Tag Archives: Relationships

March Forth

It all began decades ago with the comic wrapped over the tempting pink square of Dubble Bubble. double bubbleA sweet scent swept into me as I popped the gum into my mouth. While I chomped, the sugary juices swelling against my teeth, I read the riddle, neatly typed under the comic. “What is the only day of the year that tells you to go forward?” I had to twist the paper upside down to discover the answer: “March Fourth.” (March Forth!) Since that long ago moment, March Fourth has been one of my favorite days. Every year, I ponder, how am I going to march forth this year? How will I contribute to the world and how will I experience a meaningful and happy life?

This year I am learning a few creative lessons from several families of monkeys we met while visiting Costa Rica. These monkeys travel in groups, with a leader to show the way and a follower to make sure everyone gets safely on the tree-born trail. Often, the monkeys have to leap to the next limb, letting go before they’ve safely latched onto the next branch. They’re curious and if anything hints at being delicious or interesting, they scramble down to investigate. And they are not shy about sounding their voices.

capuchin_monkey

Here’s a small monkeying around video and here’s a few of the ways I’m inspired to March Forth.

A delicious way to March Forth

I’m following the trail of my own curiosity.

I’m helping others find a path.

I’m letting go of the familiar when I can.

I’m making the most of what is right in front of me.

I’d love to hear about the people or animals that inspire you and I’m interested in any ways you’re going to March Forth.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. 

3 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Inspiration, Relationships

Expanding My Definition of Love

Love comes in so many magical guises. My journey with people who have Alzheimer’s has expanded and deepened my understanding of love. Here are some insights from others.

shadow hands

My friend Vicki always inspires and teaches me. She has early onset Alzheimer’s and her outlook is an embodiment of grace and spirit. She writes: “I have lost both friends and family members since I have dementia.  Some people are just so uncomfortable that they just cannot bear to see me go down hill.  I have lost a very good friend who just can’t seem to handle it.  I know that these people love me but they do not have the emotional fortitude to see the daily loss.  You will find out who really loves you when you get dementia because these are the people who will be there for you when you need them.”    — Vicki Stoecklin, Kansas City, Mo, retired designer

The True Meaning of Unconditional Love

hafizLinda Fisher is a tireless advocate and a caring person. Her words really move me. “Caring for my husband Jim taught me the true meaning of unconditional love.  I became fiercely protective of him and learned to love him ‘as is’ without looking back on the man he had been or forward to the man he would become. My love for him continued to grow throughout the ten years of his dementia, as he became dependent on me to be his advocate in all aspects.”  —  Linda Fisher, Sedalia, Mo, retired office manager, Central Missouri Electric Coop http://earlyonset.blogspot.com Early Onset Alzheimer’s: My Recollections, Our Memories (2012)

The Full Range of Emotions

Kelly Sheet, founder of the SpunkyCaregiver, offered these deep insights: “I have learned that love transcends any words and appearances. When someone has dementia, love is shared through energy and feeling. You can be vulnerable with people who are living with dementia. And it is a relief to be so open. Day-to-day we are expending energy to protect ourselves from saying too much or too little or the wrong thing. The great gift of loving people with dementia is that you can let go of those ideas, experiment with what a full range of emotions actually feels like. Without being judged, you can laugh spontaneously at some goofy moment, dance with abandon or hold hands with a stranger. Loving people with dementia helps me to feel alive. The hundreds of seniors I have known over the years have really taught me how to love more freely.” — Kelly Sheets, Founder, Sisters, Or, www.TheSpunkyCaregiver.com,dance

Every person teaches us more about love.

Deborah is the author of Love in the Land  of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

LITLOD medium of the small

Share

2 Comments

Filed under Communication, Inspiration, love, Relationships

Learning about Love through the Dementia Journey

This month, I’ve been asking myself and others, What have you learned about love from your dementia journey?  Here are some of the profound answers:

3 generationsI learned that it is redefined. I loved my mother as my parent, and then learned to love her as a child. And I would not trade that experience for anything.  Pamela J. Van Ahn, Executive Director at Caring Together in Hope, Inc., Atlanta, GA

I have learned that love remains, even as memory fails.  Long after your name is forgotten, there are still frequent glimpses of recognition that are very meaningful.  The Alzheimer’s patient does not become “a different person”.  They are much more “still there” than easily meets the eye.  With Alzheimer’s disease, things that have emotional context are remembered the longest, and love is a strong emotion. Max Wallack, research intern in the Molecular Psychiatry in Aging Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston MA.  

love hands

I have learned so many lessons regarding love through my mothers journey with dementia.  Here are just a couple of them. There are multiple levels of unconditional love.  Each one is more precious and runs deeper then the next. “Letting Go” of our need to control is one of the most loving things we can do for a person with dementia and ourselves. Allowing a person with dementia to be in a loving respectful relationship, even if it might be with someone unexpected, is a gift to all and does not mean they love us less. Love runs much deeper than a name. We need to stop quizzing a person with dementia to check if they know and love us.  A name has nothing to do with the bond and connection between two souls.                                                                                                    Lori La Bey, Founder of Alzheimer’s Speaks , St. Paul, Minnesota, www.AlzheimersSpeaks.com  real love

Deborah is the author of Love in the Land  of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

LITLOD medium of the small

Share

Leave a comment

Filed under Caregiving, love, Relationships

Appreciating the Power of Love

swans“How long have you been together?” the younger couple asked Ron and me.

“Twenty-two years,” we answered.

“Wow!” they said. They’d been in love for seven months and our decades-long romance must have seemed exotic and slightly unbelievable.

“What are the secrets of a good relationship?” they asked. “Please share your wisdom.”

First, Ron and I basked in the idea that two people believed we possessed actual wisdom! Then we shared our insights.

How We Learned about Love

Our insights came from growing as individuals and as a couple during our wonderful long relationship and from earlier relationships that had helped us become our true selves.  We also learned from watching our parents maintain their relationships in the face of dementia.

When Ron’s father Frank was in a memory care unit, Ron’s mom Mollie told her husband, “I love you so much.” Frank replied, “Not as much as I love you!.” lionsThose were some of Frank’s last words and that sentence stayed with Mollie through and beyond her grieving.

During my growing up years, my father was circumspect in declaring his love for Mom. But when she slipped into dementia, Dad showed me what a true romantic he was.  He treated her like he was courting her; he showered Mom with compliments and kisses and frequently he expressed his love for her. Even when she could no longer talk, she still enjoyed her favorite foods—he faithfully fed her sliced strawberries and chocolate candies.

Love Me Tender, Make Me Laugh, Always Have My Back

My parents were my role models and I also learn an enormous amount from the couples I interview every week for the love story column I write for the Kansas City Star Magazine. Here are some of the qualities people most love about their life partners and spouses.

Loves me just as I amlaughing

Takes care of me/Always has my back

Makes me laugh

Shares my values/ Complements me

Works hard/ Is honest and reliable

Always puts other people first/ Always puts me first

Inspires me to be better/ Appreciates me

Love Lights the Way

Some months ago, Oprah had author, visionary and cultural mid-wife Jean Houston on her TV show. “What do you wish people knew?” Oprah asked Jean.

“I wish people knew how powerful love is,” Jean answered.

That was one of the grandest lessons from my journey with my mom through her dementia: the power of love. Her love lasted all her life, far beyond her memory of things and people. Her love was a spark that lit up her life and mine.

sparkDeborah is the author of Love in the Land  of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

Share

1 Comment

Filed under Caregiving, Communication, love, Relationships

The Marvels of Movement 

Dancing is like dreaming with your feet!  ~Constanze

 

During my mom’s dementia journey, movement often inspired and connected us. Here is one of those magical moments, excerpted from my book, Love in the land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. The story is set in my mom’s memory care unit.

**

Rochelle, the activity director, sticks in another tape and soon Stardust is playing. images

“Let’s dance,” she says, motioning everyone to stand.

Mom looks up and I offer her my hand.

“Want to dance?” I ask her.

“What?”

“Want to dance?” I repeat, making a swirling motion.

“What else,” she says, standing up.

My parents have danced to this song many times, my mother coaxing my father onto the dance floor. I hold hands with Mom and move back and forth to the music. She laughs and does the same. I twirl her, and she walks around in a jaunty little circle. For a moment, her energy and charm have returned. I feel like I have found my long-lost mother. If my father were here, he would not be surprised. He is certain she will return to him and takes every word, every gesture of affection, every smile as a sign of hope.

“Hope is everything,” Dad told me just last week. “I find something hopeful and I milk it for all it’s worth. If it doesn’t work out, then I search for something else. Otherwise, I am in despair.”

I twirl my mom again. It is actually our first real dance together …

***

I loved my dance with my mother for the deep connection it gave me. My friend Natasha Jen Goldstein-Levitas reminds me of the other benefits of movement.  Natasha is a Philadelphia, PA based Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) and Reiki Practitioner who does heartfelt and creative work with those living with dementia.  She writes: “Among the creative arts therapy modalities, dance/movement therapy (DMT) offers the opportunity for individuals to express themselves, regardless of functional level. DMT engages the sensory systems and stimulates the physical, emotional, and cognitive areas of functioning. This movement is also a wonderful outlet for care partners.”

snoopy

Samuel Beckett sums this up, He says, “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”

To read Natasha’s blog, please visit:

http://blog.adta.org/category/creative-arts-therapy/

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

1 Comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Creativity, Relationships, Taking Care of Yourself, The Arts, Uncategorized