If you are the family caregiver of an Alzheimer's Disease patient, chances are you also suffer
Most people don’t realize that every time Alzheimer’s Disease strikes in a family, it hits two people. The first one is the person who is the victim of the slow degenerative brain death, which changes who they are and how they live. The other is the one who steps up and assumes the role of caregiver.
It is a tendency in this process that the caregiver will be completely absorbed by the new role. Being immersed in the process, they lack the perspective to understand that it could be dragging them down. They tend to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness: it could mean that they “don’t care”, "do not love enough", and are "failing in their responsibility" of honoring the person they love.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, though. Asking for help is, as the title of this blog says, a sign of strength. It shows that the caregiver recognizes his/her limits and will do what it takes to provide the best care possible.
Not asking for help when one must could be a recipe for disaster.
As the exhaustive work of caring for someone with the disease progresses, caregivers feel that their energy is being drained. Many report a feeling of "drowning", “losing themselves.”
That happens, in part, because they go through a long mourning process that is often called “the long goodbye”. They mourn the person that is being lost to the disease, the one their loved one used to be. And they mourn the actual person they are caring for, who they see dying in front of their eyes, day after day. I once heard someone refer to it as boarding two trains going in opposite directions, at the same time.
As hard as it is, caregiving for one with Alzheimer’s can make the caregiver very ill, stressed and irritable. That’s usually called the Caregiver Stress. According to studies by the University of California, around one-third of those taking care of a family member who has Alzheimer's suffers from depression. Many more suffer from other illnesses, and some might end up in the hospital.
Recently I was re-watching the PBS documentary The Caregiver Perspective and I could observe how this process actually happens with each and every caregiver. In the documentary, one of the caregivers describes how she denied the need for help until she ended up in the hospital and, then, could not care for her mother anymore. Another pushed it so far as possible, until she found herself on the couch, making numerous phone calls, begging for help, while her loved one watched, sitting on the side.
However, in the same documentary, I noticed that those who could and asked for help were able to provide a better quality of care, kept their loved ones engaged in activities and looked after themselves while still being significantly involved in the care process.
As I always say to the family caregivers of our patients: If you don’t look after yourself first, You can’t take care of your loved one.
At Home Helpers we are specialized in helping those in need and their families. We offer tailored care plans, designed to fulfil different needs of Alzheimer’s patients and their families. I am certified in Alzheimer’s Training by the Avila Institute of Gerontology and I make sure that our caregivers are trained, experienced and qualified to deal with Alzheimer’s patients.
Some ways we can provide Home Care assistance in Suffield and all of North Central CT:
- Help with communicating with loved ones to get them to cooperate with accomplishing daily living activities like feeding, bathing and toileting;
- Companionship, to help them to engage in activities for the body and mind, so they can spend their energy during the day and sleep better at night;
- Housekeeping, reducing the burden on the family caregiver in relation to cleaning and cooking;
- Running errands: grocery shopping, paying bills, taking the patient to medical appointments;
- Respite care for a few hours or a weekend, so the family caregiver can see friends, go out shopping, walk in the park or travel on a weekend to "re-charge the batteries".
There is not a “one size fits all” answer and our approach is to discuss with the family what is the type of help they need and what we can do to make their life easier. A few hours a day or a week can go a long way in bringing the necessary rest.
So, before you feel stressed, ill, emotionally drained, anxious, confused or depressed, now it is the time to think about making your care stronger. We can help.