Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life Through the Rearview Mirror

During my lifetime, I’ve gone on many road trips for various reasons. Of course, my favorite trips were those taken during those golden weeks of the year known as vacation. On those trips, life looked great through the windshield.

.I can’t remember many trips that I didn’t travel with someone else. Traveling with others makes life’s little adventures more fun. It also increases the need for flexibility and bargaining. “I’ll go to the amusement park with you today, if we stop at a museum tomorrow.”

When we are on a fun trip, we wake up each morning filled with anticipation. On a long trip, each day brings us closer to our destination—the ocean, the mountains, an exciting city, or maybe the breathtaking beauty of a national park.

If we are lucky, the sky is blue, the sun shines, birds sing and every event, place, and day exceeds our expectations. Other journey don’t measure up to our expectations, and we feel disappointed. Sometimes it’s just something way beyond our control—the weather, illness, car trouble, an emergency at home, or various combinations of disasters. We may even regret wasting our time and vow we will not return to that particular destination.

Some journeys we plan, others just happen. Some we move ahead with confidence and other times, we look back and wonder why we are even on this trip.

Throughout the Alzheimer’s journey, we often find ourselves taking our eyes off the road ahead and looking at life through the rearview mirror. This holds true for both the caregiver and the person with the disease.

The person with the disease becomes more dependent on the familiarity of the road already traveled. As the ability to process new information becomes more difficult, the more important the rearview mirror becomes.

The caregiver may worry about the dangers of the journey ahead and believe that if they look into the rearview mirror they will feel safer. They have managed to navigate the road so far, and the road ahead may have hairpin curves, tedious detours, drop-offs without guardrails, and maybe even a bridge out.

When I travel, I know that the rearview mirror has it place. I like to check the rearview mirror to see how the traffic behind me is flowing. Is that car going to pass me on a curve? Okay, I need to change lanes and although I don’t see anyone now, I know a car was behind me a few minutes ago and they haven’t exited or passed—yeah, there they are in my blind spot. Oops, is that highway patrol officer flashing his lights at me? When you pass another vehicle, it is more certain you have cleared the vehicle when you see it in your rearview mirror rather than in side mirrors that plainly say, “Objects are closer than they appear.”

So what can it hurt to look at where you’ve been more than where you are going? You never want to become so distracted looking at what is behind you that you miss important signs of what may lay ahead.

Not everyone wants to be a trailblazer, and you don’t have to be when you are traveling the Alzheimer’s Journey. Others have been down the road you are traveling and they are willing to share their knowledge and help you chart your journey. Any journey is easier with a map and an itinerary. If you know which route you are going to take and what you will be doing along the way, the trip runs smoother and is much less stressful. 

Copyright © October 2011 by L. S. Fisher 
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