A REASON FOR HOPE - Time takes on new meanings after diagnosis

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Time is a noun meaning "duration, era, period, age; space of time at one's disposal; season, proper time."

Time starts in each of our lives the moment we take our first breath and ends when we take our last.

Others control what we do with the time we are allotted when we are a baby, time is regulated by others as we grow older, then we reach a point in our lives when we are responsible for how we use our time, the choices we make with the 24 hours we are given each day. Once an individual has received the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another related dementia, the "time" in their lives and that of their family changes.

I have experienced, as I am sure many of you have, that time can seem to stand still during different periods in our lives.

Maybe it is a moment of great joy and we are in awe at a particular event. It could be at a happening that has brought sorrow into our lives.

There is only one element of time that seems consistent ... it moves forward until it stops. In the reality that time does not "stand still" nor can we "change" the uses of our time in the past, I challenge each of us to take a new look and consider a new perspective on the "time" in our lives.

Regardless of whether you have a loved one or friend experiencing Alzheimer's or a related dementia, I believe time is a gift each of us has been given.

The saying "stop and smell the roses" was coined for a purpose. When we are responsible for our own time, often we pick up the pace and are trying to cram too much into our "24-hour" day.

Helping others, enjoying a moment for what it offers or even enjoying time with ourselves can fly out the window.

I know, because I have experienced the consequences of using my time incorrectly, selfishly and in ways that were a result of the speed and environment around me. Being on the journey with Alzheimer's disease; my church family and personal walk with God has taught me a lot about time.

This past weekend I was at a women's retreat with the ladies from my church family and from another fellowship. I have shared before that I could not have survived by journey with Alzheimer's disease if it had not been for my church family and the Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter.

The last few days I learned the reality of "Daddy God" in a new way from someone whom I met for the first time and whose mother has Alzheimer's disease. It is through those surprise meetings and through God's timing in life that I am able to write these articles. I hope you know that you are not alone in your journey and that resources are available to you.

Time takes on a new meaning and becomes extremely evident in the lives of the families who have a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another related dementia. A book, "The 36-Hour Day" is a guide that does not have to be read "cover to cover" but you can choose the chapter that best fits your need for that "moment in time" you are experiencing. This book has helped over a half-million families who are dealing with Alzheimer's disease or other related memory loss diseases.

The Alzheimer's Association-Inland Northwest Chapter provides copies for you of this book that can be checked out of their libraries, but I found that I wanted my own copy and gave one to every family member that was sharing the journey I was on with my husband's Alzheimer's.

When a loved one has a "memory loss" diagnosis it takes time to accept, time to adjust to the reality of the disease, time to realize the new challenges and demands on your time and that of your family and friends. It takes time to learn, become educated on what tools you will need for this new journey you have been placed on.

Each individual faces knowing "time" is no longer his or hers to choose how to use, live and even enjoy. Time will change from years to months to weeks, then days and eventually to experiencing moment-by-moment changes in your loved one, yourself, your family and friends.

OK, that does not mean the "time" has become glum, always sad, always demanding, lonely or burdensome. I did not learn this until I was way into my journey with my husband, and that is why I am so passionate to help others.

I found new ways to look at, handle, and live with time during the time I had with my husband. I will share with you the changes I was able to make with time, what I was able to achieve, and the joys I have found with that new perspective in my next article.

Until then, and as always please know that you are not alone on your journey. If you need resources and assistance with your journey, please contact me at anytime. The Alzheimer's Association has a 24/7 Helpline for those times you need immediate assistance, at 1-800-272-3900.

A Reason to Hope appears the last Wednesday of each month. Debbi Pierce, Southeastern Washington Association-Inland Northwest Chapter, can be reached at debbi.pierce@alz.org or 509-713-3390.

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