STRAIGHT A’S for Alzheimer/Dementia Caregivers from CaregiversSurvival.com…
Do not be a statistic. Take “ACTION” now!
Empower yourself with these points of Alzheimer’s Information from years of experience
LET’S BE STRAIGHT RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREGIVER JOURNEY:
Researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers.
In fact, 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the patient dies.*
1. ALONE” CAUTION…DO NOT TAKE THIS JOURNEY ALONE. Seek a support group in your area or find a group on-line. Support groups will assist you to plan for what is ahead. You will receive valuable information of ways to handle all stages of this journey. Why re-invent the wheel??!! Most caregivers postpone this step – DON’T! Subscribe to one of the many Alzheimer’s Information for Caregiver E-Newsletters on-line which have blogs. Here are two that may be helpful: Mayo Clinic Newsletter (MayoClinic.org) , and Aging Care “Caregivers Newsletter” (AgingCare.com). No Friends? Visit a local church. Many churches provide Respite Ministry and will be happy to send someone to your home as well as offer other services that will help you find a much needed sense of community.
2. A-TEAM – Gather your A-TEAM. Close family members and loving friends are the best places to begin but be prepared for the possibility to be disappointed by family and friends that will not be able to help you on this journey. The reasons are many and are very common. Don’t take it personally – and you will take it personally. Then get over it as it will deplete your much needed energy. Call a family meeting to discuss options as to how everyone can play a role in helping. Even distant family members can help by making regular phone calls, paying bills or researching local agencies by phone. It is important to have at least one person that you can talk to and vent about all of the unusual and painful challenges you will face. Mayo Clinic experts recommend this as a necessary therapy.
3. ASSERTIVE – Be ASSERTIVE on your finances, estate planning and other pertinent documents as soon as the diagnosis of your loved one is in your hand. Create a Will or update your Will to avoid complications or misunderstandings later. Consider a Living Will, POA (Power of Attorney), DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), Medical P.O.A. It is very common for loved ones to turn on their primary Caregiver as their disease progresses and family members may become aggressive regarding the finances. Please don’t delay this process as uncomfortable as it may be to face or talk about.
4. ATHLETE – Become an ATHLETE. Prepare yourself as an ATHLETE does for a Marathon. That means be smart and pace yourself for the journey. Discipline yourself to manage your energy on all levels right from the start line. Be sure to eat healthy meals, get enough rest and exercise regularly. Stay physically fit with your favorite type of exercise – this will help with stress management and improve energy levels. If you can’t get away for exercise consider a stationary bike for the home. Learn Deep Breathing exercises if you cannot do physical exercise. The emotional and mental drain of the Caregiver role is unforgiving. It can debilitate the best of us. Know your energy potential and limits. You have an Energy Field which nourishes and energizes your physical body; this includes your Emotional body, Mental body and Spiritual body. Your emotional and mental states affect your well being. Address feelings and thoughts of despair and discouragement as they come along. Seek counseling immediately when feeling overwhelmed. Strained relationships with parents or a spouse you are caring for can be magnified as a result of the illness. Your personal issues also can be magnified as a result of the challenges you face. Inner training will be necessary to find more Patience, Tolerance, Forgiveness, and Compassion. This is challenging when feeling exhausted. Learn to love yourself in the process and forgive yourself as you find yourself angry, frustrated or feeling guilty. It is easy to fall repeatedly during this Marathon. Life is the Art of Falling. Embrace your humanness with compassion.
5. AMPLIFY – Do not hesitate to AMPLIFY the magnitude of what you are dealing with. Unless someone has walked in your shoes for this Marathon they will not be able to relate to the toll it takes on you as the Caregiver. Criticism comes easy from the outsider looking in. Educate family and friends. SHOW THEN TELL: use your phone or a video camera to take a short video of some of the challenging behaviors you are facing with your loved one. Then tell your family and A-Team about it. Seeing is believing!
6. ANGER ICEBERG – Know the ANGER Iceberg. Anger is the SECOND emotion. Deep below the Iceberg are many feelings that you may experience which are masking themselves as anger. Find a way to identify the underlying feelings and process them the best you can and seek a counselor: SADNESS, HURT, SHAME, SORROW, SELF PITY, LONELINESS, GUILT, DISAPPOINTMENT, REJECTION, FEAR, FRUSTRATION, EMBARRASSMENT, CONFUSION, RESENTMENT, REGRET, SHOCK, HELPLESSNESS and more… Understanding the illness can help divert some of the feelings of anger, frustration or blame towards the person. Research and attend Community talks on this topic. (Excerpts from “Losing Someone Who is Still There” by Vitas & Avow Hospice, Naples)
7. ATTITUDE – Your ATTITUDE is a way you can take control of how you are feeling and help change your perceptions and expectations on this journey. How you look at something can change how you feel about it, and that is something that is under your control. It also can help you have realistic expectations of yourself and others so you can relieve yourself of additional struggles. Change your Attitude through Gratitude. Start your day by focusing within your heart on who or what you have in your life for which you are grateful. This can help you start your day in a positive state. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference – Winston Churchill.
8. ACCEPT GRIEF AND LOSS – ACCEPT and acknowledge your experience with grief and loss. The demands and changes presented by this illness causes you as a Caregiver to experience grief and loss while your loved one is still living. Loved ones are ‘still there’ but also ‘not there’. Acknowledge and express the pain of the loss now, rather than trying to ignore or avoid it… then “Integrate” the new normal in your life as a result of the loss you have experienced. Caregivers re-experience grief again, and again and again. Caregiver losses can include loss of: Lifestyle, Control, Partnership, The Past Relationship, Parts of Self, Friendships, Family, Energy, Concentration, Sleep, Appetite, Physical Health, Emotional Health, Mental Health, Financial Security, Hopes, Dreams and much more… Learn the symptoms of grief. Know that family and friends will not always understand your grief. Everyone grieves differently. Do not judge yourself, your thoughts or your feelings.
9. ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES – Seek ALTERNATIVE HEALING THERAPIES. Numerous healing modalities are available to help balance your Energy field. Think of this as pushing the reset button on stress. Massage,Acupuncture, AromaTherapy, Cranial Sacral Massage, Esoteric Healing (NAEHonline.org), BioFeedback, Reiki, Theta Healing, Sound and Light Therapy and more. Research what modality is most appropriate for you. See your doctor on a regular basis and stay current with all preventive care. Manage your stress so that it does not manage you!
10. AMPLE TIME – Give yourself AMPLE TIME away from Caregiving duties. This will help you to complete the Marathon. It is most important to know that when a person is losing their capacity in any way, they pull on the life force energy of everyone around them, struggling to stay as whole as they can. You may find yourself feeling drained and not know why. Frequent breaks for the Caregiver are necessary. You have the RIGHT to get HELP and RELIEF from the stress of caregiving. Create a list of chores or errands you need help with and share with a family member, friend or neighbor who may offer help. This allows them to choose what they can do for you. Invite friends or family to stay for a weekend to give you freedom to come and go as you please. For short term breaks, hire an adult sitter or a skilled individual such as a CNA. Seek Day Care facilities in your area. If these options are not available contact your local church or social services for assistance. Continue to do things you love to do! This will be energizing for you. Keep a good sense of humor. Laughter is the best medicine(and so is an occasional glass of red wine). Take care of YOU! Take care of YOU!! Take care of YOU!!!
11. ADVENTURE – Make time for ADVENTURE and TRAVEL. Address your bucket list as soon as possible if that is an important part of your life with your loved one. Engage in your most distant trips first. Guided tours are helpful with a group that looks out for you or invite a family member along for emotional support. Doctors warn that traveling eventually becomes “uncomfortable” for your loved one suffering from this disease as new surroundings create agitation and confusion as the disease progresses. Enjoy life to the fullest with your loved one you care for as long as possible.
12. ASK – ASK – ASK – FOR HELP. Daily prayer and/or Meditation can give you hope and spiritual support. Increase your relationship with the Source of Love that most inspires you. Truly you are not Alone. Daily meditation is a powerful tool to help manage stress and find your inner compass point. There are free guided “10 Minute Meditations” on-line. Oprah in collaboration with Deepak Chopra offer a free 21-day meditation program. Visit this blog post for links to register for the meditation. Centering Prayer meditation is a Christian based meditation offered in a church environment(www.centeringprayer.com). For a scientific based and highly researched meditation visit TM.org and listen to the free one hour introductory lecture. Meditation helps quiet the mind and calm the emotions to allow you to find inner peace. Meditation opens the door to life supporting energies. Who doesn’t want more energy?
AND last but not least, Bless everyone on your journey. Look for miracles in the process. People you least expect to help, will show up. Find personal learning and growth in this challenging experience. Expect the unexpected love and support that you NEED AND DESERVE! Remember, as you Give it is important to balance it with Receiving.
“Our mission is to transform ourselves and the world around us through acts of kindness, and to become aware of our profound capacity to have a positive impact on our own lives and the lives of others.”
Stan J. Strycharz, Psy.D
A Call to Humanity…
Know that when humanity is faced with disease and illness such as Alzheimer’s/Dementia in excessive proportions, we are called to unify our hearts to help support and care for those who are challenged… to find cures, to find causes, to offer resources, to offer love and comfort and receive the teachings and gifts as Caregivers.
We are called to find our ‘spiritual heart’ where compassion, tolerance and unconditional love is the true power we seek. As we discover the power of the heart, we will create a sense of community and inclusiveness for all.
Catherine Marie, owner of Naturally You Healing, is an Alzheimer’s Caregiver for her husband of over 20 years. For assistance on your Caregiver journey visit and subscribe to www.naturallyyouhealing.com and CaregiversSurvival.com to keep in the loop and get her latest tips, publications as well as more Alzheimer’s information.