Photo and urn by Blocks from the Heart
Five years ago today my mother died. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Following on the heels of saying goodbye to my dear cat last week, it’s a double dose of grief.
When I think about my mother, the visceral pain has dampened with the passage of time, but such a profound loss changes the landscape of one’s heart forever. As those who have followed this blog or have read The Reluctant Caregiver know, my mother and I had our relationship challenges, because we were opposites personality-wise. But a mother is an irreplaceable figure in one’s life.
There are so many people experiencing loss right now. Having experienced a variety of losses over the last decade, I can say that grief does transform over time. Grief is an individual process, and while the established stages of grief may offer some insight, be prepared to slide in and out of stages over time. One thing I have found helpful is to give meaning to the loss, to honor the significance that person or animal had in your life. This could mean designing an urn, writing a poem, planting a tree, etc. One meaningful way I’ve honored both of my parents is to engage in caregiver advocacy work, to support those who cared for my parents during their times of need.
For those who are grieving right now, I hope you are able to find a path that will lead you to some form of inner peace.
This week, I had to say goodbye to Nod, my 15-year-old cat. He was such a sweet and affectionate cat, a total lap magnet. He also was one of those old soul creatures who carried an air of wisdom and deep understanding. We had an amazing bond and his absence is being painfully felt everywhere I turn.
Still, he had as good of a death as one can have. When he stopped eating over the weekend, he let me know that it was time to leave. (He’d had a chronic GI issue over the last couple of years and fought to live as long as he could.) I made sure to spend as much quality time with him as possible until the mobile veterinarian came to the home to perform the euthanasia. Nod always ran from the doctor, who has been paying visits a lot lately to treat my dog’s ear infection. But this time, he stayed in his pet bed and locked eyes with the veterinarian as she stepped into the living room. He knew she was there for him and he didn’t flinch. He was at peace, and that did offer me some comfort.
My other cat, Rosalie, was not particularly close to Nod. They had more of a sibling rivalry relationship. She initially left the room as the veterinarian set up her equipment, but then she came back in and intently observed the procedure from a safe spot. As soon as the veterinarian checked his vitals and nodded to me that he was gone, Rosalie got up, stretched and left the room. She knew that Nod was no longer with us.
I’m always floored by just how much animals understand. We don’t give them nearly enough credit. And we could learn something from them about how they approach death.
Farewell to my sweet friend Nod, who I know will be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.
Many people are wondering how to handle Mother’s Day during a pandemic. If you are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with your mother, but are intent on keeping her healthy, you may decide not to meet in person. But there are many ways you can show her love this weekend from afar. And with so many lives lost this year, reach out to your loved ones and make sure they know how much you care.
A simple phone call would mean a lot to mothers who may feel isolated right now. Bonus points if the two of you can figure out how to video chat! Sending flowers is a simple, thoughtful gift that will brighten someone’s day. Mobile dining apps means you could have brunch delivered safely to her home. If you sent your mother a card, good for you. If you forgot, you could still send an e-card or a gift card electronically, if she has email access.
I’ve been reading about a lot of celebrations taking place in creative fashion, like a drive-by parade or holding messages up to the window. If possible, get the grandchildren involved and make it a family activity to brighten the spirits that may be strained during the stay-at-home period.
This Mother’s Day may look different than it does in a typical year, but you can still express your love and gratitude. And for those of us who no longer have our mothers, take time this weekend to reflect on happier times and cherished family memories.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful Mother’s Day.
With extra time spent at home in the midst of a pandemic, you may be in touch with your elder relatives more than ever. This is a great time to review the health status of your older relatives. When people are thrown off their routine, symptoms of dementia may become more apparent. This post from The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver offers excellent tips on when to consider memory care.
Sign up to get these posts and a whole lot more delivered right to your inbox! The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver – Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy, and deal with the rest! Brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc. are progressive conditions. In these diseases, the patient’s health tends to deteriorate with time.…
via How to know it’s time to consider Memory Care? — The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver
A caregiver’s job was stressful enough before the coronavirus pandemic struck the world. But now, social isolation and anxiety, along with financial concerns, may feel overwhelming.
Over the last few years, I’ve spent time looking for ways caregivers can find a bit of respite, even if it’s just for an hour or an afternoon. What I learned from my work on Respite Care Share was that many caregivers aren’t seeking traditional respite care, which involves taking a longer physical break away from their loved one. While they would love a caregiving break, they worry about placing their loved one, especially those with dementia, in the care of a stranger while they’re away.
Based upon that feedback, I started focusing more on self-care, and finding realistic ways a caregiver can find some solace even in the midst of caregiving. It may be a cup of tea in the morning before everyone else is awake; it may be sitting in the garden while your loved one naps. Reading a chapter of a book after your loved one goes to bed. Listening to a favorite song while your loved one is occupied with an activity. It may not seem like much, but it can make a positive difference.
These are all things that can also be done during times of self-isolation. Supplements and herbal remedies may be helpful (but check with your doctor first.) On CBD for Caregivers, I published a post about relaxing beverages which are either non-alcoholic or lower in alcohol. The good news is that there are a variety such beverages available now, and many are quite tasty! One of my new favorites is Hella Cocktail Co.’s Bitters & Soda. It’s a nice beverage to sip while sitting outside in the area of the yard I’ve transformed into my respite corner.
Challenging times like these can find us slipping into bad habits like excessive drinking, smoking, overeating, etc. I hope you have or can find a healthier way to navigate these stressful times while keeping you and your family safe.
Honored to have been able to share my caregiving experience that inspired The Reluctant Caregiver included in this collection.
Life these days is turned upside down for most of us, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is so much uncertainty, fear, and loss. Those of us caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias find ourselves stressed, not only from our usual pressures but the new ones the virus has delivered: stay-at-home orders…
via Stay at Home with a Good Book – AlzAuthors Anthology Two is Now Available in Paperback — AlzAuthors: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Books, Blogs, Stories
The Alzheimer’s Association released their annual report around the time the coronavirus pandemic was ramping up, but I did not want to overlook the latest findings. I thought it was especially appropriate to post this today, on what would have been my father’s 88th birthday.
Here are the main takeaways from the 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report:
- Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. The death rate from Alzheimer’s has skyrocketed. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s disease has more than doubled, increasing 146%.
- More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease. Women make up two-thirds of that number; African-Americans are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias compared to whites in the same age group; Hispanics are about 1.5 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other dementias compared to whites in the same age group.
- Unless significant medical breakthroughs are made, by 2050, the number of Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 13.8 million.
- 16 million unpaid dementia caregivers provide care valued at $244 billion annually. One in three caregivers are 65 and over, and two-thirds are women. One-quarter of dementia caregivers belong to the “sandwich generation,” caring for both an aging parent and minor children.
- The cost of Alzheimer’s care to the nation is staggering. In 2020 alone, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $305 billion. What’s even more sobering is that half of primary care physicians believe the American healthcare system is not prepared for the growing number of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
While these reports highlight the challenges we face in providing care for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the Alzheimer’s Association proposes an action plan focused on education and recruitment to build up a corps of geriatric providers who understand the unique challenges that those with dementia and their caregivers face. The Alzheimer’s Association also encourages greater funding in the areas of rural healthcare and telemedicine.