My triple climb up Mt. Washington to honor those stricken with Alzheimer’s

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I didn’t understand why I was so unfazed by the hike…but it made me feel very guilty. I was supposed to be honoring those impacted by Alzheimer’s by suffering through a grueling challenge. I was supposed to struggle. I was supposed to face the questions of the caregiver. After my hike, I felt that I didn’t achieve any of these objectives.

However, now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I have a different perspective: I didn’t come up short on The Longest Day – I merely overlooked a crucial component of caregiving.

As I learned, caregiving is not just about overcoming a challenge and refusing to quit. It’s much, much more than that. The beauty of caregiving lies in the strength that’s gained from the relationship. Every day is The Longest Day for caregivers…and yet they persevere. They are driven by love. They are strengthened and empowered by it. It’s what allows them to do more than they thought they were capable.

In the same way, my hike became far less daunting when I dedicated it to the Humes, the Murphys, and the Fitzgeralds. By imbuing the hike with love and loyalty, I took away the “if” in the challenge. I was going to complete the climbs no matter what – because the love far outweighed the struggle. I expect that Alzheimer’s elicits this very response in caregivers.

I also expect that that’s what Mark Shriver was getting at when he spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Hope on the Harbor event this past month. Shriver remarked that he hated the word “caregiver” because it diminishes the relationship and sterilizes the act of caregiving. As Shriver suggested, a much more accurate term is “lovegiver.”

On The Longest Day, I caught a glimpse of what it meant to be a “lovegiver.” And I found that even the biggest numbers and the tallest mountains can be dwarfed by a person driven by love.

Edited by Mary Malloy

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