T is for truth.
In any stressful situation, truth can hide. Black and white is smudged and emotions, fears and the constant barrage of change can leave us rubbing our heads and wondering what is truth in this circumstance. Or worse, believing a lie to be truth. This is often the case for a care partner.
Sometimes, we live in denial. "She's not really sick. The diagnosis is wrong. It's not that bad."
Sometimes we live in false hope. "They're going to find a cure. Any day now."
Sometimes we live in despair. "She's not the mother I knew. I don't recognise her any more than she recognises me. I can't handle seeing her like this."
Sometimes we dismiss the problem altogether. "She's already dead, it's just that her body doesn't know it yet. Spending time with her accomplishes nothing."
None of the above statements are true. (Correction: I'm sure a cure will be found at some point. It's just not likely to be in time for your loved one.)
What is true?
Here are five statements I know to be true.
1. She's still there. She has changed from the mother you knew when you were growing up, but you're not the same person you were at fourteen, either, are you? People grow and change. Alzheimer's or some other disease has made the change more dramatic, but she's still in there. Look for things that are the same. Does she still like peanut butter sandwiches? Does she retain some long ago memory from times at the cottage? Is there a song she still loves? It's there. Look for it.
2. You still matter. It's quite possible she doesn't know your name. She may get the relationship mixed up and think you are your father or her brother. She may think it's a different time. But she knows you are significant in some way. You matter.
3. She is here for a purpose. You've probably asked yourself a hundred times, "Why is she still here? What's the point?" There is a point. She still has something to give. To you. Find it.
4. There is pain. There's no denying that. But there is more than pain. Look beyond your pain, and find joy. Go for a walk with her. Buy her ice cream. Laugh together. You don't have to understand every word she is saying or what she is talking about. None of that is as important as we used to think it was. Just be together and enjoy her.
5. This is finite. There will come a day when you won't be able to spend time with her. She will be gone forever, and so will your opportunity.
Here is one more truth. Guilt and regret can be overwhelming when you realise it's over and you have no opportunities any more.
Think about it.