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New Year brings new attitudes…and kindness

By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS

About those New Year’s Resolutions…

We all make them, but do we all keep them? Where did the tradition come from? Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne? And how can we translate this into a NEW year with someone who has Dementia?

Let’s first start with a history lesson. “New Year’s resolutions” started during the Roman period almost two millennia ago. This custom was created so the Romans could reset their “moral compass” and do over for the new year. Most resolutions hovered around being good to one another and forgetting past behaviors. Remarkably, even today, when we resolve to lose weight, find a new relationship, or get a new job, although different in focus, the behavior behind these resolutions still circles around a new start and forgetting the past.

I hope you see where I’m going with this. We commit every year to forgetting the past and moving forward, yet we struggle with our loved ones, diagnosed with Dementia, who must do this every day. They restart their lives daily, and live for connections, moments and experiences. As caregivers, we need to let go of what we feel we couldn’t do for our loved ones, and embrace the fact that we get to start a new year with them, and that they give us permission to “do over” since they cannot remember our previous flaws or stumbles.

January—the month in which we agree to make this new resolution or restart—is named after the Roman god Janus (Latin: it’s Lanus). Janus is a god with two faces—one that looks backwards into the old year, and one that is looking forward into the new. This is symbolic, and we could use it for ourselves as caregivers, as family members, and as human beings every day. We need not look into the past and carry this with us, for it brings with it great burden, but we should take one last look, reflect, and move in the direction of tomorrow.

Janus is a patron that protects gates, transitions, times, doors, endings and beginnings. We need to look at this month as a time of new directions, a time to transition our thoughts. If you are tired of being a fulltime caregiver, let go of the guilt and get the help you need for the person you love. You are not meant to walk this journey alone! If you are feeling frustrated and resentful, take inventory of your life with your loved one—the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. It’s all part of your lives together, and you will move forward in the year ahead being thankful that he or she is still with you. You are not meant to be a hero—merely a daughter, a son, a spouse, or a sibling; so be that for your loved one with dementia. Don’t mourn yesterday and wish it were back. Set a resolution to start anew, embrace the journey, and find the joyful moments you still may have together.

Your loved ones are blessed to have you in their lives, but you are also blessed that they are champions, fighting a fight they cannot win. But they continue to try their best, and so do you. As the song lyrics go, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind… we take a cup o’ kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne.”

As January heralds the start of 2020, may you find the doorway to new thoughts, new attitudes and a heaping cup o’ kindness for your loved ones and yourselves. Happy New Year!

About the Author

Phyllis A. DeLaricheliere, MS, is a sought after speaker/educator and is getting ready to publish her book:  “Embracing the Journey: Knowing your Inner Hippie.” Her passion for finding solutions to the Dementia epidemic has turned into a crusade, and she is humbled to be able to touch so many caregivers out there whom she respects so much. To book her for a lecture or get on her pre-published waitlist for her book, email her at knowyourhippie@gmail.com.