When a loved one has Alzheimer's it's critically important to overcome denial and realize that they have it. And it's even more important to accept the diagnosis and all it means. These are to two entirely different things. It's one thing to finally realize someone close to you has Alzheimer's. It's a completely different thing to accept that fact.
After what can be months or even years of being in denial, most people finally realize Alzheimer's has struck. And they begin becoming a caregiver, devoting themselves to the person 24/7.
But many people never really come to accept the situation. Some caregivers never come to terms with it. Some never become at peace with the diagnosis. Some caregivers are never 'okay with it.' They know it in their brains, but as hard as they try they can't accept it in their hearts.
Caregivers can get caught up in a trap. The bold truth is so painful they may make excuses for the person, chalk up their behavior to 'normal aging' or push the situation to the back of their minds.
Caregivers may keep trying to make the person act 'normal.' But they will never succeed. The person will never more be able to function in our world. We must interact with them in their world. Interact with them at whatever level they may be at any given time.
In order to come to terms with Alzheimer's in a loved one we must first let go. We must let go of the previous person and embrace the new one - just as he or she is. And since that person will continue changing as time goes by, we must constantly let go of the old and accept the new.
We must fall in love again with the person as he or she is in the present and let go of the person we used to love. That person is never coming back. This is what it means to accept and make peace with Alzheimer's in a person you dearly love. Learn to let go and learn to love again.
Marie Marley is the award-winning author of the uplifting book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy. She is the co-author of the groundbreaking forthcoming book, Finding Joy in Alzheimer's: New Hope for Caregivers. Her website (ComeBackEarlyToday.com) contains a wealth of helpful information for Alzheimer's caregivers.