What will we lose?
I’ve become somewhat accustomed to loss, as humans I think we often tend to push our losses to the side and not deal with them, but as a caregiver I am constantly dealing with loss. It started with the loss of my Dad in 2013, and since then it has ranged between a drop of loss and a waterfall. The loss of my Mother-figure as I knew her, the significant loss of loved ones that I have experienced over the last 6 years, the loss of jobs, friends, lovers. These are the big losses, the losses that people give you the most condolences for, then there are the smaller slower losses. The loss of Martha’s memories, her ability to cook, to hold a conversation, to dress herself and help out around the house. Then there are the smaller losses, the losses that you may not recognise but are a big deal to me, the loss of mobility in her mouth, her loss of eye focus, the steady and gradual loss of words, the loss of control in her hands, but now we are all in an interesting time, in some way, shape or form we are all experiencing loss.
Thousands of people across Aotearoa have lost their jobs, lost incomes, lost dreams and what the future would look like. One person in Aotearoa has lost their life because of covid-19 and I pray that number stays that small, but I’m doubtful it will. And, for the first time in a long time I feel scared about the losses we are yet to see. My fear comes in waves, I’m scared for Martha and I, if she were to catch covid-19 she most likely would not make it through, I’m scared about her loss of mobility as life as exponentially slowed down, and I’m scared about the losses that won’t get talked about.
Alzheimer’s is a disease centred in loss, in its most simplistic form it is about memory loss, caregivers and loved ones will tell you it is much more than that. And in this time of our lives it has hard to know what the impact of this pandemic will have on our community who experience alzheimer’s. I worry for many that a month (most-likely more) will have a devastating effect on those who are separated from their loved ones during this time, in my experience whilst Martha loses her memory what keeps it available to both of us is consistency, and routine. Seeing me everyday helps to keep her memory alive, at this point that is the little solace I have to hold onto, her look of recognition when she hasn’t seen me for a few minutes is what brings me so much joy, but I am under no illusion that one day I will lose that too. But while I still am able to care for her, that will not be today.
In 2016 there was a reported 62,287 people with some form of dementia, many thousands of those people will now be in permanent care in dementia facilities throughout Aotearoa. They will, like everyone else, be in isolation, separated from the people they loved and the people that love them. This is a scary thought. I know firsthand what this has looked like, I have felt the significant loss of Martha when I have put her into respite for long periods of time, she is slower to recognise me, sometimes unable to do the simple tasks she could before she went in. And now my heart goes out to all of those who will face this reality once this period is over. The heartbreak that friends and loved ones will experience as a little more of their person has slipped away without them getting the chance to mourn that piece of them. I know for some people there will be the harsh reality that perhaps the next time they see their person, they may not know them at all. Covid-19 is a mighty disease, something I hope to only witness from afar, it will take lives, it will take jobs, it will take homes and it will take memories. But as a long-serving caregiver I know that it won’t take my memories, and it won’t take yours. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.