When our loved one is diagnosed with a challenging health condition, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things that need to be done. There seem to be endless to-do lists for medical needs, personal care needs, nutritional needs, etc. Just getting them bathed, dressed, and fed often becomes a full time job. I remember with John the shower became a challenge because the water in his face seemed to be too
stimulating and based on the expression of his face, the sensations were confusing and even frightening. Obviously his “before illness” regimen of daily showering was no longer realistic, and showering was no longer the best way to get him clean. So bathing tasks was one area where I needed new expectations. And being on time for appointments. And being present and on time at my place of employment. And so on.
Before John’s illness, we ran an organized and punctual household. It gave us a sense of pride that we kept our commitments. During his illness, I had to ask myself what is really important? I knew that these would be our last years together and time became precious. At the time I thought, “Will I look back at the end and say, ‘I wish I had been on time to his doctor visits,’ ‘I wish I had kept up with the laundry,’ or ‘I wish I had gotten more done at work?’” No, I knew the only thing I might say is “I wish I could touch his face again,” “I wish I could hold his hand,” or “I wish I had just one more day to sit with him.”
Of course I am not suggesting that we be neglectful in our care of our loved one. There are standards of hygiene that need to be maintained. We have to meet our responsibilities enough to not be fired from work or from a doctor’s practice. What I am saying is that I learned there was a wide distance between my old expectations and what is good enough. I learned that others would give more grace that I ever imagined. I learned that I could give myself grace. You can learn this too. If living without regrets is important to you, but you are struggling to figure it out, contact me to see how we can work together.
I am a health and happiness psychologist. I had an amazing opportunity to care for my late husband with dementia that brought everything into focus: love, purpose, healing, self-care, and living without regrets. You can read more of my story here.
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