To my wife and me the practices of living responsibly and paying it forward were intertwined. One practice was not possible without the other. Responsible living was the foundation for serving the other. For mentoring or paying it forward.
We can choose to be happy. I have chosen to be as happy as possible while serving as a caregiver for a wife with Alzheimer’s. But that happiness is not to be achieved at her expense, shunted away or forgotten while I pursue other diversions.
We need to manage our destiny by controlling our self-perceptions and actions
“I will not be a victim” mindset forces us to discover ways to control our own destiny. At least to some degree.
One of the first actions I took as an Alzheimer’s caregiver was to reach out to AARP. I made an intentional effort to meet and become friends with my neighbors, joined a small and supportive church, and continued professional affiliations as much as possible.
It is comforting to know some organizations are interested in us, as we walk through the decision-making minefield.
What mattered most was that Ann awakened Phil to the way life could and should be lived.
She knew we needed to talk about it. And we did. For hours.
Planning was essential, including getting me, a guy who had needed help all the time, to the point I could be a caregiver myself.
Fear of death is wired into our psyches because, like loneliness, it is a survival mechanism. Being part of the herd protects us from the tiger. Fearing pain and death protects us from doing something to jeopardize our lives or well-being.
It started with periods of denial for both of us, and the eventual crying while we held each other tight. Sobbing our way through the trauma. The loss of a future. The ultimate loss of the magical bond that started over 35 years ago.