COMING IN SEPTEMBER ISSUE:
Dementia Care: Useful Facts and Procedures
August Caregiving Tips:
Fatigue, family obligations, financial considerations, and the rigors of communicating with family, friends, and the professionals in Grandpa's life take their toll. Don't let discouragement get the upper hand; develop strategies to address your concerns. Included below are a few suggestions:
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Being a caregiver is a tough job, one we can do,
especially when we have the right support.
As Christopher Robin tells Pooh:
"Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."
So are we.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS:
TOGETHER WITH ALZHEIMER'S:
CARE AND SUPPORT FOR THE CAREGIVER
Meets every Wednesday, from 7:00-8:00
Join us to discuss our experiences and share information/resources
within a supportive and caring environment.
Sacred Heart Parish Center,
326 Main St, Yarmouth, Maine
All are welcome to attend. No charge.
Grandpa is Living With Us:
Caregiving and the Family Constellation
AUGUST 2016 ISSUE
Dear Fellow Caregivers:
Once a week for the past three years, I have facilitated a support group for caregivers. Within that time, I have witnessed neophyte caregivers list all the understanding and skills they think they lack. They often proclaim that they will never be able to do the types of things that their more experienced counterparts describe, until circumstances become so untenable for both their loved one and themselves that they readily adapt. That's when they learn quickly and thoroughly the lessons of Alzheimer's.
These same wonderful caregivers then instruct, nurture and support newer caregivers who voice the complaints they themselves once described as “insurmountable.” Despite the initial denial that shields every one of us from the painful impacts of coming to terms with a loved one's brain disease, we soon learn to move with and for our loved one's idiosyncratic behaviors. Caregivers who once refused to “lie” to their spouses, now incorporate helpful “fibbettes” into their interactions, making them smoother and more enjoyable for everyone involved. We can say unequivocally that Alzheimer's dementia is a relentless teacher. In the process, we learn more than we ever anticipated about our loved one, the disease, and about ourselves. The process changes us, often for the better.
As uplifting as it is to read surveys that tell us the vast majority of American families assume an active role in the care of their aging parents, particularly those with the diagnosis of Alzheimer's/dementia, we cannot minimize the impact an elderly parent(s) has when he comes to live with a family member. We all like to think that we possess limitless resilience, but once Grandpa's presence and belongings rub against our firmly ensconced family rituals and habits, our weak spots surface with an unexpected clarity. So, how do we continue to nurture the good intentions with which we started on this journey to our expanded family constellation? Recognizing and managing our feelings is key. More than ever, we need to communicate our needs to household members and to relatives and friends who will become our all-important support system.
Let's start with the guilt that works its way into our consciousness when the family honeymoon ends—often sooner than later—and we are faced with less than desirable feelings toward Grandpa's presence. Make no mistake about it: Incorporating anyone into your family is an adjustment. Add to that adjustment, dementia care, and its not unusual to feel as though you've tossed a deck of cards into the air that are now falling helter skelter to the ground. This level of change and the transitions required are enormous and decidedly frustrating. While the challenges seem insurmountable, caregivers generally manage to wrap their arms around the unexpected circumstances caused by Grandpa's brain disease. You can expect to make mistakes—we all do when we are learning something new—but the consequences of those mistakes are often so compelling that we scurry to adjust our approaches. In the end, dementia is a powerful teacher.
Grief, loss, and anger constitute understandable and “normal” parts of the dementia equation. It's what we do with them, how we manage those feelings while supporting Grandpa that counts. Remember the adage: Always act with kindness, no matter how you feel. Save the expression of your anger for when you stand beneath a thundering hot shower, then cry your eyes out—you'll be surprised at how much tension this will release. Also join a support group, which is one of the safest places in which to express your feelings. Anger, resentment, sadness, frustration are part of the multifaceted challenges of coming to terms with the losses caused by brain disease, losses that include the impact this disease is having on your loved one, on you and your family.
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