Tag Archives: caregivers

Ideas to Float On: The Miracle Angle for Caregivers

During my first months as as a full-time caregiver I was incredibly sad. Instead of seeing my mom enjoy her well-deserved retirement, I watched her struggle to do simple things like write her own name. My endless tears could have cleaned the slopes of the Rockies. I longed for some sort of flotation device to keep me from drowning in  despair. That’s when I started searching for “Ideas to Float On” — creative actions I could take to help Mom and I survive our sad times.

Keep a Flotation Device Handy

One idea that caregivers can float on is called the “Miracle Angle”, a concept I learned while studying the yoga philosophies of Rod Stryker. The Miracle Angle, as described in Stryker’s book The Four Desires, is a way of identifying the helpful elements built into bad situations. If you can identify the Miracle Angle of a problem, it will help you shift your focus to the positive consequences of a situation instead of dwelling in the land of sadness.

On many occasions, adopting the Miracle Angle has kept me from sliding into depression. For example, instead of crying when Mom couldn’t recall loved ones by name, I took smiling photos of her with friends and family then stuck them on the refrigerator. If their names came up in conversation, I pointed to the pictures to remind her who they were. Later, when Mom began losing her sight, I invented activities that engaged her other senses. To buoy our spirits, I made up silly songs to sing to her while I cooked. Each tune had a simple refrain she could sing along with me. It made us both feel better.

Doing these things, helped me treasure the happy elements at the core of our relationship. The pictures gave us opportunities to remember friends in joyful situations and helped me reflect on the many ways they enriched our lives. Though I can’t remember my improvised songs, I can never forget the sound of her laughing at them.

Over time, the Miracle Angle has become a flotation device for me. Rod Stryker says, “Don’t sleep on your resentments, pain and suffering. Before going to bed each night, clear your mind and find the Miracle Angle from which to look at any circumstance that is troubling you. You may not instantly be uplifted by the change in perspective, but it will provide you with the understanding and acceptance from which you can move forward with a clearer sense of purpose.” As caregivers, taking the optimistic perspective can help us float above the waves of sadness and appreciate the fleeting, happy moments we encounter during the dementia marathon.

Mothering our Mothers

The times when I feel sorry for myself are not my proudest moments. But when you’re caring for a mom with dementia, sometimes you’ve got to ask, “Why me?”  On those days, I try to remind myself that dementia is mainly a disease of old age. If your mom has lived long enough to get it — and you’ve lived long enough to become her caregiver — luck is at work in your life.

Open any tabloid and you’ll be reminded that many children lose their mothers to cancer and drunk drivers. Some kids never know their mom because adoption or divorce gets in the way. A dear friend of mine died at 37, leaving behind a five year old son. She would have suffered any discomfort imaginable to buy one more day with her boy. But science could not help her earn a pass to longer life.

My mom is sick, and there’s nothing I can do to stop the advance of her illness. But I’m so thankful that she lived long enough for me to really know her before dementia took over. I’m grateful that I, too, survived these years and learned what it’s really like to care for a parent I had taken for granted.

Being a witness to this disease can be hard, but on Mother’s Day I try to keep in mind that good fortune wears strange masks. Sharing a meal with my mom and giving her a hug is quite a privilege. Fate has kept her alive and taught me to see that being a “mother” to my mother can be a gift. For the weary caregivers, I say, “Happy Mother’s Day everyone!” And for the many moms we care for: “We love you, mothers!”