Just for a moment I want you to imagine that you are coming out of a very deep sleep. If you have ever had surgery try to remember the way you felt as you were trying to make sense of things as you awoke. As you imagine or remember this sensation do you find yourself wondering if it is morning or night? Are you trying to remember where you are? Do you have a startle reaction and think for a moment that you are late for work or forgot to pick up your children at school? I have had that upsetting feeling if I wake up in the middle of the night or even after a nap.
Now imagine that same fog every moment of your life…….
So many care givers find themselves frustrated with an Alzheimer’s sufferer. They may say things like “He just doesn’t seem to care if I am with him or not” or “He doesn’t enjoy doing anything any more.” I know that it is so hard to accept the changes in your loved one and know that this is going to be your reality. If you can remind yourself that the behaviors are organic it will help. The plaque is building up and spreading over the surface of the brain just as a grassfire moves across a dry field. As it covers more areas your loved falls deeper into that fog.
Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t show up like a broken one or a surgical scar but the effects are just as real.
When the things they say or do cause you to feel angry or sad do you best to remember that it is the disease…not your loved one.
That’s when it is time for some care giver TLC.
Care giver burnout is a very real occurrence. If you are caring for someone you must include your own needs each day. Your health may decline at a faster rate than the person you are caring for if your dietary, emotional and physical needs are not met. Skipping your checkups with Dr.s is not an option.
You may be asking “How am I supposed to do all of this all by myself?” The answer is simple. You can’t do it all alone. The first step to healthy care giving is accepting the fact that you have limitations. Every human being does. You can only stay awake, maintain your health and keep up with the demands for a limited amount of time. When you reach your limit you may find yourself suffering from care giver burnout. You may have trouble concentrating, experience nervous tension, and you may find it difficult to fight off resentment toward your loved one or others in your family that you feel should be assisting you.
Reach out. Call upon your family, friends, church and community organizations. Your local hospitals will have information regarding community resources. This information can usually be found by contacting the Social Services Department. Another good resource is the Alzheimer’s Association. By taking care of your health you will, in turn be a better care giver.
Author of Into the Mist, When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer’s Disease