Robin Thomson explores: What we did get right
By Robin Thomson . Published 2020-08-31
The second article from our guest writer, Robin Thomson who reflects on his wife's Shoko's journey with Alzheimer's
When I was caring for my wife, Shoko, I made plenty of mistakes. There were plenty of things that we wish we had known sooner. I have described some of them already.
We should have worked sooner to build the support team that both of us needed – family, friends, social groups, various caregiving options. We already had our close church connection, which proved vital. But we had to learn to navigate the social care system.
I wish I had enabled Shoko to do more when she wanted to help, particularly in the kitchen. I found that difficult, because with my lack of experience I had to concentrate hard and became quite nervous, when trying to prepare a meal. It was disconcerting to have somebody opening pans and turning the gas on or off at the wrong time.
I wish I had learned Japanese properly, many years earlier. It would have helped our communication at every level, especially when Shoko reverted, most of the time, to her mother tongue.
So there was plenty of room for improvement!
But there were some things that we did get right
We worked hard to keep up with our friends, to keep them informed and engaged, and we continued to invite people home. They were also very good at keeping up with us. Otherwise we would have felt more isolated.
Our family supported us both at every turn. This is not something to take for granted. The impact of watching someone you love slowly disappearing is very unsettling and the people who are closest may respond differently.
We discovered the remarkable power of music. We did a lot of singing, on our own and when friends came. It was one of the best ways for them to engage. Shoko loved it. And she was able to continue playing hymns on the piano. It never ceased to amaze me as I watched her.
We managed to sort out financial and legal matters without too much complication. This was easier since I already handled most of these things, but they needed care and attention.
We learned to receive personal support. It isn’t always easy to ask for help, or sometimes to know what help you need. We were grateful for perceptive and thoughtful friends and family.
We learned to take each day as it comes. It was too easy to worry about the future, to wonder where things were heading. I had to keep re-learning this vital lesson: to receive each day as it came, and live through it. For Shoko it had become part of her changed nature.
It brought me back to the basic lesson of love. I began to pray each day that ‘Today I will be able to love, serve and care for Shoko in the best way for her’.
This reminded me of my priority for the day, to focus on Shoko and her needs. It wasn’t about myself and my feelings.
It was also important to take ‘each day’ at a time. I should not try to look further ahead. That only led to speculation and anxiety. It was Jesus who said, ‘do not be anxious about tomorrow’ (Matthew 6:34). And he was right.
Remarkably, Shoko herself was an example of love and affection, all through her illness. She was deeply grounded and secure in God’s love and her own loving nature.