How Alzheimer’s became a gift

maggielatourelleThis week’s blogger, Maggie, shares her experience of her mum’s Alzheimer’s.

I’m at peace. I have no worries or fear. Death is nothing to be afraid of.” 

These were the reassuring words Maggie La Tourelle’s Mum, Pat, told her. Pat had Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a disease. It’s the most common cause of dementia. Symptoms include confusion, memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Memory loss is a big old spectrum and what might seem really common and no cause for concern can creep towards something that is much more enveloping and potentially dark, scary and isolating. It can range from the common – you walk into the kitchen then can’t remember why you opened the fridge door to not understanding what a fridge is. These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by diseases like Alzheimer’s. There is growing understanding of memory loss and growing support to tackle, combat or cope with it.

Here Maggie shares her story and some of the things she learned.

“My mum, Pat, had Alzheimer’s and was very frail. She was having visitations from dead relatives – a sign that death is near, and was talking about dying. However this ‘ending’ turned out to be just the beginning of a extraordinary journey that transformed her life and mine and helped heal our troubled past.

“Mum was aware of the transformation that was taking place in her as her Alzheimer’s progressed and told me to share what we were learning with others. So for three and a half years, till the end of her life, I recorded our conversations. The edited transcript, along with my observations and commentary as a daughter, psychotherapist and healer form the heart of my book, The Gift of Alzheimer’s – New Insights into the Potential of Alzheimer’s and its Care.

“After my birth Mum suffered from post-natal depression. This was followed by bipolar disorder. Her mental health problems seriously impacted on me as a child and affected our relationship throughout my adult life. However, one day when Mum was very weak from Alzheimer’s, I felt deep compassion for her: something I hadn’t felt before. She sensed this instantly and looking at me said, “You love me.” This was the beginning of our extraordinary journey together that took us through many trials in this world and into the realms of another world and mysteries from beyond the veil.”

Maggie uses the acronym LEV LP for the behaviours that helped her to keep the connection with her Mum alive:

  • L = Listening, observing and being curious. (I found what she was trying to communicate was often embedded in metaphor and was rich in meaning.)
  • E=Engaging with her in her world. (I was amazed by what she told me. She was actually teaching me.)
  • V=Validating her experiences. (These were real for her even if they weren’t always real for me.)
  • LP=Loving Presence. The key.

What I learned

Our shared experience of coping with mum’s Alheimer’s taught us both some big life lessons:

  • It is never too late to heal the past.
  • People with Alzheimer’s have acute awareness even if they are unable to speak or express themselves clearly.
  • If we feel love for others, they sense this and feel love for us.
  • Sharing and expressing love allows for a beautiful symbiotic relationship to develop.
  • Love is at the heart of life and death. It is what makes a good death possible.

As Mum said, “Love never dies.”

Visit Maggie’s website for more information.

One thought on “How Alzheimer’s became a gift

  1. Even though I’ve never been close to anyone with Alzheimer’s, I’ve read Maggie’s book and it is wonderful, such an insight and inspiration into another world, which we can so easily dismiss otherwise.
    I feel really grateful for both Maggie and her Mum for the journey they were on, and for sharing it with the world. I highly recommend it as a read.

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