by T.A. Sorenson
Where’s My Purse? is a recounting of the 10-year journey through Alzheimer’s with my mother. Even though this disease is challenging, I opted to approach Mom’s circumstances from a positive angle - celebrating what was right with her world, instead of what wasn’t. Let me explain.
Writing WMP was to-date my most challenging undertaking, as well as the most cathartic. My mom, JoAnn, had always been equal parts best friend, anchor, parent, and confidant. But over the course of one year, I observed this beautiful, active, light experience moments of simple forgetfulness that quickly accelerated into a total shut down of her memory process. I knew that two relatives on my mother’s side had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was a child, but the notion of it being genetically passed on was never entertained. Needless to say, this new scenario was both heartbreaking and scary.
Diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease. Now what?
Each and every day millions of individuals are facing this exact situation and have no idea what to do. My first instinct in the new role as caregiver was to scour the Internet in search of information, but what I really wanted was to hear directly from someone who had actually been through it. There was no one in my world to speak to about the diagnosis and jumping from one medical website to the next, left me with only one takeaway - more confusion. Allowing frustration to take over, all I kept thinking was “how on earth could this be happening to me?” And then it hit me - it wasn’t.
Despite my best efforts to deal with everything, I made plenty of mistakes, the largest of which was feeling sorry for myself. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; it was never about me. From that “Aha” moment going forward, my focus shifted solely toward Mom and my attitude on the positive. Knowing the disease was never going away, my only mission was to make my mother as happy and safe as I could, while celebrating each day I had left with her. Individuals have questioned me, wondering how I could possibly find a bright spot as it relates to Alzheimer’s disease. What I will say is that of course I was sad. But at the end of the day, my mind & abilities remained intact and thankfully still are. JoAnn didn’t have that luxury, so spending time licking my wounds didn’t make sense for me. Because I adopted that newfound positivity, I became a much more effective caregiver and was better equipped to handle what was to come.
Just as each individual is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all with Alzheimer’s albeit there are many common threads. Keeping that in mind, Where’s My Purse? offers the reader 7 separate stories written from varying perspectives. Each contributor bravely opens up to share their personal story to help those seeking support and accessible information. The feedback has been wonderful and the comment I receive most often from my readers is that they feel like they’re sitting with me having a private conversation and getting answers to their questions. Mom was always there to help everyone and I can’t think of a better way to honor her.
Join me while I walk you through my very private journey with my loving mother, JoAnn. I’m hopeful that by offering you a glimpse of my experiences, as well as suggestions on how to exercise humor and grace, it may help you to better cope with your loved one’s challenges. Perspective is everything and altering mine was just what the doctor ordered.
“You will never experience personal growth, if you fear taking chances. And, you will never become successful, if you operate without integrity.”
Writing “Where’s My Purse” has been a challenging exercise, due to the sensitive nature of the content. At times I have struggled with the notion that some may perceive me as “insensitive,” which I am not. Looking at select situations with a comedic eye helps ME cope, and that’s how my mom would want it. I was raised in a home where laughter was used as a defense mechanism, a vehicle for communication and our pharmaceutical of choice. When we learned that Mom had Alzheimer’s, I found myself drowning in a sea of self-pity, yet JoAnn was the one who drew the short straw. In other words, I was making it about me. The only obvious solution was to change MY perspective. Once that adjustment was made, I became a highly effective advocate for her and found peace.
About the Author
T.A. Sorensen resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, where she works as a designer. After spending two years in Colorado and twelve years in Toronto, Canada, they returned to be closer to her family in her beautiful birthplace.