~ Orannhawk

We learn from an early age to honor and respect our

Elders and our Elderly. It is inherent, a natural way of

being. Our lives are enriched by their presence, by the

teachings we receive, the taste of the food they serve

to us, and the way we begin to view our community

and the world. They feed our spirit, nourish our souls, and guide us to the best of their abilities.

Their thoughts, beliefs and experiences influence our lives, and yet it is not always a positive thing. It is important to remember that we all carry the impact of the past within our genes and we are not always aware of all of the experiences of those who walked before us. This too, is a part of our journey.

We are not without flaws, and this includes our Elders and the Elderly in our families. Many lives stand in the shadows with conflicting ideas and belief systems based on experiences broken by alcoholism, addiction, abuse, poverty, greed, loss, racial and sexual prejudice and the pervading sense of emptiness brought on with the assault of aging and dementia.

This leaves many of us with perplexing challenges, especially when the connections are obscured with fragments and pieces that no longer mesh, despite all of our best efforts.

More often than not, it creeps in, like the proverbial thief in the night, ready to take all the shiny baubles and bits. It is sly, stealthy, manipulating, and subtle enough you may not be aware that it is in the house. 

The elusive nature of it can blindside you, and there are moments when you question if perhaps you are wrong.

We want to be wrong in this case. I want to be wrong.

It is the realization that no one wants, when one of your own begins to dance in an alternative space and reality is skewed and confused. The signs were there years ago, however they were vague and it was easy to attribute it to other causes and possibilities.

Initially I put it off to simple forgetfulness because I did not want to imagine where it might be leading. 

More and more it became all too apparent and I could not continue to deny the facts. My sibling and I knew the many details of past life events; places, times, people involved and yet, many of our clear memories are now rewritten in a format seemingly more pleasing to our parent.

It is deeply disturbing to see the changes. As a family, we have taken the appropriate steps to take care of our parent. To our utter dismay, said parent has chosen to retaliate in numerous ways to spite all reason and logic we have taken to protect and give our cherished love one the most optimal life possible.

When we look at the bigger picture, there are avenues one can turn to for assistance, depending on the needs of an individual. Home and community based services, long-term care services, assisted living services and hospice care. Insurances or care through Indian Health Services may or may not provide any assistance for any of these services. Indian Health Services are divided into twelve regions across the United States; however, programs and options for care vary by location. Without insurance or other services, assistance is out of reach for a vast majority of people. As a result, many of the individuals, both non-diagnosed and diagnosed are cared for by family members.

Obviously, the care of our Elders and Elderly is the priority; however, we cannot ignore the stress and pressure it places on the individual’s families and caregivers. A good support system is vital for all involved. There are already numerous support groups in social media platforms for caregivers, where one can also locate links to additional services and options for the caregiver and the affected. Utilizing a support system, either online and/or in person is extremely helpful as it takes a lot of the pressure off our shoulders.

It is important to find balance with the changes that occur when your love one is dealing with dementia in any form or at any stage. I have learned that I cannot have any expectations regarding how my loved one may approach things. Lucid periods are scattered with fragmented statements, over exaggerations in pronunciation, anger, and accusations, newly created variations of life events, crying, whining, and sadly lies and attempts at manipulation. Functional, yet not.

Routine is important; it brings about a sense of stability and security. Love. Absolute love, especially when the affected loved one dances with angst and uncertainty, pushing every button you have, you must remember love. This is your loved one, the one who held you and nurtured you, the one you shared your thoughts and dreams with at different times of your life, the one you relied on … the one who now relies on you.

Let go of the anger and the surges of depression that will rush over you in tsunamic waves. Pray. 

Remember your loved one likely has no idea their words or actions are inflecting any emotional, spiritual or even physical pain upon you. Remember their world is now cloudier and often chaotic as they try to keep what is most important to them.

Cherish the times of clarity and the laughter. Enjoy and embrace your connection and hold these memories close. Be prepared, ask questions and know what your options are.

Realize that even when you have made the right decisions for their care and well-being, if your loved one is still functional, they can and often will, elicit outsiders to attempt to undo all of the precautionary measures you have in place.

Realize that as your loved one moves through the stages of dementia, you will also be moving through stages of grief. You will experience shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression as well as reflection, a sense of working for solutions and finding your way to acceptance and then hope as you move forward.

On the days when it all seems to ‘hit the fan’ remember we honor and respect our Elders and our Elderly. In times of change and crisis, we stand as our Ancestors would expect us to … we gift them with our love, respect, honor and dignity.