Monday, October 4, 2010

Where is the Light?

We finally got the new version of iPhoto for our pictures. My husband and I spent much of the day using the “find faces” feature which uses facial recognition to find people in photos. Then you can click on a person and see these little close up’s of their face in hundreds of different photos.

We have thousands of photos from the past ten years on our computer and we were clicking on the faces of different people in our family to find pictures of them. When we clicked on the photos for my mom and all of the little square close up’s came up, I was shocked. Here in front of me I had mom’s progression in condensed form. What I noticed is that in the older pictures, even from two years ago, mom has this sparkling light in her eyes. In recent photos what I see now is that the light is often gone and there is more of a dull stare.

In a television interview with my dad, Dr. Charles Farrell, about the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride he did a few weeks ago, he says that dementia is like a dense fog. In these photos, I saw that in my mom’s eyes.

It was very hard for me to see these photos. When you live with it every day, you often don’t notice the changes. How she is much shorter than she used to be, how her hands shake, how she looks so tired. I guess I always assumed the light in her eyes would be one of the things that never changed, but it did. 

It is up to us, those who help care for and support our loved ones with dementia, to get that light to shine again. Even if it is just briefly. I think one of the best ways to do that is by spending time with people. I see the light in my mom’s eyes again sometimes when she sees her grandchildren. I see it when we are out in a group and someone intentionally talks to mom and she starts to feel comfortable with them. I see it when we laugh hysterically at the dinner table over some random thing that happened at home that day.

As we were thinking of names for this blog at dinner last night, I jokingly said “How about ‘Dementia in the House!’” Well, my son cracked up laughing and started singing “Dementia in the house!” over and over again, with a bit of a dance to go with it. The light came back into mom’s eyes as she laughed at the cuteness of our son, who realizes the severity of mom’s condition, but also allows us to laugh about even the toughest of topics.

Mom’s light is a bit harder to find at times, but it is by connecting with who she is at a deep level that helps to bring it back. I think kids do this intuitively and us adults can learn a lot by watching our children and how they interact with the people they love. Some people think we should not allow our children to see family or friends when they are sick because it is too scary, or too much for a child to handle. That is a personal choice that each parent will have to make, and we should respect those choices. I do see though how much our son, just by being who he is, is able to help Mom, and how much he is learning from her in return. As things are right now, I would not change it for the world.


Rev. Katie

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