Comic book writer and designer Will Eisner created the character "The Spirit," who is known for saying: "Time is the most precious thing in the world." If you should become a caregiver for someone with a terminal disease, you truly will understand the importance of these words.
A lot of people still don't realize Alzheimer's disease is fatal. There are no Alzheimer's survivors - at least not yet.
Sadly, I frequently receive a barrage of e-mails, tweets, telephone calls, etc. from frustrated caregivers, describing their family members as refusing to visit these priceless and fading loved ones. The main reason? They say they can't stand seeing these people in the deteriorating condition in which they now find them. Very possibly they're trying to preserve the memory of how they "used to be."
While understandable at some level, what they fail to grasp is this: Every day they refrain from visiting, the clock continues to tick-tick-tick. The time wasted by uneasiness and embarrassment is time that never can be recovered.
Here are a few steps that might make your visits more enjoyable for everyone involved. Most of them concern the latter stages of the disease.
? Questions are the root of all evil for dementia patients. The worst thing you can do is to start off the conversation with "Hi, do you remember me?" I don't care if you've known this person for 50 years; always start off your visit by casually introducing yourself. By hitting them with questions right off the bat, you will raise their anxiety level and increase their confusion. Allow them to connect visually with you before you even start a conversation.
? Plan ahead. Bring a photo album containing pictures of your past together. This is a perfect way to build a conversation that both of you might enjoy.
? If they start telling stories that are completely off base, just go with the flow. Do not correct them. Instead, enter their world.
Even after all the hardships I endured while caring for my dad, there's hardly a day that goes by that I don't wish that I could have had more time with him. So, yes, time is the most precious thing we have. Don't waste it.
While they're still in your life, take full advantage of every minute you have. Today it might be difficult, but it's better than living with regret tomorrow.