By Phyllis DeLaricheliere, MS
Life changes in a split second. One minute you could be surrounded by friends and family who seek your advice, your time and your company, and the next you may be surrounded by the same friends and family who look at you with sheer concern or even terror. They shy away and now your company feels like a burden. You have dementia, and, in some cases, this is what you might experience.
Throughout various times of our lives, we seek some sort of acceptance or validation. Whether it be from a parent, a boss, or a loved one. The concept of acceptance in human psychology comes from the Latin word ‘acquiēscere,’ meaning to find rest in. With acceptance comes a sense of peace and belonging. Hand-in-hand with acceptance is tolerance. To tolerate something demonstrates the willingness to go along with behaviors or opinions that we might not agree with.
When someone is faced with the diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, they go through a Monopoly board of emotions having to hit on each place and not being able to pass “GO.” Acceptance is one of these places where they must face what they have and accept what is. So here, acceptance is not gaining it from others but finding it within themselves. They no longer seek it from others, for their world and concerns have changed, but at the same time there is an unspoken “given” that those in their lives, friends and family, would just accept them as is. So, ask yourself, do you?
Here is where I see so many times the challenges families and friends face. Because they at first do not know what’s wrong, as perhaps their loved one has not yet been diagnosed or they don’t have a real understanding on dementia. Eyes roll, frustration builds, and patience is tested. This is when acceptance and tolerance must be applied.
Although the journey of dementia is a tough one, there are so many things to be thankful for. The first step is being able to see that one of the gifts of dementia is acceptance. Once you accept the reality, you will be able to see the gifts that your loved one will give you and show you while on this journey. The second step is tolerance. The popular phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff,” helps us put challenges in perspective. We must exercise patience, find the laughter in each moment, and not disrespect the trust that your loved one with dementia has placed in you. They believe that you will continue to love them, cherish them, be with them.
REMINDER: All you are seeing with dementia is their Hippie side—another side of themselves. So, whether or not it’s your friend, your partner, your spouse, or your parent, you have loved them through so many times, both good and bad. Now is the greatest test of LOVE of all.
Dementia will test both the patient and the caregiver. You must face the journey as a team! Don’t let the disease divide and conquer. Acceptance and tolerance are the first two steps in walking together down that path. This is, and always will be, your partner, your friend, your parent, your spouse. Don’t let dementia define you, don’t shy away, don’t be afraid, don’t mourn…just because they might be different now does not mean they are not still ours to love!
About the Author
Phyllis A. DeLaricheliere, MS is a sought-after speaker/educator and has published a 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 request a copy of her book, email Phyllis at firstname.lastname@example.org.