Memories are what sustain and fulfill our lives. The memory of being thrown in a deep lake before we learned to swim may cause us to feel fear when our skin comes in contact with water. Just as the scent of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven can fill our being with warmth at the memory of our mother’s floured covered hands buttering these delectable Sunday morning treats.
These snippets of time do more than just make up the years of our lives. They help us remember who we are, where we have been, and where we are going. They make up our dreams and help us dream for tomorrow. They connect us to each other with threads of communication that need no verbal description.
So what happens when a loved one suffers from memory loss? This disease, whether it be Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body or one of the other 70 types of dementia, steals these memories and much, much more.
However, it doesn’t always take every memory. One may still hold that fear of water, while forgetting those Sunday morning breakfasts. They may remember one child, but forget the five others that they love just as much. This poem from an Alzheimer’s Patient helps keep this thought in mind.
Unfortunately, it is not just the memory of our loved one that changes, but those of everyone involved in their care. It may start with the loss of personal memories, for instance perhaps Dad has told the story of his first car many times, but now he looks to you, his caregiver, to fill in the information. Do you know the color? Do you know the make and model? How many of us take the time to truly remember our loved ones memories or even our own for that matter?
In addition, this disease causes many caregivers to begin the grieving process long before it is needed. This is a very common occurrence since dementia takes away the future dreams that we had for our loved one. Those of them playing catch with their grandsons or dancing at their 50th wedding anniversary. With this disease the future is unknown and seemingly deplete of personally recalled memories.
Often caregivers get so wrapped up in the care they are providing that they stop looking for the memories they are or could be making. True Grandpa can’t play catch, but we could get Grandpa’s baseball glove out and let grandson play with it, while sitting next to Grandpa and learning what position Grandpa played, his favorite team etc…
Yes, this memory may not be captured by Grandpa, but it will be by his Grandson and by you. Odds are the next time you feel leather against your skin or hear the crack of a bat your memory will transport you back to this moment.
The reality is these memories are what will sustain caregivers throughout the disease process. The moments of laughter and tears will make the gradual and final loss not so great. Yes, memories are lost due to the disease of dementia, but if handled and made correctly they can live on through you and everyone involved in their care.