Sunday, September 18, 2016

Seeing Stars

"I will love the light for it shows me the way, 
yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars." 
- Og Mandino

Rain beat down on the windshield as I pulled my rental into the return lot and slid the gearshift into park. Sitting in the early morning gloom, I couldn't bring myself to turn off the ignition.

In two hours, I would be flying home to faraway Seattle and leaving my mother behind in Michigan to face her dementia alone. Based on the week I had just spent with her - especially our last sleepless, chaotic night - that was unthinkable.

In dark desperation, I remembered the wad of papers in my bag. Just the day before, we'd met my mom's new geriatric physician. He'd handed me this stack of flyers for in-home dementia care, and suggested that my mom might be ready for more support.

Yes. Absolutely.

And while I had no illusions about the lengthy delays and long lead times that would likely be required to get someone into my mom's home at night, I decided that before I got out of that car, I had to at least try.

The wipers slapped away the steady rain as I unfolded the stack of brochures and numbly dialed the number on the top page.

No answer.

Ugh. I slumped back against the seat, despondent, and wondered how I might summon up the hope to try the next number.

Then my phone rang.

"Hi, this is Joanna from Dementia Specialists. I think I just missed your call."

She listened as I stumbled through my story. And when I paused, Joanna kicked into gear.

"I can move a few things around and make time to interview your mom this morning. I'll get one of our girls in place by tonight. Don't worry. We won't leave your mom alone."

As I write this, two full years later, tears still flood my eyes as I remember the indescribable relief those words brought to me.

* * * * *

True to her word, Joanna and her team began looking after my mom that very day.


Joanna's caregivers brought beautiful gifts into my mom's life.

They talked to her with genuine interest and treated her like an ordinary person.
They dealt matter-of-factly with the details of her disease.
They gently protected her privacy and her dignity.

My mom was not an easy client. She could not see how the disease was affecting her, she resented not only their supervision but even their companionship, and she treated these loving people as intruders.

But the caregivers understood the difference between my mom and the way the disease was affecting her behavior. They were patient, gracious, insightful, kind.

In time, my mom's walls came down and much to my surprise, relationships grew.

* * * * *

At the same time that miracle was taking place, much to my surprise, another layer of care was unfolding. Over the phone, at all times of night and day, Joanna poured countless hours into answering my questions, addressing my concerns, and educating me about my mom's disease.

She understood what I was going through emotionally, and gave me loving support.
She offered me insights and information about the disease, and helped me learn how best to interact with my mom.
She made me feel less alone.


I am so grateful to Joanna, her caregivers, and all the staff at Dementia Specialists Homecare, for looking after not only my mom but also me.

Thanks to their help, the stars of hope and happiness now shine into our dark walk with dementia.

* * * * *

If you suspect a loved one may have dementia:

1. Get a diagnosis. See a dementia diagnostic specialist or a neurologist.
2. Find a dementia home care specialist and hire them right away to help you navigate this journey.

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