Since a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s means there is a great deal of uncertainty about life and death on a daily basis, developing coping mechanisms early to help the individual living with Alzheimer’s is very important. Such pre-planning supports the family caregiver who already fears the day this precious life will end. Here is our story and how we coped with this highly charged topic of life and death.
After diagnosis, Alzheimer’s can last days or years. As a matter of fact, Alzheimer’s can last as long as 20 years or more. Still there is always this sword dangling over our heads, ready to fall at any moment. It is especially true when the individuals living with Alzheimer’s has a simple cold that can lead to full pneumonia, reminding all of us how much this individual needs our support and care to pull them through. It may also require an all-night shift to provide the proper hydration and supervision.
Early in his Alzheimer’s I told this story to my husband. There is a special bridge under construction just for you. That bridge is being built so that when you are ready to leave this life, it will be there for you to use and meet special people that will be waiting on the bridge-just for you. They will know you are coming and will be there welcoming you. Your paternal grandmother will be there with a plate containing a large blueberry pancake she made just for you. Your father is already there waiting with your sister, Judy, and will be embracing you. There will be plenty of light all around and nothing will be in darkness. If you should go on that bridge before me, please sit on that beautiful, comfortable bench with your dad and wait for me. I will follow you one day. As I have told you and as you already know, we will be together eternally. Have no fear, only love.
He asked me many times to tell him that story. He used to say, when he could speak, tell me that beautiful story about the bridge. The story was comforting to him and in a way it also told him that I was not afraid either. Death, as I was taught as a young child in a French-Canadian family, is a celebration of joy instead of sadness. It is better to live every day as though it was our last than to wait for the end of our life to begin reflecting. Reflecting every day, doing our best, loving one another, supporting each other, and celebrating life in the moment (a gift Alzheimer’s gave to me) leads to true happiness.
If we listen carefully, a person with Alzheimer’s can deliver complete messages and then fade away into another space and time, other than our reality. Speaking about my work from a point of clarity and his love for me, my husband recently told me “PLEASE do this project and make it real and strong as it is needed”. He was referring to the Caregiver Partnership Agreement Program™ and Care Partners™ to create an Alzheimer’s Friendly Healthcare Workforce™, from which he and others like him would greatly benefit. For more information please contact the author at Info@remembering4you.com today.
About the author:
Ethelle G. Lord, former president of the Maine Gerontological Society in the State of Maine, currently is President and Professional Alzheimer’s Coach offering Alzheimer’s coaching and consulting through businesses at Remembering4You.com, and is a professor of Organizational Behavior at several universities. Dr. Lord has a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. Her 10-year experience as a family caregiver originated with her husband who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Jan. 2003. In that decade she has seen a daily influx of new Alzheimer’s cases. Dr. Lord realized there is an urgent need for a change in perspective with regards to providing individual and institutional care for individuals living with Alzheimer’s. She is married to Maj. Larry S. Potter, USAF retired, and lives in Mapleton, Maine. Dr. Lord is available for presentations, training, and Alzheimer’s coaching/consulting.