Dad will turn 90 tomorrow. As I reflect on a life well-lived, I can honestly say that the way to live to the ripe old age of 90 boils down to these personality attributes. This is what my dad has taught me and more importantly has reinforced for me in the last year when I have been his caregiver.
- Don’t worry until you need to worry
- Most things pass, so obsessing on something will only cause unnecessary angst.
- Be content with where you are in life and look for the positive things about your current situation.
- Be grateful
- Always find things to laugh about
- Even though you are frustrated with your declining abilities, there is always a way to find humor even in frustration.
A prime example of #6. My dad’s declining language abilities often will mean that he creates made-up words in lieu of the word he is trying to find. What comes out of his mouth can be truly funny. One way to look at that is to be sad and frustrated with his circumstance. What I have found with my dad is that if I can keep my demeanor positive, he reflects that back to me. So one day I suggested we create a Paul Light “dictionary” for all his made-up words. He loved that idea and laughed at the thought. So every time comes up with a new word, I remind him that it will be going into the “dictionary.” He laughs every time. (#6 on the list)
Where he is living, at Daylesford Crossing, is generally a very positive environment. The staff has picked up on this positivity and reflects it back to him regularly. As a result, despite his declining abilities, he remains happy and positive (#3 on the list).
Although his cognitive state continues to decline and he has good days and bad days, occasionally he reaches out to me and instigates a hug, or says “I love you” or thanks me. It is on those rare occasions that I know everything I am doing for him has been worthwhile (#4 on the list).
And finally, my dad’s mantra throughout his life has always been “This, too, shall pass” which has meant that he really isn’t a worrier and he doesn’t get caught up in something unpleasant that is happening in the moment because he knows it is temporary. I think this has meant a much less stressful life overall. (#1 and #2 on the list).