My brother and I said the same thing when our parents asked what items we’d want after they passed: the smiling flower plaster figurine. The one that advises, “Let’s be happy while we’re here,” and has hung in the bathroom for as long as I can remember.
Great, solid, simple advice. But not always easy to follow, right?
Some Days Aren’t So Easy
Because some days aren’t so easy. Some days you’re the dog; some days you’re the hydrant. Some days it feels like you’re playing cosmic dodge ball, hoping you make it through this round without getting nailed in the face in front of your friends.
Worse yet is when your friends and the people you love don’t make it through the round with you. You witness their pain, you watch them struggle, and you feel helpless.
I can’t think of a worse feeling in the world than knowing someone needs help and not being able to provide it. That’s essentially the story of my first day as a professional: I wasn’t able to provide the help people needed because I didn’t know how.
While we can’t fix everything, there’s still so much we can do.
What You Can Do
Bring The Good Stuff
If you’re in the Dementia Sherpa tribe, you The Good Stuff is our shorthand for respect, kindness, love, empathy, and compassion. Bring The Good Stuff with you wherever you go, and start by aiming it at yourself. When you’re filled up with The Good Stuff, you’re in a position to share it with your person.
Bloom where you’re planted
You probably didn’t expect to be a dementia care partner. And yet here you are, no doubt committed to becoming the best darn dementia care partner you possibly can. Which is awesome, because what you’re doing? You’re far more important and a much bigger deal than anyone else on the planet to your person. You’re a rock star. Blossom in your unexpected role.
Shake it off
Keeping it real: some days will be stinkydoodle. Your person will look like your person, but act like someone you’ve never met and wouldn’t want to know. You may get called ugly names and told ugly things. When that happens, tap into your inner Taylor Swift and shake it off. Remind yourself your person’s brain is under attack. They can’t help it. Double down on The Good Stuff, and shake shake shake shake it off!
Let’s be happy while we’re here
We know being a dementia care partner is a tough gig. That said, maybe the best thing we can do is make a decision about our mindset. What if we decide we don’t have to be miserable? What if we decide we can appreciate we have this moment, this right now, with a person we love? Because we won’t always have that. So let’s decide to be happy while we’re here. We deserve that, and so does our person.
Christy Turner is a speaker and consultant, the founder of DementiaSherpa.com, and creator of the program Memory Care at Home. She’s a regular contributor on The Alzheimer's Podcast with her segments “Guiding You Through Rough Terrain with The Dementia Sherpa.” Christy has enjoyed the privilege of working with over 1,200 people living with dementia and their families.