Put on your oxygen mask

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Life is full of bumps. Some bumps are good: new babies, unexpected travel, a puppy!

Some bumps are tough: unexpected job changes, death of a friend or a loved one, a parent with dementia.

Life is full of bumps and we all learn to ride them, one way or another. In my house we have a saying when we hit a difficult patch. We say that “it is just a bump in the road.” This saying goes hand in hand with “this too shall pass.”

Ask my children and they will all tell you that I have said these things countless times over their lives.

It is just a bump in the road tells my family that “it” may be bad today but tomorrow we will look back and see that “it” was just a bump in the road. “It” may be a crisis today but “it” will be a learning opportunity tomorrow. Today “it” may seem like the end of the world but if we give “it” time we will see that our problems are not insurmountable.

To me, “this too shall pass” means that I should not get all excited or all upset over something that is happening now because before I know it something else will be in my path. My mom used this analogy when I had young children.

At one point my daughter would not wear anything but t-shirts and sofie shorts. Everyday I watched girls file into school wearing cute tops and shorts or pretty dresses. I thought my daughter was beautiful and I wanted her to see that she was beautiful. I know that clothes do not make the child but I wanted everyone to see her beauty not her tomboy image. Mom said this too shall pass and she was right. Eventually she set aside her tomboy duds and traded them for “girl clothes.” It passed and life moved on.

So what does this have to do with dementia? Absolutely nothing and then again . . . Everything.

Dementia is one enormous, hideous bump in the road. It throws off all of our plans. It changes the future and it changes the present. Plans have to change and lives are turned upside down. The bump gets bigger and then we remember that this too shall pass.

Life is about change. Bumps broaden our circle of friends and change the direction in which our life travels. My circle has grown to include people in the support group. I cannot even tell you the name of some of these people but I know their faces and I know the bumps in their road. I know that we are all waiting for this to pass.

It will pass . . . we just don’t know when . . . or how it will pass.

I had lunch today with a new friend, a wise woman, a woman who did not know me until we met over lunch today.

I shared my story and I shared my dreams for dementia. I told her how hard it was to be a caregiver and I told her how exhausting it could be. She seemed to understand and I think she could relate in some ways.

We talked for a while and she left me with a pearl. She reminded me of the instructions that a flight attendant gives you on an airplane. “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.”

Have you ever really thought about what this means?

It means that you have to save yourself first so that you can help someone else.

The same is true when you are a caregiver. You have to save yourself so that you can be there for someone else.

I cannot give everything I have to my parents because I have to save something for my husband and my children. I cannot do everything and be everything for someone else because in the end, I need to stand by my husband and my children.

This in no way means that I cannot care for my parents.

But it means that I have to put on my oxygen mask first.

And if you are a caregiver, you too have to put on your oxygen mask.

Put on your oxygen mask first.

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