This is not about New Year’s resolutions. As a caregiver I am forever awash in resolving to do this or that better. Nor is it that I am having a tough time typing 2015 instead of 2014. Too much like a person with dementia, my sense of time is all mashed up; whirred and beaten in a pot so much that I have trouble telling 2011 from 2015. I just keep putting one foot in front of another, you know. I try not to forget to put gas in the car. It’s ironic, because I can remember doctor’s appointments, and when the house payment is due (sometimes), but why worry about what year it is? Does it really matter?
As January 2015 slides into my life, my calendar is color coded for when I have to renew prescriptions and purchase the next round of Depends. I’m a fairly well organized caregiver, and my organization tells a story of one activity after another sewn together – a quilt of caring, perhaps with some frayed edges and fading colors, but a quilt nonetheless. Maybe it is not a quilt, but a crocheted blankie – the kind with holes in it. Those holes are the many haunting questions never answered by doctors or social workers or family, and those few quiet moments in which I could only sit and breathe because I am too exhausted to do much else.
I would like it to be a New Year, full of new hopes, a restored sense of purpose, and a song to sing, but dementia is sometimes (though they insist otherwise) a contagious disease, and I have forgotten things. It is not that I am lost or hopeless. It’s just that I am a tired caregiver; too tired, certainly, to stay up to watch the ball drop in Times Square.
For New Year, I ask for the calm of a peaceful night (and the ability to sleep when I get it). For New Year I hope I am humble enough that the next person who offers to help out, I do not pass off politely, but tender a small request worthy of their interest. Beginning in January, I hope to find a massage, so I can enjoy the blessing of human touch aimed at calming my mind and heart (and believe that I am worth receiving it). As January rolls into February and March, I petition the heavens that I might relish the dance of time, even though I fully understand it brings death for my loved one. I am, after all, not dying myself, but in fact, being taught how to live.
When we teach Savvy Caregiver, I realize we put out on the table appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, to feed better caregiving. But it is difficult to remember to keep feeding yourself day after day when your concern is feeding another. Enjoy eating again. Every caregiver I have met in my journey makes North Central Florida a better place to be, and I am the better for having gotten to know you. Let’s continue to feed one another in this New Year, so that we become each other’s genuine markers of time well spent. Write and tell me about your New Year hopes and dreams.
By Tom Rinkoski