Caregiving: A Love Story
Maria and Alex have been taking care of each other for over 40 years. While things are different now that Alex is dealing with memory impairment, Maria feels fortunate. Alex shares lots of hugs with Maria and often asks her if she is okay. He used to write love letters and poems to Maria. Now she is glad she saved them because they bring a smile to his face when she reads them to him.
Maria, who appreciates Springwell’s Caregiver Support program, doesn’t really like that term. In response to the characterization of her as Alex’s caregiver, Maria counters that while Alex may not remember yesterday that he is still there for her in many ways. There are good days and bad days and all of them are part of life. She believes it is more helpful to think about how you are going through something instead of what you are going through. While she has days when she is very sad, she tries to make the best of each day and feels very lucky for the love she still shares with her husband.
During a visit with Maria, we asked if she could share some ideas to help others caring for a loved one. While noting that everyone is different, there are many things that she finds valuable:
- Keep the mind busy with something – Find something that is mentally relaxing and allows you to be creative. Try new things because life is constantly changing. For Maria, that something is cooking and baking. Good food brings people together and has always been important to Maria and Alex. If someone doesn’t already have a hobby, she recommends thinking about what you liked to do before that you didn’t have time for and perhaps you can do it now while you are spending more time at home.
- Enjoy music – In Maria’s words, music is the best. Light classical music is very soothing for Alex and they both relax listening to it together.
- Laugh – Laughter is important and often Maria can remind Alex of a long ago memory that makes them both laugh.
- Encourage friends to visit and invite you out – Life is different now for Maria and Alex but it is not over. Sometimes she feels that friends avoid them because they are uncomfortable. She would like them to visit and ask her to go out for coffee or a walk or to a museum.
- Share memories with your loved one – Maria and Alex start each day looking at family photos and he confirms with her who each person is. They also look at photos of his past projects for work. Maria recommends keeping lots of photos on display to spark interest.
- Make life fun no matter what is happening – Maria shares the simple pleasure of ice cream with Alex just before bed each evening as a happy way to conclude each day.
Caring for someone requires lots of love and Maria knows that the love is still there despite the challenge of memory impairment.