Finding Your Joy: A Guide on Living with Someone who has Alzheimers

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be crushing in a lot of ways. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s all butterflies and self-love from day zero. Hell, our name even comes from the dark period of life and depression that followed my mom’s diagnosis. And you know what boo, that’s okay! 

Being down on your luck and pushed to the ground by something doesn’t mean you can’t get straight back up and continue swingin’, Muhammad Ali style, right? So that’s what we did, because that’s what we do. Remember: we can do incredible things!

So how did we pull a switch up on ‘em and get back to a positive, and even productive, place?

Well like with anything, that took time. Leaving the doctor’s office on day zero of mom’s diagnosis I sure as *heck* didn’t know what I was doing. (If you read the blog earlier this month, you know what’s up.) I wish the doctors would have elaborated more on the change the disease would have on her personality. 

Even though she still looked like mom and even acted like mom in so many ways, inside there was a whole world of confusion and frustration happening. Of course with everything going on in her mind, there was bound to be an effect on her willingness and ability to participate in really anything we might be doing. Simple things seemed like the end of the world.

As I learned more about the disease though, I was able to understand her better and therefore communicate with her and motivate her better. We started to try new things to get her joy back. Activities that would keep her focused and excited on a daily basis, but chile, let me tell you: mama can be a little stubborn. You would’a sworn that girl’s favorite word was “no”!

While we eventually [finally] landed on jewelry making, there are a number of things that have worked for others in search of purpose in our position that we tried along the way. Finding joy in a life defined by Alzheimer’s is one of the most powerful and impactful ways to hop back in the driver seat.

Now, here’s what you can try in your journey to find joy:

  1. Art Projects - Anything from painting to sculpting, to wax carving or creating jewelry. Get your hands in something and create. Get the tools you need to start small at first and if you see things taking flight, treat yo-self: invest in the products and tools you need to really thrive. And hey, maybe it will even end up being a business! Making something, regardless of a diagnosis, it's an easy way to spark joy for anyone. Bonus points as creative activities stimulate the frontal cortex which is known to help with short term memory. Booyah! 
  2. Cooking and/or Baking - Whether you decide to follow a recipe or whip up some magic from scratch, this activity can also be incredibly creative. Especially if you’re enjoying it with others like your family or community at large. Even volunteering to cook at community events can be a good way to triple dip between social, creative, and philanthropic! And yo, check this out: “A nourishing, home-cooked meal, shared with friends or family, touches on three of the six pillars of brain health,” says Jeffrey Cummings, MD, ScD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “This familiar activity exercises the brain, provides the nutrition our bodies crave and encourages social interaction, all of which are critical to preserving cognitive fitness.” aka that’s what’s up!
  3. Blogging or journaling - Now we all know about writing things down and the huge help that can be in remembering things. Shoot, even a trip to the grocery store without a list these days has me comin’ home without half the stuff I needed to get. Beyond remembering simple things, journaling or blogging can be hugely helpful in mental health and cognition. Whether you’re a caregiver or someone diagnosed, this can really help. Especially when going back to re-read what you wrote from a few months or weeks ago. It’s like a mini-therapy session to check in on yourself and track your progress. Seeing how far you’ve come can be a huge mental boost to your positivity game! 
  4. Cleaning up around the house or organizing - Now I’ve heard that this is particularly impactful if the person used to really enjoy organizing in the past, but I think everyone likes to be clean. And if you don’t, then let’s take a moment to reality check, real quick right? Having a clean space=having a clear mind and that’s self-care, boo! It’s a simple way to feel a sense of accomplishment. Sweeping, folding, or wiping things down are easy and focused tasks that will spark feel-good moments and even some triomphe! 

Every personality and journey is different, and even if there are a whole heap of “no’s” thrown your way on your pursuit for purpose, you gotta keep swingin’, okay? Until you find that thing that turns the clock back on and makes you tick honey pie, you just keep on trying.

Like I said, for me and mom, jewelry making was one of the last things we tried, but she just couldn’t stop once she started. It was so obvious for her that this was her *thang*. We knew we would get there at some point, and we know you can too!

If you’re interested in checking out our work you can head over to any of our “Collection” tabs at the top. 


Nikki and the ALCIB Team~

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