Never will mindset play a bigger role in surviving and thriving than when a partner or loved one is afflicted with a neurological disorder. 

Story by Liz Marchi 

So many have reached out to tell me their stories of losing a partner to dementia, MS, Parkinson’s and other neurological age-related diseases. More than ever, we need to have conversations about living through these unwelcome changes. Most of us have had exposure to the stages of grief when you lose a loved one. Having “lost” a partner to dementia or another disease requires a new approach to living. The caregiver is reminded every moment of loss: physical loss, a best friend, a lover, a travel companion, a partner and someone to share life’s joys and triumphs with.

Never will mindset play a bigger role in surviving and thriving than when a partner or loved one is afflicted with a neurological disorder. No two journeys are the same. It’s so critical to the caregiver to share their feelings of loss and anxiety. As we age in America, neurological disease is growing exponentially. The victim has limited choices on moving forward, but the caregiver has many. Remind yourself every day that it isn’t about what happens to you in life; it’s how you react to it. Despite all the unwanted change, you do have choices and new opportunities. It takes real emotional and mental work to find this place of hope. I encourage you to do that work if your life has been affected by the loss of a partner to a neurological disorder.

From my conversations with friends and experts, I’ve learned it’s important get up every day and remind yourself:

  • This is hard, but some days you will be better than others.
  • Guilt is a wasted emotion; it doesn’t add anything to your life or theirs.
  • Do not isolate yourself or hover.
  • Your partner is there on many levels; remember the basic emotions that matter most.  
  • Provide a sense of dignity to the individual who is affected. Do not forget to find moments to laugh. This is serious business, but there is always something to smile about if you are looking for it.
  • Continue doing as many things as you can together.

There are three things that you should repeat every day if your partner has Alzheimer’s:

  • Don’t criticize.
  • Don’t correct.
  • Don’t take anything they say personally.

What is resilience? Finding a path to live as fully as you can every day despite the loss of your most loved and treasured companion. Resilience doesn’t come overnight; it comes with abundant patience and empathy and focused emotional work. Yes, your life is forever changed, but there is always a gift in that change: every moment matters more. The one thing we will all share as humans is death. As we traverse this last quarter, do so with hope and gratitude and make resilience a priority in your life.

Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging — from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at liz@lizmarchi.com.