Guest blog written by, Ellen A. Leamon, M.A., Art Therapy
On September 5, 2016 my father passed from the final stages of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I was exhausted, numb, and emotionally drained from the journey he and our family experienced for the previous 8 years. Our journey took many twists and turns along the way. The most crushing blow was in April 2016, when I took my mother to be evaluated by a neurologist. I sat in disbelief as the doctor diagnosed her with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Unreal. At the same moment we were coming to the end of my father’s trek, we were beginning a similar journey with my mother. Evaluating this reality was a luxury I could not afford. I had to put all thoughts aside about her diagnosis and focus on my father’s life ending.
After his passing, I found myself asking, how was it that my mother came to this point and diagnosis? She had been carrying the heavy burden of being the sole caretaker of my father, refusing outside help to come in and lessen her burden. At that moment, I came to a shattering realization. In looking at my mother, I saw myself trying to carry all burdens on my shoulders. I saw myself burning the candle at both ends. I was trying to manage raising 3 kids, keep a household afloat, a marriage healthy, and also have a life, all while taking care of big decisions for my mother. I was depleted.
My moment of hope came to me while investigating why the Alzheimer’s Association has chosen purple
as its symbolic color. I decided to research the psychology and meaning of purple and discovered that
purple has many rich meanings. Purple is associated with magic, mystery, spirituality, creativity, dignity,
humanity, and harmony.
As a worn-out caregiver, who continues to learn the complexities of Alzheimer’s while learning to also
take care of myself, the color purple has become a beacon of hope for me. Finding balance, peace, and
stability is what I need to incorporate into my new normal. The beauty of purple is that is has meaning
associated with peace and mediation. I saw my mother’s mistake, of not caring for herself, as a nudge for
me to start practicing yoga and meditation. Her neglect of self also taught me that I needed to stop feeling
guilty. The guilt I had let seep into my life had sapped me of energy and love, and eventually lead to being
stuck and angry with the person I love.
Alzheimer’s has given me the color of purple to hold on to, and remind me that this disease morphs our
loved ones into a persons who lose his or her ability to think, eat, live, and talk. Purple reminds me to
care, give dignity, love, and tap into my faith during the hard times. Purple also reminds me to take care
of myself and to nurture the very harmony between the mind and our emotions that this disease