You’ve been up all night with your mom, who has moderate Alzheimer’s.
You’ve fed her; dropped the kids off at school; come home and bathed her, and she’s asked you “Where’s Fred?”, her late husband, five times. Sound familiar?
You’re exhausted, maybe a little resentful, and haven’t had time for a hair appointment in weeks. You’re not alone. There are 65 million family caregivers in America; and a proportionate number in Canada, and they are all going through something similar.
First: Don’t feel guilty. Whether you are living with your mom or dad, or spouse, or living away and dropping in frequently, or they are now in a home care situation, you are still giving them the ultimate gift of your time. Give yourself credit
Second: Take care of your health. Caring for a loved one with dementia is taxing, and you have to make sure you are getting enough breaks, following up on your own doctor’s appointments, getting fitness, and breaking out some “me time” to function properly. Don’t be afraid to ask family or friends to take over once in a while. Join a running club or take yoga, treat yourself.
If you are feeling depressed or angry, take a stress test… and then take action.
Third: Humor. Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh. Go to a comedy (or watch it on Netflix); hang out with great friends, even if it’s just coffee at your sister or brother’s house. Go on an Alzheimer’s forum or message board, where fellow caregivers are posting jokes. Read an amusing book, such as Jill McCorkie’s Life After Life: A Novel, which hits the sweet spot between tragedy and comedy. “Some of McCorkle’s characters have dementia, and one even fakes it to avoid living with his son,” according to Sally Abrahms on the AARP blog.http://blog.aarp.org
Fourth: After you’ve come home from an outing with your dementia charge, whether to the doctor or to the mall, they will likely want a lie down. Congratulations: You have a window! Grab every one. Sit in a sunny room; rest, read, stretch, listen to music whether classical or country western. Don’t feel guilty! You need it.
Fifth: Now is not the time to give up your hobbies or pastimes. Especially the ones that get you out in a group setting. One woman in Texas who was a full-time caregiver never missed singing in her church choir. Another might do woodworking or join a knitting club. Get out … and rest your mind. If you’re really not the hobbyist type, there are many Caregiver Clubs. Check one out in your community or start one yourself (like you’ve got time).
You’re not alone. Relax. And be well.
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