The neurologist called yesterday. Mummy’s MRI report came back. He said there is no sign of any new strokes, just the previous stroke that she had some time earlier this year. He also said her brain is shrinking.
So at this point, we’re not sure why she has deteriorated all of a sudden. Stroke is ruled out. What else can it be? We have no clue.
Mummy has been getting depressed lately. She’ll cry every once in a while about how bad her health is.
Yesterday, after eating lunch, she cried because she said no one cares for her or feeds her. I asked her if she wanted real food, or if she wanted ice cream. In between whimpers she let me know she wanted ice cream. As soon as I gave her some vanilla ice cream (her favorite), she got up and ate it enthusiastically. She calmed down after that.
Her pain complaints have gone back up as well. She is complaining of pain everywhere. Her joints and her muscles ache. Papa tried explaining there’s not much we can do about it. A Tylenol or an Advil, maybe, but that’s about it. He tried telling her that this comes with the territory of growing old. Obviously, Mummy didn’t understand. Rationale and logic aren’t the best ways of solving her problems. Sometimes she just needs verbal reassurance that everything will be alright.
Explaining to her WHY she’s having pain won’t stop her from complaining about her pain. Showing her that you’re doing something about it, even if it’s pretend, for example, rubbing lotion on the place of pain, or giving her a multi-vitamin and saying that it is knee medication usually works.
As Muslims, we believe that the difficulties, sadness, hurt, and pain that happens to us cleanses us of our sins. In a hadith (teachings said or done by the Prophet, peace be upon him) the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” [Bukhari]
Applying this to Mummy’s situation, we can understand that Mummy’s sins are basically being washed away because of this disease that has befallen her.
The test isn’t on her, it’s on us. This disease might lead her to paradise, but will it lead us to paradise? If we lose our patience one day, or get angry the next day, or even worse, question Our Lord’s Will by saying, “Why me?” will that lead us to paradise?
Our test is whether or not we keep our patience, remain calm, rational, and focused on the bigger picture. It can be extremely easy to lose patience with a person with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Things that they have OCD about can drive any sane person to the brink of insanity.
But how we react under pressure is the ultimate test of character. It’s not about how we appear in public or in front of others, or how outsiders view us. It’s about how our character shines through when faced with difficulties within our home, with our families. It’s about how we treat our weak, our sick, and our old when it’s just us, no outside people looking.
Patience may be the LAST thing we want to practice. But patience is what will save us in the Hereafter. It would be very unfortunate to put all this effort into being a caregiver for a disabled person, only to have this be the reason of our demise in the Hereafter. If we’re going to put all this effort, we must make sure that these deeds will be accepted, and that we do things right.
Patience is needed in abundant form. Even if you are annoyed, irritable, or angry, it is the ultimate test of your character when you can project an aura of calm despite of the emotions going on inside of you. As hard is it is to care for a person with this disease, as a Muslim, the true test of faith is whether or not we keep our eyes focused on the Hereafter, with our hearts remembering Allah and fearing Him.
To all people dealing with dementia/Alzheimer’s: What might seem like a calamity that has come upon you, could be a blessing in disguise, or it could be the one thing that brings down Allah’s disfavor upon you. This could be the one deed that tips the scales on the Day of Judgement, either for better, or for worse.
It is a decision that we make with our actions.
The real question is: How will our actions (i.e. our family) speak for us on the Day of Reckoning?
I guess we’ll find out then…