams for a future that will never happen. Reconnect with the purpose of your life. Create a new dream consistent with the physical reality of Alzheimer’s Disease. Living a life of love and joy will make a difference when you are with someone with Alzheimer’s.
Let’s take this one step at a time.
- Don’t fight it. The usual desired outcome of the treatment of disease is the alleviation of symptoms and the return of function to levels prior to the onset of the condition. With the therapies available for Alzheimer’s today, I’m sorry, that is not happening. So, we have to adjust our expectations and create a new vision for the outcomes.
- Don’t resist it. We can’t turn back the clock to regain the cognitive function prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s. We can’t stop the progression of the brain deterioration. Perhaps someday, but we can’t arrest this disease today. Rivers will always flow from the mountains to the sea. Carrying seawater up the mountain will only make you tired; it will not reverse the flow of the river. Today, we have no way to reverse the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s, so let’s collect our energy and go with the flow.
- Let go of your dreams for a future that will never happen. You never planned on a life with Alzheimer’s Disease, so don’t be surprised if your dreams for your future are inconsistent with the presence of Alzheimer’s. This attachment to a future that is now inconsistent with the reality of Alzheimer’s is the great source of disappointment and sadness that accompanies Alzheimer’s. If you have Alzheimer’s, you’re not going to manage a large investment fund or be the project manager for the construction of a new skyscraper. If your spouse has Alzheimer’s, your conversations are going to be different than they were in your spouse’s cognitive years.
- Reconnect with the purpose of your life. Love, joy, beauty, companionship, contribution, and community are always available. Sooner or later we all return to earth, ashes, and dust. When our bodies are spent, we become the raw materials for new life. The purpose of life has not changed since the dawn of time. If your happiness is conditional upon the presence of something that did not exist two thousand years ago, then consider that you are disconnected from what is really lasting and nurturing.
- Create a new dream consistent with the physical reality of Alzheimer’s Disease. Who will share the caring duties? Who will share the love? What do you like? Who can you do it with? What else will you find to do when Alzheimer’s withdraws an activity from your access? This is where those with cognitive abilities must imagine and act for those with Alzheimer’s.
- Live a life of love and joy. I prefer love and joy to the available alternatives. You might not choose your physical diseases, but you can choose how you experience your life. You choose what is important in life and to what you give your attention. You can give your attention to losses and that which you do not have and will never have, or you can give your attention to what is available that you like and in which you find fulfillment. The focus of your attention IS your experience of life. I suggest you bring your attention to the love and joy in life. If you don’t see it, keep looking. It is there as long as the sun shines and the wind blows. If you don’t experience the love and joy in life, then your attention is on other, non-joyful, matters. Finding the joy and establishing yourself in it requires constant effort of the most rewarding kind. Keep at it!
OK, your life is not as easy as reading a blog. I suggest you gather with friends, family, and your community. Having a joyful life requires working on finding joy and then working on cultivating joy. It’s a big job that is most effectively done with others. Can you think of a better purpose of your life or better outcome than love and joy?
David Lazaroff is author of Live It Up! 10 Ways to Share Joy When Your Friend Has Alzheimer’s. David coaches family and friends of people with Alzheimer’s Disease in creating a fun and joyful life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
David is the founder of Holistic Community Living, a Colorado nonprofit founded to operate and teach others to operate neighborhood-based assisted living homes where people can complete their lives with those they love.