In my daily review of Facebook yesterday, I saw a Youtube clip of Amy Grant, the singer, talking about her father who is in the throes of full-blown dementia. She had 3 tips for dealing with the care of an aging parent and her words stuck with me all day.

The first tip was most profound. She said (loosely quoted) “frame your experience to one of meaning…this is part of your journey…make sure this part of your life is not one filled with regret…this may be the last great lesson you learn from [your parent]…”. Her comment prompted me to do something very practical and useful that has helped me in many difficult situations: reflect on what I have learned and am learning.

My mother became a single parent when my 3 brothers and I were young, ages 4, 6, 9 (me), and 11. She had to go to work full time after being a stay at home mom for 13 years.

The first lesson I learned from her at that point was to accept help. My grandparents lived close by and assisted in whatever way they could. We also had babysitters and helped each other when we could.

I learned the value of planning and organization as I watched her make the casseroles for the week every Sunday afternoon so we could have a hot dinner when she got home Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm.

I learned to cook (later, after the casserole phase) when I was a young teenager as the only time I could manage to get 15 minutes with her was in the kitchen as she was preparing our dinner. She would stop our conversation to say, “see how I melted the butter, added the flour then the milk to make the white sauce…”.

I learned about corporate politics as she would tell me about her day at work.

I learned that no matter how difficult things get, that there is always hope and a way out. Things will always look better in the morning, she would say.

I learned to depend on myself by having to do my own laundry, be responsible for my own things, and manage all my own activities and schoolwork. There was no one to drive us anywhere so we rode our bikes and walked everywhere. I learned how to navigate my surroundings. We were latchkey kids before the term was coined.

There are many more lessons I learned from her in the past and Amy Grant’s comments encouraged me to look at what I am learning from my mother now. What is perhaps the “last great lesson” in the final stretch of her life?

My mother, even with the Alzheimer’s, still epitomizes the perseverance I saw from that single mom with 4 small children. She gets up everyday, showers, when encouraged and prompted, then struggles with identifying how to dress in the clothes that have been laid out for her. When she comes down for breakfast, she has already accomplished a very difficult task, without complaint.

She chimes into the conversation when it doesn’t appear that she is listening with a humorous comment, and she still knows how to laugh, and reminds me how important laughter is.

Most of all, she has taught me that grace, love, and courage are essential to maintaining the highest quality of life possible given these circumstances. Her sweet demeanor encourages everyone around her to want to help. Even though she doesn’t understand why all these strangers are in her kitchen caring for her, she still occasionally reaches over to squeeze my arm and tell me she loves me. I know she is terrified in many ways of all the unfamiliar everyday things she faces, and she still musters her courage and keeps going.

This last lesson in my mother’s life has been one of extraordinary meaning for me. I am honored and proud that I am able to be a part of caring for her. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I encourage you to reflect frequently on what life lessons you are learning on your journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts.



P.S.- Amy Grant’s other 2 tips were to spread the responsibilities out for the care of your loved one to all the emotional communities that can help, and to make sure (early in life) that there is a good financial plan (via insurance) so that when the funds are needed, they are there. [I echo this tip, Long Term Care Insurance has been a life saver for us!]. If you are interested in watching the Amy Grant clip, the link is below.

Amy Grant


Today’s author: Lisa DiSciullo, CPCC, is a Certified Life Coach in Summit, NJ, with her own practice working with her clients as they are developing clarity, growth, and fulfillment in their lives. She is a founding member of the Wholistic Woman Retreats group and a Parent Educator with the Parent Encouragement Program. She can be reached at [email protected].