Just as my son started his Senior year in high school, my mother got very sick. It turned out to be an autoimmune disease that took away her ability to care for herself. Right before Jason graduated, both my in-laws were diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
It was overwhelming. My husband and I spent many hours just staring into space trying to figure out how we were going to handle all of this. It wasn’t easy but we figured it out together. It was a long six years – all three of them died within a 14-month period.
One piece of advice I will always cherish was from a dear friend who explained the concept of “Will’s Time” to me. Her son, Will, had several different disabilities that made caring for him a challenge at times. My friend learned a valuable lesson from him, though. When she slowed down and experienced life with him at his pace, they got along very well. When she hurried him or tried to make him do what she needed him to do, it was difficult.
She learned to put everything else aside and just enjoy Will. She thought this lesson would help me with my mom. It actually helped with all three of my loved ones.
When I spent time with them, I gave up on any work deadlines or chores and just spent time with them. It was hard at first to let go of the worry attached to my other obligations, but I got better at it. We all just enjoyed the time together much more than when I was worried about what I wasn’t getting done.
When I took them to doctor’s visits, I prepared myself to answer the same questions over and over. I came up with answers that satisfied them for a while. I got them interested in books or magazines or just talked to keep them calm while waiting for the doctors or nurses to check in with us.
Applying this skill to my mom and in-laws was a full-circle moment. I learned a lot from Jason when he was young, and he was frustrated that his body wouldn’t do what he wanted it to. With our parents, I learned about wheelchairs and transfers, Waiver Programs and of course, dementia. Most of all, I learned how to make the time we had left as nice as I could for all of us.
Use the services, groups, and events to find support services that can help.