Tag Archives: caregiver stories

Alzheimer’s and Other Puzzles: Solvitur Ambulando

This week gave me too much to think about. News of a friend’s death and a child’s grave illness shook my composure and cast Mom’s disease in new light. To make sense of tragedy, I employ the Roman dictum Solvitur Ambulando.”

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In Latin, that phrase means “it is solved by walking.” Long walks help me find peace even when answers are elusive. Our society embraces a form of this practice with events like the Alzheimer’s Walk. These marches allow families to take strides that promote public awareness about the disease until a cure is found. My sister is doing her part today by walking for the Philadelphia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Solvitur ambulando also offers a method for reflecting on what you know until clarity emerges. My morning walk gave me time to consider a week of sad revelations. A friend and beloved neighbor was recently killed during a freak accident at his house. He was the kind of guy who expertly tiled my bathroom when a contractor let me down. Just last month, he installed my new washing machine after the delivery guy left before finishing the job. Rocco was a generous person who shared his skills freely with many people. His death at age 47 leaves a huge gap in the life of his 3-year old son.

On the heels of this news, I learned that the 7-year old daughter of someone in my yoga class has been diagnosed with a rare cancer that has no cure or reliable treatment. The little girl’s window on life is estimated at two years, maximum. Events will help raise money for her medical costs, but consolation for her family will be much harder to come by.

When stacking situations like these against the troubles in my own life, I feel fortunate — yet perplexed. It’s always seemed so unfair that my mother got a rare form of dementia after taking such good care of her health. But despite this terrible development, we have been blessed to know her for decades and she can still experience joy. It can be a struggle to take care of Mom, but somehow our problems feel contained and manageable compared to these other tragedies.

I know that many caregivers face greater challenges than mine and I hope all of you find the strength you need to surmount the hurdles in your life. Maybe you can benefit from the ‘solvitur ambulando‘ practice. Walking doesn’t always bring answers, but it usually offers some relief from distress. As you shoulder your own burdens, pax vobiscum — peace be with you all.

Losing Memory and Finding it

Days like Halloween remind me too profoundly that Mom remembers none of the great ways she enriched the lives of her kids. This week I watched scores of little tykes in clever costumes, feeling sad that my mom’s memories of family Halloweens were gone.

Baby bear near the pond

The cure for my sadness soon arrived in the form of a happy two-year old wearing a silver princess crown, sparkling shoes, and pink wings. I asked her mother if she’d be willing to bring the lovely child in to sit with my mom for a minute. To my surprise, the woman quickly agreed.

This little girl was a week shy of her second birthday, but she was a sharp thinker and remarkably unafraid. Though she never saw me before in her life, she allowed her mom to seat her on my lap so my mother could get a good look at the glittering costume. The child’s face was truly beautiful, though her smile crumpled when she realized my mom could not see her well. Nevertheless, she didn’t cry or jump away from me while my mom worked for a minute or two, finally focusing her eyes to see the toddler on my knees.

Once her impaired brain gave Mom a glimpse of the girl, she was full of praise, telling the child how sweet and precious she was. That moment was really what I was praying for. But I also wanted to make sure that the two-year old — so patient and brave in front of a frail old woman – also got pleasure from the encounter. I told her again how lovely she looked and how grateful we were for her visit. Finally, the smile returned.

These small moments have a value far beyond the fleeting time they span. People, feelings, human connections: these are really the only things that offer my mom more than momentary joy. Meals and busywork activities are forgotten as soon as they end. But emotional sparks — even with tiny strangers — still bring her briefly into the world the rest of us occupy. Compassionate people, I’m convinced, are the only genuine antidote to the maladies we face in life.