Welcome to June, Caregivers: Alzheimer's and Brain Health Awareness Month
We see you. We get you. We'll help in any way if you need us.
I see them ahead. A frustrated younger woman. An older woman looking at her blankly if at all. The younger woman supplicates softly, but can't disguise the waves of irritation that sucker punch across her face while the older woman gently strokes the arm of this near volcanic force blocking her progress - her objective is elsewhere, not in cahoots with the younger's request, perhaps not even aware of it.
Have you been to this place yet? Occupying a new territory of acute awareness of the dementia world around you in grocery stores, parks, public restrooms, movie theaters, the mall?
June is Alzheimer's and Brain Health Awareness Month, a great thing to bring dementia advocacy to the forefront by national organizations with increased events, PSAs, and other whatnots to get the donations and attention of the general public.
But we are caregivers. We're already there. We see each other everywhere now. We get where the other is at. We seek to help with a friendly face that says "I see you. I'll help in anyway if you need it."
And sometimes that offer is taken up. An eye roll of annoyance met with an empathetic smile from a stranger often leads to a quick game of "Caregiver? Me too!" - a brief moment of camaraderie that releases the pressure of dementia defeat.
A big part of the dichotomy of dementia caregiving? We are so isolated and yet there are millions of us. We feel completely abandoned on an island of WTF?, while the islands of WTH?, OMG!, STFU!, and SMH<sigh> go sailing by unheeded.
It took me awhile in my caregiver journey to be aware of this strange and equally clueless flotilla that swirled and spun around me; to understand that I was just one of many and if we could somehow smash our islands of lost joys into each other the connections that resulted would benefit us all.
I have an amazing caregiver film to recommend - and surprisingly, not my own! It is Unconditional. A movie about three caregiver families, one being the family of MSNBC anchor Richard Lui, caring for his Alzheimer's father. It is free to stream through July on PBS. It made me aware, once again, that I am not the only foot soldier on this journey, that family caregivers are everywhere doing their best, mucking things up, figuring things out, and so too often feeling forsaken.
So, for this Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month, I'll let the big kids go for the masses. Me, I'll just keep chipping away at my own goal to let family caregivers know that they are not alone, that there is an entire army of us, both in the trenches and grasping our discharged papers as we're catapulted back into civilian life. And...
We see you.
We get you.
We'll help in anyway if you need us.