Caregiver Stress

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of stress is:

A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation

Being in a caregiving role, no matter what kind of caregiving you provide, is stressful. If you are a caregiver you have experienced more stress in your life than you ever imagined possible.

Some caregivers experience feelings of abandonment from family members and occasionally by friends. The stress related to these feelings can lead to the caregiver becoming ill themselves because they feel alone and don’t have any idea where to turn or who to turn to.

It’s a fact that when a person becomes extremely stressed they can become depressed, develop chronic pain, high blood pressure, heart disease and various viruses due to a suppressed immune system, and this is just naming a few of the many health problems caregivers can experience.

When stress takes over it also causes impatience which leads to anger. If you, the caregiver, are experiencing anger towards the person you’re caring for, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate your situation.  Walk yourself through these questions:

1 – What exactly is making me angry?

2 – How am I handling my anger?

3 – Is there another way to release my anger?

Whatever you do, don’t suppress your anger, that only causes more stress. Instead, find a support group or a counselor specifically trained in helping caregivers. Here are a few places to check out: National Caregivers LibraryAlzheimer’s Association, and Help Guide.

If your situation allows, take 15 minutes and go for a walk. Just being outside and getting some fresh air can clear the senses and lessen your stress.

Remember, taking care of yourself is the only way you can provide the caregiving your loved one needs.

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A New Year and Resolutions

Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought on New Year Resolutions. What’s the real purpose of making a resolution at the beginning of a new year? How many people actually stick to their resolutions? From what I’ve experienced personally, and what I’ve seen other people do, is break those well intended promises after a couple of months. So what’s the point?

My Pastor talked about this in our service this morning. Everyone has intentions but most people fall short after a few months. It seems we all set a goal but have no plan on how to reach that goal. That would be like planning a trip to an unfamiliar place without a roadmap (or today, our GPS) showing us the way.

I find that people starting out in a caregiver role have similar challenges. What I mean is, all of a sudden you might find yourself taking on the responsibility of a caregiver (the goal). At first you might think, “I’ve got this, I know how to take care of a sick person, I’ve done it many times before.” You have good intentions, but no idea where to begin or how to navigate the system of what needs to be done.

Where do you begin? Do you need a plan? Why? How hard can it be?

If you’ve been a caregiver you know what I’m talking about. If you’re new to being a caregiver, you’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s involved.

Caregiving is more than taking care of a sick person.

To answer the above questions let’s start by saying, this might be one of the most challenging goals you’ve ever set so, yes, you need a plan.

  • Make a list of questions for your doctor(s) and/or family members who might be involved
  • Find the right people to guide you through the legal and healthcare system
  • Determine if your loved one will live with you or will you be living with them
  • Find a facility (if needed) that is the right fit for your loved one
  • Set up financial aid, or determine if all costs will be private pay or covered by insurance
  • If you have a full time job, will you be able to keep it and be a caregiver at the same time

Know right from the beginning you cannot do this alone, it takes a village. I know because I’ve been there.

Don’t be prideful, ask people for help. You don’t have super powers and should you try to do this alone, you will quickly discover how easy it is to burn out. Burn out causes impatience, quick tempers, depression, anger, resentment and even blame.

Caregiving is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, but it was also one of the most rewarding. I’m not saying doing all the items listed above is going to make caregiving a breeze, but it will be your GPS/roadmap for the journey. Stay focused.

If the new year rings in with the call of becoming a Caregiver, you have a place to start putting your plan in motion.

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

 

 

 

I Simply Remember My Favorite Things…

“I simply remember my favorite things”… does this trigger a memory for you? It’s one of the famous songs from The Sound of Music ~ Raindrops On Roses.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve heard this song, here are the lyrics. After you’ve read or even listened to this song, think deeply about what is being conveyed; then I’ll give my thoughts.

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
Songwriters: Oscar Hammerstein / Richard Rodgers
My Favorite Things lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC
What I love about this song is the simplicity and warmth it conveys.
As a Caregiver there are times you’d like to escape reality for a little while and slip into a little bit of fantasy world just to get through the day or the week.
How many times have you felt the “bite” from a loved one? It can feel like a “bee sting” too, can’t it? So what to do? There’s no sense in fighting back or getting hurt feelings. Remove yourself from the situation and “remember some of your favorite things”.
What are those favorite things? Anything that’s brought you joy and happiness over the years. It could be when you became a parent and held your baby for the first time, or became a grandparent for the first time. Maybe it’s when you were praised for something you accomplished, or something more simple like snowflakes on your nose and eyelashes. Whatever it was that brought a smile to your face, think about those times.
Don’t we try to do that with our loved ones too? We play music that’s familiar to them, we dance with them, we bring our pets for them to love on, we take them for a walk in the garden. These are just a few ways we work at getting them to remember their favorite things.
Let this holiday season be filled with beautiful memories of yours and your loved ones favorite things. . .then you won’t feel so bad.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is three days away. What exactly are you being thankful for? Is it your family? Friends? Work? Financial stability? Love? What???

Thanksgiving for me is truly a very personal experience. I’m thankful for so much. . .

  • Waking up each morning
  • Good health
  • My children
  • My grandchildren
  • My dear friends
  • My church
  • My faith
  • My God-given gifts
  • My love for The Lord
  • The blessings I receive when least expected
  • A kind word from a stranger

These are just some things I’m thankful and grateful for, there’s plenty more!

I would like for all the Caregivers out there to sit in a quiet spot and think about what you are thankful for. You might be thinking, “There’s not much to be thankful for because I’m too tired and worn out to even consider thankfulness.” Just trust me on this one.

Sit in an area where you feel the most peaceful. It doesn’t have to be at your home, it could be anywhere you feel “peace”. Maybe it’s in a garden, on a hike, at the park, or just sitting quietly in your car. It doesn’t matter, just find that “place”.

As you sit, think about what has brought joy into your life; past and present. Meditate on those joyful times. You can even journal about these special moments. It can start as far back as when you were a child. There’s no rules on how to do this. Just do it!

After you’ve gone through a memory inventory, jot down some thoughts you might have on the experience. If you feel the need to share it with someone, then do so. Otherwise, it’s between you and God.

We live in a crazy busy hectic world. Carving out some “quiet” time, especially for caregivers, is what keeps us able to do what we do best!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

 

National Caregivers Month

November 7-13 is National Caregivers Month. 

This is a time for all caregivers to explore the treasury of books available through www.AlzAuthors.com.

This organization of creative writers has some of the best information available through their own journeys.  Some of the books are fictional yet very compassionate and on-point regarding caregiving. There is something for everyone.

As the holidays approach caregiving can become much more anxiety driven due to all the hustling and bustling associated with holidays. Take some time for yourself and read some of these heartwarming and loving stories. It will help you, the reader, understand you’re not in this alone and will provide some much needed peace along the way.

 

 

What’s Wrong With Grandpa?

“Mom, why does grandpa act so weird? Why doesn’t he know who I am? We used to play games together and now he won’t even talk to me.”

If you have young children, tweens or teens, you may have been asked this question. How did you respond? Did you ever think about being asked this question and how you would handle it?

As Caregivers to our parents, we owe an explanation to our children no matter what their age. It’s hard enough to understand ourselves what’s going on and why this is happening; imagine a young person trying to make sense of this!

Being honest and open with kids of all ages is first and foremost. Never try to skirt around the subject. Never tell them you don’t have time to talk about it. When is the right time? Kids don’t want to be brushed off, especially when it comes to someone they love. You don’t like it if a doctor brushes off your questions, right? So be upfront and honest with your kids.

You have ways of communicating to children and young people about what’s going on with their grandparent(s).

One way is with books you can read together on the subject of dementia. AlzAuthors is a great resource for these books. Reading about brain changes with children can help you get the message across in a way you’re not able to express, or feel unsure how to communicate in the right way.

It doesn’t matter how young or how old your kids are, when it comes to wanting to know why their grandparents are not the “same” you must be ready to explain. It’s never easy to sit down with the family and talk about what’s happening with your loved ones, but it is something that has to be dealt with.

If you feel you might upset the kids by talking about what’s going on, just think how much more upset they will be if you don’t tell them. They are part of your family and there should be no shame or secrets when it comes to explaining brain changes. Kids are much more resilient than you may give credit.

Once your children understand what’s happening to their grandparent(s) you will be pleasantly surprised at the level of love and care they want to share with them. Kids have a way of dealing with issues that we adults seemed to have a hard time with. Because children are much more uninhibited about such things, they’re a natural for showing and giving compassion. The grandparent(s) will gravitate toward that compassion in ways you cannot imagine.

Never underestimate a young person’s capacity to understand what’s happening to the people they love. 

Being open and honest with your kids allows them to see you are able to be transparent with them and in return, they can be the same way with you. It’s all about them trusting you knowing how much you love and care about their feelings as well.

If you’ve been procrastinating having this conversation, NOW is the time to sit down and tell them what’s going on.

Recite this verse to yourself:

“In quietness and trust is my strength.” Isaiah 30:15

 

Unknown Territory

Most people who have been caregiving for quite some time already know the in’s and out’s when it comes to caregiving.

What about the people who are new to the role of being a caregiver? There is definitely a list of unchartered waters to travel.

A person new to caregiving usually has high anxiety just thinking about becoming a caregiver. Add in all the things that need to be done to help your loved one, on top of realizing, “I am the Caregiver now”, and the internal monitor begins beeping at a rapid pace!

Is this crazy or unusual? Not at all. Any time a person steps into the role of caregiving, there is going to be some level of anxiety. We. Are. Human.

However, becoming a caregiver doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go this road alone. Contact family members to help sort out the details and help with a plan of action. If you don’t have any family members, then contact your closest friends, the ones who offered their help should it be needed. If you don’t have close friends, there are numerous resources available to all caregivers. Don’t be afraid of asking for help. Sometimes it takes a village when you become a caregiver. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak and incapable of being a caregiver. Asking actually says you’re up for the task, but could use some input and/or help with various items.

I used to think becoming a parent was the hardest job in the world. After all, babies don’t come with an instruction sheet. It’s the same with becoming a caregiver. There’s no particular instruction sheet, but there are plenty of people who’ve been through the journey and are very willing to help. You can choose professional help or you can start with someone you know that’s been in a caregiving role. It doesn’t matter which you choose. . .just choose! Don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for help either. You have to set that aside and know this is a journey. There is no room for pride. Besides, pride has nothing to do with caregiving in this journey.

The fact that you’ve stepped up and offered to be the Caregiver is monumental. In fact, you may not recognize this in the beginning of your journey, but I am here to tell you there are many rewards being a Caregiver. I know, because I had to venture out into this unknown territory myself and I have no regrets whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

AlzAuthors Celebrate Three Years!

Earlier I wrote how June is Brain Awareness Month for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Today I would like to partner that with AlzAuthors three-year anniversary. For those of you not familiar with AlzAuthors they are an amazing group of writers with a common thread: dementia and Alzheimer’s.

There are many books on the website helping caregivers for many situations not just dementia.

I would like to share with all of you our third anniversary celebration by inviting you to check out:  https://alzauthors.com/2018/06/06/2018-alzheimers-and-brain-awareness-month-book-sale-giveaway/

I’m very excited to be able to be a part of this talented group of authors. Be sure and sign up for the raffle! All books are discounted for this anniversary celebration from June 6-12. Don’t miss out!

June, Brain Awareness Month

Many of you associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s are familiar with June being Brain Awareness Month.

If you’re a Caregiver you’ve probably, at one time or another, have become involved with the Alzheimer’s Association to help bring awareness to your community. 

I have been involved with The Longest Day and The Walk To End Alzheimer’s and I can tell you it has been an important part of my life to help bring awareness. It is people like you and me, caregivers, that help others understand the enormity of this crisis Alzheimer’s disease.

Anything you or your family can do that can help bring awareness is crucial. It doesn’t matter how large or small you present it. The idea that you’re helping is all that matters.

Put on your PURPLE this month and start talking to people, get out and join a walk helping to #EndAlz, look on the Alzheimer’s webpage and see all the opportunities that are available and sign up for one or two or as many as you want!

Together, we can partner in helping to End Alzheimer’s disease!

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day ~ That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think or do you?

As we approach Mother’s Day, those of you who are caregivers to mothers with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, may feel it’s not a happy day. “What’s to celebrate? My Mother doesn’t even recognize me.” “Why visit? All my mom does is say mean things to me!”

Yes, that might be the case. As hard as it can and might be to face those challenges, it is worth the time to spend with your Mom. She may not know you, but you can sit and hold hands, talk about anything and everything. Share stories about the kids or grandchildren. Bring her artwork the grandchildren have made and place it on a bulletin board in her room. It doesn’t need to be difficult just keep it simple.

If your Mom is saying mean things to you, redirect the situation by showing a family album to her and start reminiscing. Whatever you do, don’t become frustrated and go off in a huff! That only confirms what she’s thinking about you.

As hard as it is to be loving when you have darts being thrown at your heart, you will have to muster through it. Yes, you’re feeling hurt and maybe getting a little emotional and feel the need to leave. Instead, try this: “Mom, I forgot something in the car. I’ll be right back.” Walk out of the area where she is (it doesn’t actually have to be going to the car) and go into another room. This gives you a “moment” to collect yourself and your emotions. As soon as you feel calm enough, go back and start your visit all over. If she’s still being unkind when you go back in, you can just tell her it doesn’t seem like it’s a good time for her to have visitors and you’ll come back a little later. I know how difficult this can be because I experienced this myself.

If there are grandchildren in the picture, make sure and take them with you to see their grandmother. I guarantee, even if your Mother doesn’t recognize them, she will be delighted just to be around children. The visit doesn’t have to be an hour. More than likely your Mother won’t have any concept of time so even if you’re there 30 minutes she will enjoy the company. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. . .kids and pets make dementia patients very happy!

 “I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”

―Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom

Your Mother is always going to be YOUR MOTHER!  Somewhere deep inside of her she still knows you. She is a person who deserves total respect and most of all she deserves pure unconditional LOVE. Don’t let your “feelings” get in the way. This is not about you, it’s about your Mother and who she is now.

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”  Mitch Albom, For One More Day

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!