Monday, November 24, 2008

Coping as a family caregiver

When your family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the long journey begins. Often times people are in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease long before they are diagnosed. You are dealing with your own issues and your plans get put on hold and suddenly you find yourself dealing with their problems and wondering when you are going to get your life back.

As time goes by things will begin to get increasingly difficult and unpredictable, You don't know how the condition would progress so you begin living one day at a time and make the most of it. Caregiving is hard work, and it will begin to affect you emotionally, mentally, physically and socially. At times you will find yourself having to deal with anger and frustration and the other emotions that go along with them.The stress and the fatigue will make you become depressed. Crisis after crisis will arise, but you can't let yourself go. If you are not taking care of your needs, and you are eating a poor diet because you are not finding time to eat, sleep deprivation becomes an issue. All of this is a recipe for sickness. there are time when you will begin to experience exhaustion.

The most difficult day comes when your loved one no longer recognizes who you are. Don't become discouraged if they seem afraid of you or treats you like a stranger, it is because they don't recognize who you are any longer and is unsure of your intentions towards them.
Remember it's nothing personal they are acting out of fear and uncertainty. Dealing with memory loss can become very trying because you will be asked the same questions over and over and they will tell you the same thing over and over. Try to have patience and be humorous and take everything in stride.

When caring for your Alzheimer's patient it is very easy to let go of your former life,
given the many responsibilities you are juggling. Shutting yourself away might seem like the best thing to do as your loved one disease progresses and requires more care and attention.
It is common among caregivers exposed to stress to isolate themselves. But isolating yourself is not good, your mental and physical health suffers. Interacting with others helps you to see things differently and you tend to find solutions to your problems much more easily. Your problems can seem worse if you don't have anyone to discuss them with.

Stay in touch with family and friends and make friends with other Alzheimer's caregivers and especially former caregivers who have traveled that road before. If someone offers to help don't say no and don't be shy about asking for help when your responsibilities seems overwhelming. Why won't you accept help offered? Are you self conscious or perhaps ashamed of your loved ones condition? As you interact with other caregivers you will find out that what seems strange to you is a norm for Alzheimer's patients.

So if you have been isolating yourself its time to change that, because it has long term effects.
When you have lived in isolation while taking care of your loved one, after they would have passed away you continue to live that way because it has become the norm for you.
It takes Herculean effort to break out of that pattern, so stay connected. its the best thing you can do for yourself.

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