Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s the little things…”? Of course you have! Everyone has either heard someone say that or has said it themselves. Why? Because it’s so true! The little things in life are often the best things. I often get more excited about the little things than I ever do about the big things. Like when my Women’s Running magazine comes in the mail or one of my endless packages from Amazon arrives. I get so excited when I remember that I have leftovers in the fridge or that I bought a bag of those little donut crullers from Krispy Kreme at the grocery store. Almost nothing makes me happier than a good run or spin class. And, I can’t help but smile whenever I feel a cool breeze on a hot, sunny day. (I’m looking at you, Florida!) You know, the little things.
If you are caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s, it probably seems like everything just sucks. Like, all the time. To be honest, it probably does suck most of the time. But, one thing that I learned in helping take care of my mom is that you have to focus on the little things. It is easy to become overwhelmed with sadness, depression, and hopelessness. When everything sucks and each minute is harder than the last and you know that no one is coming to save you from the hell that is your life…yeah, it’s bad. The only way that you can find any amount of joy and happiness is if you learn to focus on the little things.
What are the little things in Alzheimer’s world? What can you possibly find to be excited about in Alzheimer’s world? I’m talking about the sweet, fleeting moments where your loved one looks you in the eye and you just know that she knows you. The times when she says something so unexpected and you think to yourself, “Oh hey, Mom! I knew you were in there!” Like the one time my mom was choking on her drink and I was trying to make sure she was ok. I said, “Mom, say something!” And she said, “Something.” That little, teeny, tiny thing made my whole freaking day. It didn’t matter what else happened that day. I focused on that one little thing. I could have the absolute worst day with my mom, but if when I leave and say, “See ya later…” and she says, “alligator,” then I remember it as being one of the absolute best days.
I’m telling you, it’s the little things. Like the fact that my mom squeezed me back when I hugged her or said “I love you, too” when I said it first. Or that she was able to hold the bowl and use the spoon to eat a bowl of ice cream (mostly) by herself. The little things are the times she is able to stand up on her own or when she dances with me. I can’t help but smile when she spells every word I ask her correctly or when we stumble our way through the Pledge of Allegiance. Some of you have probably seen my video on Facebook of us singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” where my mom sings the “E-I-E-I-O” part. Well, little did you know that happened after a very traumatic trip to the bathroom with my mom, during which I got poop all over the bathroom and myself. You would never know that by watching the video and I damn near forgot about the whole “incident” because of us making that video. It’s the little things, people! Focus on the little things and you will be much happier.
And, you don’t just have to sit around and wait for the little things to come. You can make them happen yourself. Have you ever looked at one of those lists about 101 activities to do with someone who has Alzheimer’s? Did you ever look at that list and think that most of the things on it are barely even activities? Yes, you have. I’m sure you’ve thought that. “What the hell is this? That will take less than two minutes! That’s not even an activity!” Well, my friend, it is now. You certainly aren’t going to be going rock climbing or scuba diving together. I can tell you that much. The things on those lists are activities now. They are the little things. Eating a bowl of ice cream together. Listening to your favorite song. Looking at a photo album. Singing the ABC’s. Sitting outside and listening to the birds. Those are the little things. Do them.
I’ve talked before about how I used to have to leave the room to cry every time I saw my mom. I was that sad, dark, depressed girl that maybe you are now. I’ve also talked about how I tend to be a Grumpy Cat. My husband always jokes around about how I rarely get excited about anything. He laughs at the fact that I’m unamused and unimpressed by most things in life. If I, the Grumpy Cat, can go from being that dark and depressed girl who had to leave the room to cry to the girl who finds joy and happiness in the little things, then so can you. It can be done. Trust me.
Welcome to the simple life. You’re gonna like it here.