Easy to say; really, really hard to do. Does the idea of letting go mean that we are giving up, that this is all there is, that things will never be better, that we just have to sigh, shrug our shoulders, hang our head and simply say, ‘Oh well, let it be’? Or could this concept of letting things be mean that we are not giving up, that to the contrary, we are feeling empowered? We can let go now because we understand that there is much that we can do: we can change our attitude, we can change our language, we can look for and build on strengths, and we can celebrate small moments, tiny victories. We can work at living in just this moment, being thankful for the smile, the laugh, the squeeze of our hand, the shared moment.
We cannot change how other people feel about life with dementia. We cannot make them stop pitying us. We cannot make them stop feeling afraid, or uncomfortable. It is hard enough to control these feelings in ourselves, we cannot hope to try and control these negative feelings in other people. We just have to let it be. While you cannot change the condition of dementia, you can change how you look at it, how you live with it.
How you live with dementia depends completely on your own attitude. We cannot change the condition itself, but we can change how we approach this enormous challenge in our lives. We are still in a relationship, even a partnership with the person we love who has dementia. However, we are the only partner in this relationship who can decide how to think, how to behave, what to believe, how to cope. The person living with dementia, obviously, is being propelled on a journey over which they have very little or no control. We still have control (even though we may often feel that we don’t). We can still make attitude adjustments, course corrections, seek help and ask for respite for a few hours or a few days. The person living with dementia has none of these choices available to them. We have to let that be.
Caregiving is some of the most difficult and demanding work that we will ever do. It demands great patience and strength of character. It is not a role for wimps or martyrs; it is a role for the courageous and the optimistic. You will probably have many moments of sorrow, even despair, but you will never, ever regret taking on this very difficult work. For the rest of your life, you will know that within you lives a hero. You will carry with you moments of tenderness and joy that can only come from the intimacy of caregiving. You will know that you faced the most daunting challenge of your life and met it head on. Even through your sadness and loneliness, you will gain comfort from the knowledge that you have done and are doing the very best that you could for the person you love. That is all any of us can do, just our very best and then we have to let it be.
You are learning in this caregiving journey the very important lesson that all of us must learn: You know that we can’t control or influence everything in our world. Those things we can’t control or influence, we simply have to learn to LET IT BE!