May 13, 2014

Is Your Brain Holding You Back?

You Cannot Change the Past But, You Can Change the Future.

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Many Alzheimer's Care Partners comment about how they wish the person they are caring for would go back to the way they were.

Is Your Brain Holding You Back?

I think most of us of wish from time to time that our loved one was like they were in the past so we could do something with them.

I really missed having great conversations with my mother as she staged into Alzheimer's.

I often thought, I wish we could this or that? I sometimes wished I could take my mother to Switzerland for trip up the Jungfrau. Oh, how she would have loved that.

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It is easy to understand how we spend so much time thinking about the past. Our brain is full of memories of the past. Most people don't spend a lot of time using their brain to imagine the future. Or, to imagine how they might change the future.

I lived most of my life thinking and believing this,

You Cannot Change the Past
But, You Can Change the Future.

You can change the future, of this I am convinced.

Of course, you might use many of the things you learned from the past in order to change, and better the future. Most people put this in the context of not making the same mistakes. In other words, learning from the past.

When I rewired my brain while caring for my mother Dotty, I really focused on two things. The right now today, and the future.

Focusing on the right now today lead me to the conclusion that we really need to start living our life. Eventually this lead me to the understanding that we needed a set routine in lives in order to function at the optimum.

One of the biggest problems I had near the beginning was urinary incontinence. This was driving me crazy. Then one day I had the moment, the moment of discovery that lead me to the solution.

It was so simple I had to laugh at myself a bit. I decided I had to segment out our day so that every 90 minutes I could take my mother to the bathroom.

Oh yes, it was a bit hairy at first, you know the drill. I don't need to pee, she would say. I just peed, she would say. She knew all the excuses.

But eventually I had a very good daily routine and the problem of urinary incontinence basically disappeared.

I used my brain to discover all the elements of our routine. Much of it came from doing research. This helped me add exercise, bright light, good eating, and discussion to our daily routine.

I used my brain to remember the things my mother liked to do. This lead me to having her read me the day and date from the newspaper each morning, read to me from the newspaper, put the crossword puzzle in front of her.

Quite frankly this might sound like tiny little things; but,  all of these tiny little things lead to a monster big, good luck, outcome.

My mother kept reading the newspaper and her books, I handed her the book every night. She kept doing the crossword puzzle right up until very near to the end. She could still get 3 letter words. I realized over time that those answers were stored up in her long term memory.

Her Brain

My brain did give me good ideas that had unintended effects.

For example, I bought Harvey (the toy parrot) because I thought he would make Dotty laugh. I had no idea he would become her best friend, and would keep her company and talking and talking all day long (for hours).

Harvey really pleased my mother. I should add he became a very real part of our lives.

My point today is simple and straightforward. If you are spending a lot of time thinking about the past and the way it was, you are probably not changing the future.

Instead of longing for the past, use your brain to develop a new and effective routine.

Start Living Your Lives

When you get into a routine something miraculous might happen. It did to me.

I Forgot My Mother Had Alzheimer's

I was so busy executing our daily routine I really didn't have any time to lament fate.

I became a man on a mission. I was constantly trying to figure out how to make Dotty smile, and how to keep her talking.

I was constantly trying to imagine new and better ways to

Live Our Lives.

It was happening all the time. It just seemed to me things were getting better and better in what might seem like an odd way.

One thing for sure, the look on Dotty's face improved over the years. And, people noticed.

I developed lots of alternate cures to get the dull look off Dotty's face. Telephone calls, trips to the Banana Boat, drives in the car, trips to they gym and pool. It just all came together.

So you see, I tricked my brain. Instead of allowing my brain to wallow in the past, I put it to work to help change the future.

Don't let your brain hold you back.

Please remember this,

Alzheimer's Patients Are Capable of More Than We Can Imagine
So Are You.

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