There is a hidden secret that some discover as they’re aging: old age can bring great pleasure for those who can live in the moment, no longer worrying about a long to-do list for tomorrow or fretting about what happened yesterday.
Imagine that you have no recollection of what happened in the past year, who the president is, for example, and what changes he has wrought. You can’t plan tomorrow because you can’t remember what your choices will be in a new day. Your existence is defined by each moment, which, five minutes later, evaporates.
My mother’s journey to finding peace amid the confusion of short-term memory loss depends on a personalized routine with aides who can answer every question and her own determination to savor the sunny side of lfe.
Keeping It on the Sunny Side
Years ago my mother made a choice about how she would experience each day and, rather than filling them with aches or resentment, she made lemonade. This trick has served her well as she copes with the dementia of memory loss.
As she aged, my mother hung onto a naive, girlish attitude and a strong will to live. Laughing with my mother takes the stress off. She jokes that her days are numbered, and, at 101, it would be hard to disagree.
Some seniors who live in assisted living residences or nursing homes feel isolated, their physical strengths ebbing and the pain of sore joints and other ailments taking over their lives.
My mother feels aches and pains, too, and if left on her own may wallow in the discomfort of old age. But thanks to her team of aides she follows a routine that reduces most anxiety and allows her to enjoy each moment of the day.
Her day unfolds with a regularity that is intentional and keeps her calm. She is awakened at the same hour, then helped with dressing and toiletry.
Dance to the Music
After breakfast with other residents, my mother‘s aide turns on the music and the two of them go walking, my mother singing along, swaying her hips, care free. My mother taps her fingers on the upper rail of her walker and sings along if she knows the words. Sometimes other women join in as they make their rounds.
By the time she has returned to her room, she is ready to put a hot pack on her back and a warm compress on her aging eyes. Her tiny body floats in the lounge chair, her feet stretched out. Happy.
Our goal as caregivers is to reduce my mother’s stress and allow her to practice the art of living in the here and now. It is but one approach for people living with dementia and memory loss but one that finds a sweet spot for the senior who is able to let go of worrying and be thankful for the beauty of each day.