by Elizabeth SheanAs I write this, I can hear Mom laughing. It's a delightful sound, and one that sadly occurs less and less frequently as Mom's dementia progresses. Mom is laughing because my sister, Jan, who is visiting from Colorado for the week, is regaling her with amusing stories from Christmases when we were kids. Mom has forgotten many of these incidents, even though they are firmly entrenched in the family lore. As Jan recounts each episode, Mom hears it as if for the first time and relishes each word.With Mom under Jan's watchful eye, I am enjoying a few moments of solitude. It's a good time to look ahead to what 2017 might hold.If you've been reading this blog for the past few months, you are aware 2016 has been a tragic year for Mom and me. My husband died unexpectedly in April. My mom's physical health, which had always been robust, has degenerated into high blood pressure and severe leg weakness that leaves her prone to tripping and falling. The progression of her dementia has accelerated, and I can almost see her brain cells being erased each day. I have lost my husband, and it appears I now am losing my mom. In a way, it all feels like too much to cope with.And yet I remain optimistic as I look forward. I have successfully navigated nearly nine months of bereavement without falling apart. In fact, I'm feeling stronger all the time. I see a thousand reasons each day to be thankful for my existence, and I see a future that looks brighter with each step I take toward it.
I am excited about my upcoming move back to Albuquerque. I've never bought a house all on my own. I feel a sense of adventure about it. Every day I scroll through the new listings on a real estate website. I aim to find a home where I can live out my days, and when viewing each listing I ask if I can picture myself rattling around in that house when I'm 80. Caring for Mom (and, earlier, my dad) has given me a new perspective on how to evaluate a prospective home for my needs in advanced age. In that respect, certainly, being a caregiver has been a valuable experience.When Mom looks ahead at 2017, she feels a sense of uncertainty. At her age, uncertainty is not adventure, it's anxiety. She worries about whether or not she'll be able to find decent doctors—and a wonderful CAREGiversm to take Anita's place. True, finding another Anita will be challenging. But I have no doubt the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise in Albuquerque will match us with another exceptional individual to provide Mom's care.Mom and I both look forward to being back in the Rocky Mountains, closer to Jan. She will now be within driving distance, so we can visit more often. She will happily drive down to provide me with abundant periods of respite. That will be a blessing, for sure.Yes, I am looking forward to the new year. A fresh start. It's just what we need to wash away the bad taste left by the past months. Welcome, 2017.