No matter how much we love a grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, spouse, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or other family member afflicted with Alzheimer’s, there will be days when a loving caregiver will want to tear their hair out! Alzheimer’s takes a great toll on family members who grieve daily for the disappearing identity of the person afflicted with the disease. Moreover, the physical demands associated with this kind of patient care along with the fear of their loved one running away, getting lost, falling down, or burning the house down , erodes the caregiver’s health – both physical and mental. Don’t get sucked into the madness…Madness can be contagious.
Handling the enormity of Alzheimer’s Caregiving:
- Knowledge is power! Read online, read books and connect with other caregivers to learn what to expect and how to handle daily realities. For example, learn to monitor visitors who can over-stimulate and startle. Move around or remove furniture which can trip up a patient. Don’t wait for the other shoe to drop.
- Banish thoughts of guilt for carving out time for the self along with feelings of shame for feeling exasperated, hurt or angry at an Alzheimer’s patient who screams at you, “You are the kind of daughter who would murder her mother!” Keep reminding yourself that the disease is saying those hurtful things, not your family member.
- Cultivate a creative outlet to restore your own separate identity from that of “Saint Caregiver.” You are not God, but a mere mortal with human shortcomings and personal needs – embrace your humanity. Fill the hole in your heart by accomplishing just for yourself because you are worth it.
- Let go of the past – what you once had together - and don’t skip to the catastrophic future – mourning the loss while the person is still alive. Practice appreciating the moment. Every bad day has something good in it.
- Get into the head of an Alzheimer’s patient who is confused, can’t find the right words, and feels frustrated, alienated and sad. Make your love palpable to them with a hug, smiling eyes and an affirming kiss. Reconnect by taking a hand into yours. Body language is a powerful communicator.
- Exercise to rid the body of stress hormones, release feel good chemistry, improve focus, boost your immune system and restore perspective. Chronic stress is a breeding ground for irritability and depletion. Exercise is the most efficient and effective way to shed this kind of stress.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show