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November kicks off National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and National Family Caregivers Month. For us here at The Sunday Paper, it's an opportunity to focus on the huge issue of caregiving (in all its forms), as well as on the value and importance of care.
My mission is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and I’m relentless in my pursuit of it. That's why you often see curated news from the Women's Alzheimer's Movement (WAM) featured in this newsletter. My father passed away from the disease in 2011, so I know first-hand what a toll it can take on families. That's why I'm determined to do everything I can to stop it from happening to others.
Yesterday, WAM held its big annual event Move for Minds, which works to educate and empower you with the information you need to care for your brain health and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. It’s also a chance to raise funds for much needed women-based research, and to honor the work of those caregiving for someone with this mind-blowing disease.
Caring for another human being is God's work, and how one cares for another person tells you a lot about them. It tells you whether or not they value the concept of care.
Care can be exhibited in so many ways, but what I know to be true is this: when a person feels cared for, the world suddenly feels a little less scary and a lot more OK. When you feel cared for, you feel soothed. You feel secure. You feel safe. And trust me, feeling safe is huge.
This past week, the fires raging in California forced me to evacuate from my home at 3 a.m. It was disorienting, scary, and confusing. It felt like everything was unfolding in slow motion and, yet also, in record-breaking time. When you're in a situation like this one (and unfortunately I've been here before) you go to grab your valuables, only to find yourself standing in front of your life wondering, "What should I take?"
I took a bag that I have in a drawer next to my bed. It contains the handwritten notes my kids have written me over the years, all which I cherish dearly. I also grabbed photos of my kids and my parents off my nightstand. I also grabbed some cash, my medicine, and my dogs. Then I headed straight for the door. When I looked around the rest of my room, so much of it represented my life's history, but in that moment—when only time was of the essence—I realized the rest of my belongings didn't really matter anymore.
That realization shocked me, actually. It shocked me that all the things I've collected throughout my life suddenly didn’t mean anything when I had to go. What mattered was that I could go, and that those I loved were safe.
What moved me over the next hours and days were the texts, notes, and offers of shelter from friends. I was deeply moved that people I knew reached out. I was touched that they cared and wanted to see if I was OK. A friend in Northern California left a voicemail that she had a bed and a warm blanket ready for me. Her message brought me to tears. My kids were amazing during this time as well.
I was, and still am, in awe at the firefighters who stepped up to keep us safe. They care each day for people they don't know because care is one of their core values.
I’ve learned over the course of my life that showing another human being that you care is such a profound gift. It can also take many forms. The gift of caring can be everything from bringing someone you love a cup of coffee, to calling someone just to say "I’m thinking of you," to caring for someone when they can’t care for themselves.
At some point in our lives, all of us will need to be cared for. All of us will also be presented with a chance to step up and care for another. In my work in the Alzheimer's space, I’ve been humbled by the caring I’ve seen by all the caregivers serving on the frontlines of humanity. It really blows me away.
So while Washington D.C. talks about impeachment, and the news reports stories about division, anger, and hate, please know that there are a lot more stories of love and care out there than you could ever imagine. There are way more people stepping up to care for those they love—including their parents, their spouses, their siblings, their children, and their friends. I believe that we are a nation of caregivers at our core.
We can elevate the issue of care in our politics, but the best way to elevate it is by doing so in our daily lives. Do those you care about know it? Is there someone you know who needs care? Do you know someone struggling in their caregiver role? If so, please reach out to them. Invite them out, or offer to step in so that they can tend to their own self-care for a little while.
Showing someone you care about them is an act of love. That's why I hope we'll do more of it this month and every month. Let’s elevate care and caregiving. It’s an issue that both parties can come together and agree upon, of that I'm sure.
At one point or another, we are all going to need to be cared for in some way, so let’s not wait until there's another fire, or until someone we love gets sick. There is no time like the present to show that you care.
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