Aug 8, 2012

Don't Blame Alzheimer's, Change

There came a time when I realized that not only was Alzheimer's trying to kill Dotty's brain, it was also trying to kill my brain. Alzheimer's is a sinister disease.

By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 

Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room
I spent a long time trying to rationalize Dotty's new found meanness and crazy behavior by blaming Alzheimer's.

When Dotty would do something that caused heartaches or stomach aches I would eventually try and convince myself, relax, its the Alzheimer's that is causing the problems.

It didn't work. I kept getting the heartaches and stomach aches over and over and over.

Subscribe to the Alzheimer's Reading Room

There came a time when I realized that not only was Alzheimer's trying to kill Dotty's brain, it was also trying to kill my brain. Alzheimer's is a sinister disease.

Alzheimer's was trying to kill my brain by trying to making me depressed, or by making my brain tell me to "give up".

Once aware of this I told my brain, this is not going to happen to me. Sadly, around 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers end up living with depression.

At at certain point I thought, we are going to beat Alzheimer's. The thought grew in my brain, defeat Alzheimer's. We, Dotty and I, needed to prove you can beat Alzheimer's. We did.

It took a long long time but finally I stopped thinking about Alzheimer's. I stopped thinking, Dotty has Alzheimer's.

Instead I starting thinking, Dotty is deeply forgetful. This simple thought was very pleasant.

Frankly, this line of thinking returned me to thinking of Dotty as my mom. Instead of thinking, Dotty has Alzheimer's, I thought Dotty is deeply forgetful. I decided whenever necessary I would lend mom my brain. I actually told Dotty many many times, "don't worry that is what I am here for, I'll lend you my brain".

I guess you can say the most important change came when I forgot about Alzheimer's. From that point on we just starting doing. Doing things together.

I started taking Dotty out into bright light. It improved her attitude and behavior. I didn't realize at first that it also improved my attitude and behavior. What came first, the chicken on the egg? I don't know.

When Dotty started driving the cart in Walmart I thought this exercise was designed so that she would get to use her brain. Her hands and eyes in concert with her brain.

It didn't dawn on me at first that it was also raising her "self esteem". Dotty was really proud of herself. I was proud of her too. I think many of you might have realized this as I wrote about it over the years.

My big mistake was blaming Alzheimer's. This allowed me to rationalize everything. This also gave me the excuse I needed to accept that life as we knew it was over.

Fortunately, I finally realized that something had to change. And, that something was me. Move over Alzheimer's. Get out of here. Well, I didn't think that to be honest, but it is what happened.

I guess you could say, I stopped thinking about the bad stuff, and started focusing on the good stuff.

Dotty and I started living our life. I can assure you Alzheimer's doesn't like it when you start doing this. In fact, Alzheimer's gets pushed into the background. Alzheimer's is defeated.

Alzheimer's caregiving is about change. Changing and adapting.

Once I decided to change, Dotty became my "good old girl". I guess I became her "good old boy".

I changed, I forgot about Alzheimer's. I changed and then Dotty changed.

Then something I never could have expected happened. Dotty changed me.

You can't blame Alzheimer's for that.
Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco  is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,600 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room