Ma Chronicles: Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s (part 1)
“How is your mom?” asks a face staring through the tiny zoom screen, as one popped up after the next to say hello to each other before the gentle yoga asana class begins. Somehow, on this day, I tried a new answer.
“Well it’s hard to say.”
“Is her disease progressing?” asks an elder woman, who I know is concerned about her own age-related memory loss.
“Well it’s hard to say”.
I hear the repetition of my words and it brings up an awkward smile, so subtle that it is barely detectable on my face.
I continue, “We are at a phase where there are certainly many major losses. She requires full time care. But there is an awareness still at times that she has this disease. She has moments where she is aware and doesn’t want to accept care in those moments. I am hoping to see you all next month. That is, if I can leave the house”.
Ten tiny squares of grey hair nod their heads. Given the statistics for Alzeimer’s disease, 50% of those over the age of 80 in North America, I do not know if it is wise for me to share this perspective with this kind and courageous group of elders, if it will bring up their fears, yet, the words flow out today calmly and clearly.
“I’ve been where you are,” says a tall, wiry older woman with a gentle smile of knowingness, “and my heart just goes out to you. I know you are going to do a very good job. There really is nothing you can do except be present, one day at a time”.
Her simple words penetrate with depth. ‘A very good job’. She spoke with the wisdom of a person who knows the grief behind the mask, who’s lived this particular art of daily defeat.
Caregiving a person with Alzheimer’s, worse, a parent, can feel like becoming a doula of ego death. With my background of studying yoga in India, one might think I am perfectly positioned, bolstered by a philosophy that helps others’ to disentangle from limited identity and slide into the bliss of some great abyss of enlightenment. However, in this this journey of ego death, we do not know where the carriage leads through a maze of the mind and the dust that unsettles through the ride.