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Gift for caregivers: Finding a place of contentment this season
Date: December 13, 2011
By: Mayo Clinic Staff - Angela Lunde

Gift for caregivers: Finding a place of contentment this season

By Angela Lunde

If I could give each of you a gift it would be of course a cure for Alzheimer's. But short of that it might be ten hours of peaceful sleep, a personal assistant, high quality and low cost respite care anytime and anyplace.

Alternatively, my gift might be an endless supply of patience, or the chance to escape back to a favorite time from your past. But even these are not gifts I can deliver on. So instead, my gift to you may be in simply knowing that you have at least a handful of (virtual) friends in our blog community who understand what you're going through and can empathize with your experience.

I often write about Rose because she's a caregiver I admire who offers profound insight. Recently she said, "Today I am feeling buoyant after talking with a wonderful friend and she totally 'gets it.' Being understood is fundamental to a sense of well being."

I wholeheartedly agree that being understood is essential to one's well being. And I believe it bestows a feeling of contentment as well. Contentment is hard to come by for many of us.

I struggle in feeling contentment and not wishing for something more, better, different. I sometimes strive for wanting to pad my ego with credentials, accomplishments, or just things possibly it's the desire to impress, please, or be the best at what I do. Yet, to the folks I'm with who have Alzheimer's, none of this matters.

They might not remember my name much less the things I own, my accomplishments or credentials. Yet they do know if I'm a kind and compassionate person and a sincere listener. They sense if I'm patient, understanding and accepting. They respond more to the tone of my voice, my eye contact, body language, facial expressions and touch, than anything else about me. They feel trust and ease when I simply acknowledge what they're saying most often this means validating the beliefs, feelings or realities that are uniquely theirs at that moment. Those of you who offer this therapeutic way of communication know what I'm talking about.

So, in this giving season, I reflect on the richness of what I (and maybe some of you) receive from persons with dementia. They draw from us those authentic qualities that are within, but often are buried beneath the rocks that fill our ego. When we remove the rocks, we connect with our authentic self, and we find that place of contentment. Peace and ease to each of you this holiday season.

"Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, it is the realization of how much you already have."

- Anonymous

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