Yesterday I was asked to be a part of a Caregiver Conference held at a local nursing home. It continues to amaze me how many caregivers are out there desperate to find guidance as they navigate their way through the Alzhiemer's Disease maze. As with the others I have participated in, this one had speakers and workshops - all designed to help those caring for a loved one with some kind of dementia. I don't think they ever had any when Mike was first diagnosed, at least I was not aware of any. It's a wonderful "gift" for these professionals to give back to people who have entered into a very scary, unpredictable world.
I was part of a panel that included 6 caregivers - 3 of whom who care for an older parent, 3 caring for a spouse with "young onset". All the stories were unique to the family, yet similar for the disease. I am always proud to sit among people who have gone above and beyond in caring for a loved one, whether it be at home or in a nursing home. Unless someone has walked in our shoes, they cannot possibly understand, so to sit with others who have gone through OR who are going through the same tragedy, makes me feel "safe" and comfortable. When I take part in these events, I feel like I am with extended family.
As I was walking to my car afterward, a woman drove by and stopped me. She was also a part of the panel, but we did not get to speak very much before or after the presentation. She slowed down and rolled down her window, put her hand on her heart and started to cry. She expressed her shock at Mike's age at diagnosis and wished me well. We spoke for a bit and she went on her way. Fellow caregivers can communicate with very few words - often none are needed. We know in our hearts.