You're sitting in the doctor's office beside your mother. Your heart is pounding. There were months of suspicions and worry, weeks of tests, days of reassuring yourself and having conversations in your mind. Finally, it comes to this.The doctor turns to your mother and says,
"You have Alzheimer's"
Time stops. You were almost certain this is what you were going to hear, but until the words came out of his mouth, your world was populated by "maybes" and "probablys." Nothing was for sure.
Now, it is.
Often, the entire focus is on the person with the diagnosis, but what are you feeling? All of these may not apply, but I can guarantee some of it does.
1) Fear. You've probably heard horror stories about what lies ahead and you are terrified about the consequences. The future stretches ahead in darkness, and you don't have a flashlight.
2) Apprehension. You look at your life as it is now, and wonder how you can add "care partner" to your resume. Will you be able to support her? Can you go the course?
3) Ignorance. You may know very little about the disease, or have some misinformation.
4) Isolation. None of your friends are dealing with this in their parents. You have no one to talk with.
There are probably other emotions swirling around your brain and heart as you leave the office. Before you have had time to process the information, you need to comfort and support your mother. You must step into the role before you fully understand what it entails.
Here is my advise. Get help. You need someone to talk to who is knowledgeable about the disease, because there is plenty of misinformation out there. A great resource is the Alzheimer's Society, with their groups and workshops and many-faceted supports. Learn as much as you can, remembering that everyone manifests the disease in different ways. No ones experience is just like yours, but you can learn from others.
You are going to be experiencing many emotions--not all of them pleasant. When the dust has settled, find someone to talk to and sometimes vent to. A friend, a pastor or priest, a small group leader or a counsellor. Take care of you, so you can take care of the person you love.
Those words will change your life. Things will never be the same again.
But they won't end your life, or even the life of the person with the diagnosis. Alzheimer's is terminal, yes. But between diagnosis and the last breath, there is a lot of living.