3 Ways to be Thankful in Dementia Caregiving

In this episode, we delve into the notion of feeling grateful for a dementia diagnosis. It may appear paradoxical at first, but we explore the ways in which we can discover gratitude in the midst of this challenging situation.

As I say farewell to my husband at the airport, I find myself contemplating the aspects of my marriage and life for which I am grateful. This introspection leads me to ponder whether it is conceivable to find gratitude within a dementia diagnosis.

In this episode:

0:00:00 Reflecting on the Intriguing Topic of Dementia Diagnosis

0:02:24 Gratitude for Life's Challenges: Boarding School Experience

0:05:19 Finding Strength in Personal Baggage: Embracing Boarding School

0:07:54 Grateful for the Impact of Dementia: New Relationships Formed

0:10:58 A Heartfelt Invitation to Join and Support the Program

To illustrate this concept, I recount a personal anecdote from my time in boarding school, a challenging period in my life that ultimately taught me to embrace every experience and shaped me into the person I am today.

Drawing parallels between that experience and dementia, I emphasize that while we cannot control the presence of dementia in our lives, we can control how we respond to it.

Continuing on, I pose a challenge to our listeners: to find at least one way in which they can be grateful for a dementia diagnosis. I share examples of my own gratitude, such as the newfound perspective I have gained on my mother's personality and the strengthened bond with my sister that this journey has brought us.

Highlighting the significance of living in the present moment, I stress the importance of finding joy amidst the challenges of caregiving for someone with dementia.

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a pumpkin on a table 3 Ways to be Thankful in Dementia Caregiving

Reflecting on the Intriguing Topic of Dementia Diagnosis

[0:00] Wow, what an interesting episode this was today.

I have not really ever heard anybody talk about being grateful for a dementia diagnosis.

So I wanted to explore today with you guys how it is possible to perhaps look at dementia a little bit differently and be grateful for learnings or different way of interacting with people that you love.

[1:48] Today is Thanksgiving Day, but the day that I am recording this is actually a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, and I have been reflecting a lot about what I am thankful for.

I just dropped my husband off at the airport on his way to Romania, where he is going to teach for two weeks, and it really made me stop and think, what am I grateful for related to our marriage, our children, our life, and all of the things that we have been blessed with.

Gratitude for Life's Challenges: Boarding School Experience

[2:24] Which brought me to a question in my mind, is it possible to be thankful for a dementia diagnosis?

And if it isn't possible to be thankful for a dementia diagnosis, how do I live in a positive way?

What can I do? Do I have any control over this particular situation, which led me back to 1982.

[2:53] 1982 was an extremely difficult year for me, actually from 1982 until probably 1987, which is when I graduated high school.

You see, my parents were diplomats for the South African government, and in 1982, my dad was posted to Sweden, which resulted in my sister and I needing to be put in boarding school.

Needless to say, boarding school was not entirely the best time in my life. I was bullied.

I experienced a lot of depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and really was a very difficult time in my life.

And for years, I struggled with those emotions of feeling abandoned, of feeling like I wasn't good enough to have been kept at home.

Lots of very negative emotions and resulted in anger and resentment and a lot of terrible.

[4:09] Like I said, negative emotions that most people have experienced at some point in their life.

If you've been on this world, even just a couple of minutes, you know, things like this happen, right?

We all have our baggage, we all have our stuff that we deal with.

[4:27] But why do I bring up boarding school in this conversation of being thankful for dementia?

The reason I bring up the story of me being in boarding school was because I woke up one day when my daughter was 12, when my oldest daughter was 12.

I relived every single one of those emotions that I had.

And by the grace of God, we had a wonderful pastor at that time who really took his time to help me work through all of these emotions that I was experiencing related to boarding school.

And one day I woke up and the anger was gone and the resentment was gone and the anxiety and the fretting and all of the things that I was experiencing was lifted and was gone.

Finding Strength in Personal Baggage: Embracing Boarding School

[5:19] Because I realized that I like who I am and every single experience that I have been through in my life, good, bad or otherwise, has made me who I am, and because of that, I therefore know I cannot resent having been in boarding school, because boarding school made me who I am today.

I am a strong, resilient, caring person, and I like who I am.

And part of my baggage and part of my background is boarding school.

Now, circling back to dementia.

[6:02] Dementia has entered our lives. If you were listening to this program, you likely are helping a family member or somebody that you love who is living with dementia.

And we have, we cannot control the fact that dementia has entered our life, but we can control how we respond to dementia entering our life.

So my challenge for you today is to find one way, one way that you can be grateful for a dementia diagnosis.

I'm not suggesting that we make it all, you know, sunshine and, you know, life at the beach, because I recognize dementia comes with challenges, right?

[6:51] But so does life. Dementia isn't the only diagnosis that people struggle with.

When a person who you love is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer or a different type of cancer, it can be devastating and it's difficult to watch any person that you love pass away.

As I'm recording this today, a close friend of ours, his mother passed away.

As I'm recording this today, a member of our church just recently had a baby who was born at 23 weeks, which means they have a very long road ahead of them.

So because we live in a fallen world, we are always going to experience loss and grief and difficulty that is just a part of living in this world.

But I'm going to tell you a few ways that I have become grateful for dementia.

Grateful for the Impact of Dementia: New Relationships Formed

[7:54] One is I'm seeing a part of my mom as she is changing that I have never seen before.

And she is a wonderful, sweet, kind person who I've not been able to see in this way before.

How grateful my mom is.

Is for the help that I give her when I come to do their medication or when I take her to the doctor.

So I'm eternally grateful for this new relationship that I can develop with my mom with her as she is changing.

Another way I am grateful for dementia is how it has actually brought my sister and myself closer together, because my sister has been extremely, extremely supportive of me in this journey in going through helping my parents.

[9:03] My sister supports me. She doesn't undermine me.

And for that, I am extremely grateful because boarding school drove a significant wedge between the two of us, because whenever we would go home, we were constantly, constantly vying for the attention of our parents because we hadn't had it.

And so I'm very grateful to be able to have this opportunity to reestablish a wonderful relationship with my sister.

A third way I'm grateful for dementia is how my husband is supporting me in this journey with my parents, how he's helping me honor and help them in their aging years.

And so those are three ways that I'm grateful today on Thanksgiving for having dementia enter my life.

I'm asking you today to just write down one way, just one way that you can be grateful for a dementia diagnosis in your life.

[10:13] How can you create moments of joy?

How can you live in the moment today to actually enjoy this day with the person that you love that is not going to be with us forever, but nobody is?

So I ask you to look at it a little differently and find one way that you can be grateful for dementia diagnosis today. And then I want you to put it in the comments.

I want you to Let me know You can text you can email me.

Let me know how you too are grateful for dementia diagnosis.

A Heartfelt Invitation to Join and Support the Program

[10:58] Thanks for joining me today success seeker I pour my heart and soul into this program to serve you You can serve me by leaving a review on Apple podcasts, and join our free Facebook group, Dementia Caregiving for Families.

It's a positive and proactive space to navigate dementia caregiving together.

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About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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