Alzheimer’s is a dreadful disease. Over the last year and a half, my father has steadily deteriorated as his cognitive abilities decline. As his primary caregiver, every change he experiences has an equal, if not bigger, effect on me. At the start of the year I was struggling to adjust; for every step back my father took, it felt as if Alzheimer's was asking me to give up more ground. The sheer weight of it was suffocating and with a long road ahead of us, it seemed insurmountable.
A few months later, things are going a lot better. What changed? Sadly, not the reality. My father is still deteriorating as the disease progresses. It’s me, I’ve changed. Having someone to bounce ideas off can be a great help. In my case, a simple conversation with Gregg, my own life coach helped me re-frame the situation in a more positive light.
The definition of re-framing is simple: it is to look at, present, or think of (beliefs, ideas, relationships, etc.) in a new or different way. That’s it. We see things from a different perspective and that alone changes how we engage with and respond to our experience.
Around the same time, I stumbled across the Navy Seals 40% Rule for cultivating mental toughness. Basically, the rule is that when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done. Marathon runners know this, they hit the wall physically but somehow find the will to push through to complete the race.
We all have this will. According to David Goggins, an ex Navy Seal, ‘The only way you gain mental toughness is to do things you are not happy doing. If you continue doing things you that you are satisfied with and that make you happy, you are not getting stronger’. While I'm certainly no marathon runner, the idea that I have 60% more reserves and resources within me has been profoundly encouraging. It’s a concept well worth remembering in those darker moments when you feel you have reached the end of your capacity.
Earlier this year, I described caring for someone with Alzheimer's like being trapped in Groundhog Day, on repeat. It is frustrating beyond belief to repeat basic things over and over without any possibility of it being remembered. Now, instead of focusing on what Alzheimer’s is taking away from my father and also from my own life, I see what it is giving me.
Infinite opportunities to be kinder and more patient, qualities I have aspired to my entire adult life. It turns out, not only is there room to breathe in this situation that felt so suffocating a few months ago, there is room to grow and blossom! Difficulties are often like that.
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I'm a Personal Development Life Coach who specialises in L.I.F.E (Living Into your Fullest Expression). Based in Richards Bay, on the East Coast of South Africa, I live with my long-suffering husband, (his description!), two much-loved dogs and care for my elderly father who has Alzheimer's.
Read more about me here.