Alzheimer's blog

Caregiver navigates her way to transforming life

By Angela Lunde July 12, 2011

Recently I received a message from a woman I admire deeply whom I'll call Rose. She wrote:

"Two years ago we discovered that Charlie (my husband with dementia) could no longer navigate our canoe. I stormed, stomped and basically had a meltdown when it was apparent that our canoeing was over. I felt robbed.

"Then, our son taught me how to navigate. Charlie, however, no longer felt safe in the canoe. So I decided to get a one-person kayak. In some way, I felt like I was betraying Charlie. I tried to get past that.

"Today, I 'soloed' in my new kayak. Charlie helped me launch it in calm waters tonight. I was scared, but with his encouragement and support, I managed."

Rose writes, as many of you have as well, that caregiving brings with it guilt, anger, loss and even resentment. And her story of the two-person canoe turned solo kayak may be reflective of the way many caregivers experience changes in their life and in their relationship.

The story speaks of Rose letting go of something pleasurable she and Charlie shared. The story exposes the loss of the way things used to be. Charlie may still be there for Rose, yet, in some ways he no longer is.

Moreover though, I think Rose's story is about opportunity.

I believe that Rose has begun to open up to new possibilities and discover qualities about herself not fully recognized until now. Rose is finding joy and meaning in her life in fresh ways and maybe most importantly, giving herself permission to do so.

Like Rose, each of you has the opportunity to transform your loss and discover untapped wells of internal strength and inner resources. Through caregiving you can receive a new awareness of your abilities and a renewed sense of identity. This awareness can build self confidence about the future and about what is possible for you — even infusing a sense of courage.

Often this transformation begins to unfold when caregivers focus on what they can change and begin accepting what they can't. Rose can't change the disease her husband has or the way it alters their partnership. Rose can love Charlie unconditionally and paddle her solo kayak with renewed vision and possibility.

"Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge."

- Eckhart Tolle

Jul. 12, 2011