To be clear, there is no art to being a Caregiver. In other words, there is no written rule on how you should be a caregiver.
Being a caregiver, to me, is the innate ability to have compassion, empathy and love. Along with that you need an enormous amount of patience. If you’ve ever raised children you know what I’m talking about.
Caring for an individual with any kind of dementia, at some point, is very much like caring for a child. The roles are reversed and now you are their parent. This is not only difficult for the caregiver but for the whole family. We think of our parents or grandparents the way they used to be; full of life, wisdom and interesting stories.
Accepting the fact that they are still that same person only they don’t have the same abilities anymore is never easy. But as caregivers and family members those loved ones still deserve respect and admiration. Somewhere inside of them there is still a small portion of who they have always been.
Take music for example. It has been proven that music evokes a part of the brain that stimulates the memory of a particular song that person may have listened to in previous years. People who are non-verbal have begun to sing along with a song once they start listening to the music. It’s the most incredible and moving experience to see this happen.
My mother enjoyed dancing her entire life. She and my dad grew up during WWII days and back in the 1940’s big band music and dancing was the “thing”. Even later on in their lives they belonged to a dance club and continued doing what they loved.
That love of dance never stopped with my mother as she progressed in her Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Once there was music playing she was up and dancing all by herself! So uninhibited because that music brought back memories of a time in her life that brought her joy.
What I’m trying to convey is, there is still a “real” part of your loved one inside. As a caregiver you will experience those lucid moments with your loved one so take advantage of those moments. Bring out all you can during that short amount of time because it will be gone in the blink of an eye.
Something I always found to be of use was using humor with my mother. Even if I had to make up or embellish a little on something I was telling her, as long as it made her smile or laugh it was worth it.
It certainly isn’t an easy role to take on, but if you play the Eeyore as a caregiver you will only make it harder on yourself. You can decide to be negative and feel sorry for yourself as a caregiver or you can view this as a blessing. I found it to be a blessing in so many ways.