It is extremely difficult for families to watch their mother, father, sister or brother live with Alzheimer’s. They are not themselves.
“We lost our mother long ago. She suffered with this disease for over six years. Mom didn’t recognize any of us or know who we were. Her own children! Yet, we continued to visit her even though we left crying every time.”
“Our Dad just died after living with Dementia for two years. That was two years too long. He was miserable, it was heartbreaking for us to watch him endure this horrible disease that took his mind.”
“My brother was only 56 when he developed Alzheimer’s. He was brilliant, funny, and a real problem-solver. Why and how did this happen to him?”
When someone dies from Dementia or Alzheimer’s, their families are dealing with a different kind of grief. The first grief they experienced was when their loved one was gradually taken by this disease. The second wave of grief comes when the person dies. Some tell me it’s a blessing or relief to see them no longer suffering, yet the grief is very real. It’s heartbreaking.
Most families like to mention the Dementia or Alzheimer’s briefly and focus primarily on how their loved one was before the disease began to steal them away. Their philosophy on life, their personality, characteristics, memories of travels, career accomplishments, favorite foods and oh so much more! Truly celebrating his or her life in a genuine, memorable way, and not the person they became in the end.
I remember one Celebration of Life where Helen’s caregivers spoke about her. They told stories of how they remembered Helen in her last two years and it was so touching. Then they mentioned how Helen looked forward to having a Margarita every Friday. We all laughed and her family was grateful that even in her later years with this disease she managed to have an impact on people. After the service, her two caregivers came up to me and said it was so wonderful to hear about Helen’s life before Alzheimer’s. They learned things that they didn’t know about her.
When writing a Celebration of Life for someone who suffered with Alzheimer’s it’s important to acknowledge those who cared for the person. Whether that be family members, volunteers and/or paid professionals. Thanking these compassionate, trustworthy, kind people openly is the least we can do for all they have done.
“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” ― Rosalyn Carter
Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to "Think Outside the Coffin®" when planning a Fabulous Farewell.