about writing and life and God

Dementia Diary 20: Expecting nothing…

on November 10, 2012

The sky is ablaze. A dramatic backdrop bringing to a grateful close one more day.

I have few words of my own today so I’m going to borrow some. Anchorite Sister Rachel is talking about hospitality in this quote from but it applies unerringly to the situation of the visitor/carer of someone with dementia:

“[It] demands an acceptance of the other as they are now. It asks of us to find the space within ourselves where we can welcome them without making any demands of them, valuing them for who they are, without any expectation of change… being open to the other in this way, we are enriched by their presence.”

This is the task and the challenge, and it is hard.

A Facebook entry on my page today told the story of a gentleman who visited his wife to share breakfast with her each morning, despite the fact that because of Alzheimer’s she no longer knew who he was. In fact she had not recognised him in five years. He said, ‘She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.’

And this is the blessing for the long-married and the grown-up children who do know who their loved ones were. Who remember them younger and vibrant, firing on all cylinders. Yes, there will be sorrow for the now, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is the nine-tenths of shared memories. Shared happiness.

I, and all the Johnnie-come-latelies like me – the second wives and husbands, the stepchildren, the rag tag and bobtail of 21st century blended families and messed-up families and families than never gelled or never were – we don’t have that to fall back on.

Yesterday at lunch, when my husband started talking about the underfloor heating of a previous home, I knew I wasn’t in that memory. It was before my time. And that was the pattern of our day. I was there, physically, but not there…

Sister Rachel has it right. We need to find acceptance, and hold in our hearts no demands for ourselves. That way we won’t get our hearts broken more.

Text: “Accept one another, then, just as Jesus Christ accepted you” Romans 15 verse 7

Prayer: We bring You our emptiness, Lord, the pain of dashed hopes and expectations unmet. Fill us with Your love, healing our pain, soothing our sorrow and enabling us to carry on with this journey, with love and acceptance.

Self-care suggestion: Give yourself time to get used to this new situation. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail (as you will). Plan for when the hurt threatens to swamp you. Have someone you can ring. Don’t be alone with this!


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