Those two words seem discordant at first glance. Once we have a diagnosis or at least medical recognition of memory changes, we have reality confirmed. The signs we have been seeing are no longer in our imagination. Reality stills any allusions you might have that your life will return to normal. Abundance you once had has turned to scarcity.
As Thanksgiving approaches, the theme of gratitude is prevalent. We think back to holidays past, and savor the memories but find it hard to feel grateful for the present. Our loved ones may not be able to tolerate the traditions once held. Our caregiving demands may be depleting our physical and spiritual strength.
Research has shown an increase in well-being by practicing gratitude, regardless of circumstances.1 It has been suggested that listing a few things you are grateful for can reduce depression and increase resilience. Well-being and resilience are commodities well worth pursuing as a dementia caregiver.
Equally positive in research is reminiscence. Even though dementia has changed your relationship with your loved one, reminiscing on sweet times can help lighten the scarcity today. Re-looking at photos or visualizing a time when you were happy together can add abundance to a day.
As you see cornucopias symbolizing abundance and a plentiful harvest, consider your care cornucopia. This is a symbolic basket of your care strategies and tools.
Is your care cornucopia full?
- Do you have family or friends who support you when you are frustrated or overwhelmed?
- What ways are you able to get away to take care of your own self-care needs?
- Are there support groups or memory cafes that provide you and your loved one with safety and perspective?
- Do you have a daily and weekly routine?
Perhaps you have these in place. If not, this would be a good season to add some strategy either through asking for help from family or friends or contracting with an agency or provider.
Harvest baskets and cornucopias are not only full but diverse in color and texture.
Is your care cornucopia colorful?
- Does your weekly routine include some derivation of an activity that both you and your loved one have always enjoyed?
- Are you getting daily physical exercise?
- Are you getting weekly socialization?
- Do you have activities that give you a sense of purpose?
As we enter the harvest season, keep in mind that the farmer’s harvest season was one of preserving what is plentiful for the darker and colder days of winter.
As we give care to individuals with progressive neurodegenerative disease, today’s harvest must last through darker colder days. But do not fret–your care cornucopia can be added to at any time—resources are abundant.
Whether it is a call to a friend, reading an Alzheimer’s-specific book, calling your local Arden Courts, accessing an online support network—you can increase your care harvest for both you and your loved one.
1Wood, A. M., Froh, J.J. & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review, Clinical Psychology Review, 30: 890-905.