Article Series

Forward in the Rearview Mirror

Article submitted by Joy C. Davidson, Author, Family Caregiver, CNA

How many of you drive your car forward down the road while looking almost exclusively in the rearview mirror? I’m guessing that you are all raising your hands and saying, “Not me!” Thank God! Now I don’t have to ask all of you to stay off the road until I get home safely. Anyhow, why is it necessary to look forward while driving forward? Perhaps an aversion to car accidents?

By the way, as a former driving instructor, if you think you are still looking at the road while glancing in the rearview mirror, you would be incorrect as the reality is that we briefly (at least, I sure hope so) glance away from the road and into the rearview mirror. We humans are not capable of doing both. It is one or the other. But I digress or … Did I? Stay with me and let’s see if I truly digressed.

What does this have to do with an article written for older adults and their families? EVERYTHING! Dementia (especially the most common form, Alzheimer’s) is a BIG issue in the news. It seems like almost every day brings new and gloomier statistics regarding the Silver Tsunami, the increasing numbers of people affected by one or more of the 100 or so types of Dementia, and the fact that there is no cure or vaccine currently. In addition, as a former family caregiver that now works as a professional caregiver and someone that is connected with MANY families affected by Dementia, I repeatedly hear statements such as “I hate this disease”, “I am so angry watching my loved one’s name life / memories / intelligence being stolen from them”, “I hate what this disease is doing to loved one’s name”, “I am so depressed / heartbroken about what this disease is doing to loved one’s name”, and the list goes on. Please hear what I am saying: I am not dismissing emotions, because the grief that is felt as our loved ones change has to be processed. What I am saying is that I think many people are trying to be caregivers and support their loved ones while frequently looking at what used to be.

My mother was a woman that underestimated her own intelligence. She was brilliant and brutal at things like Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit, crossword puzzles, presidential trivia, and football. For years, my mother drove my dad nuts answering all the questions on Jeopardy before the contestants. Trivial Pursuit: No one I ever met had a chance against my mom in this game. She loved crossword puzzles and found it hard to find puzzles that challenged her. My mother had so much information about the presidents of this country as well as their families memorized that if I wanted to know something about a president, I would call my mother before searching the Internet. She was truly THAT knowledgeable! Football: I left home at eighteen and my mother knew NOTHING, I mean absolutely NOTHING about football. A few years later, when I realized I had a major Bronco fanatic for a mother, I asked what happened. She became interested after John Elway started playing and proceeded to learn and remember more information and statistics about various teams and quarterbacks, especially Mr. Elway and the Broncos, than I think I had ever read! Then my mother had a stroke, developed Vascular Dementia, and everything changed….

As my mother’s brain failure progressed, she rapidly lost these abilities and while I grieved I realized I could not focus my attention on wondering why this dreaded condition of Dementia exists or on what was being lost. I decided the why would have to be solved by the researchers, because I was called to be her caregiver. I decided if I focused on what was being lost, I would end up looking in the rearview mirror at what was. In the end, I chose to accept the change (I did not say like, because like and accept are two very different things) and create the Best New Normal ( that I could for my mother.

Remember when I said we humans are not capable of looking forward as we drive AND looking in the rearview mirror at the same time? As family members and caregivers, I believe we have a similar situation. When I hear statements like the ones I mentioned earlier, it sounds like there is a focus on the past and what is being lost. While grief will surface from time to time AND will need to be processed, I think we have to beware of allowing our focus to remain there. As our loved ones deteriorate, becoming less and less able to care for themselves, they absolutely have to have us focused on them in the present. We cannot focus on the past or worse yet, try to focus on the past and the present, because we cannot deal with the present while our primary focus is anywhere but the present. Caregiving, in addition to potentially being very stressful, requires a tremendous amount of focus and effort on the present and only the present.

Blessings on you caregivers, remembering to look forward, because your loved ones need you as their advocate and caregiver.

More about Joy Carol Davidson, Author, Family Caregiver, CNA

Having been a family caregiver, being a professional caregiver, and an ordained pastor, Joy Carol Davidson uses her education, training, and personal experiences to support these families on their journey through the final years of life, end of life, and the grief journey that we all walk sometime during our lifetimes.
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© 2017, All Rights Reserved by Joy Carol Davidson

Posted June 2017 on