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The Yoga of Caring for an Aging Parent

I spent this week caring for my 88 year old mother. It is astonishing how the end of life resembles the beginning. In the car to the Whole Foods mom asks again and again, “How far away are we?” Like the width of her shoulders, her world has shrunken down to a single room on the Memory Care Unit. She gets three words in and then halts in a kind of free fall, no people, places, or things to hold onto. “Are we going to the place where….” Being with her is like being inside a jigsaw puzzle. On the one hand, I think I have always been finishing my mother’s sentences. Like the Milton Bradley Memory game I played as a seven year old, struggling to match a card of a beach ball or lion with its hidden pair, face down. On the other hand, I think I completed my mom’s dream to teach yoga. Susan began practicing Iyengar Yoga back in the ‘70s when classes were held in dungy church basements and public libraries.
A sympathetic listener, always compassionate, a counselor by profession, and a Cancer on the zodiac, my mom has always been heart-centered. Now that her brain is plagued (plaqued I should say) by Alzheimer’s, her sense of time and space have collapsed. Having spent hours on the meditation cushion guiding my own brain to silence and space, I wonder has my lesson all along been about learning to accept loss? Walking down the corridor (countless corridors with faux sconces and gold striped wallpaper, another version of being lost), holding hands, she is accepting of the moment, despite (or because of?) the moment having no name. Historically, it was my father who harbored all the anxiety while my mother always found a way back to being with what is. We stop by the large window and a bank of sunlight slips in between the shrubbery and the corner brick wall. My mom stands like a 10 year old and lifts her face to the sun. “You see,” she says, “this is the best thing here…”
Aware that many of you care for an aging parent, one that may suffer from dementia, we would love to hear a bit of your own challenges with caretaking. Given our shared experience, we are building a page on our site to share notes about aiding an aging loved one. Please share a bit of your own story with us here.
Alchemy + Aim