Blowing out birthday candles while silently saying thanks for the last year of good health and wishing for another for those closest to us- that’s what I imagine many of us do every year. But this year things changed. We are facing a life-altering diagnosis in our family. The shock and fear that come with hearing a serious diagnosis is something that you are never prepared for. Our MCC families must go through similar feelings when their loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As we begin to weave through this confusing new world of specialists and second opinions, a few things are becoming clearer that I think can apply, and hopefully help some of us facing this situation.
- Surrounding yourself with a medical team you are confident in is critical. Physicians who take the time to listen, and their colleagues such as nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and in our case child life specialists, are the ears that listened, shoulders when we cried, and stayed by us as we asked unending questions in the days that followed the initial diagnosis. Medicine is a busy world, but there are people who still take them time to humanize this experience and it can make a world of difference to patients and their families. We take this to heart and try to practice it every day at Memory Center Charlotte.
- Life can change in the blink of an eye. We now feel an urgency to live life more fully and gratefully, making memories, creating moments of joy and having enriching experiences as a family. None of us are promised tomorrow.
- Telling ourselves that things won’t always feel as scary as they do today helps us move forward. We may not feel strong, but we have to “fake it till we make it”. The fear will fade. We will find joy and happiness again soon.
- Feeling alone is really hard. It can feel like we are the only members of a club we didn’t ask to join. A great book, close friend, support group, positive Facebook page, a counselor who understands life transitions and grief… help is out there. Letting the stigma of a diagnosis or your response to it prevent you from seeking help and support hurts you and, in turn, those around you if you cannot be strong for them.
We all go through the ups and downs of life- with our parents, our children, ourselves. There are no easy answers found in medical textbooks. I just hope that we can keep learning things from our own experiences to help each other along the way.