It’s been longer than I care to admit, since I’ve written a post and everyday as I prepare to write or think of topics come across my mind, something else changes the course. These obstacles, whether big or small become the “thing” to address and yet another hour, day and week has passed. It’s part of the territory of being a caregiver. Trying to find the YOU in all of this.
I honestly do try to look at my life from the outside in, especially when I see reports on how caregivers are the ones who are risk of depression, stress, and other health risks and yet read reports on how caregivers must find the time to relax, take care of themselves and not let stress overwhelm them. OK which is it? Now they’re both true. Yes to the beginning, but the latter can be doable I say, to a point. I was terribly falling in sadness and depression as my mother’s changes seemed to be happening faster than I could keep up with and like most people, caring for someone isn’t the only thing on my place, but I knew I couldn’t go on like this either.
I recommend getting a therapist…there I said it! That may be a hard pill for some caregivers to swallow, but I needed to speak with someone about all that I’m dealing with, feeling and heck to know that I’m OK, right? I needed to have a normal conversation and get some coping skills. My next change was to get back into fitness. I wanted to lose weight, and being that I’ve always been an active person, I felt I needed that extra umph, to feel good about doing things and attempting new things. And working out does help clear your mind, it gets those endorphins going and you feel better about yourself. Maybe losing weight or getting fit isn’t your thing, but I recommend to go on a walk. It does the same thing. Even if you have to take your loved one with you, if they’re able to walk; it’s something about being outdoors that rejuvenates.
While I was working on me, I battled obstacles because as the latter part of what I wrote earlier states, finding time to relax, to take care of you, etc., is not always easy or shall I say, I’ve made attempts to have a me moment and it doesn’t always work out that way. Caring for my mom’s daily needs which is making sure she eats, washes, has clean clothes and is given her medicine is one thing, but here come the obstacles, such when I’m trying to work or focus on something and I’m unable to because I’m berated with questions or I’m dealing with her anxiety or anger when she can’t find something or wants to go home (explanation later). She no longer focuses on anything, so watching TV or reading anything is out. She sits, focused on me – literally and wants to go out. My mom also has other medical concerns so I’m a nurse, I joke I’m Hazel the maid taking care of the home because I will not have a messy place and then there’s my dog. I never see him as an obstacle, but I have to provide for his care in the midst of hers too, but let me tell you I am so thankful for him because he is the calm I need and the joy I need.
When I feel overwhelmed and unhappy with what I’m able to do or not do, I tell myself Alzheimer’s is winning, yet no way in heck, do I want it to nor do I want to play or be a victim. As I write this, I’m not feeling well and all I want to do is sleep, but without any help for mom, it’s something I can’t do. Those are the moments when yes, I do have a mini mental pity party, but what can I do?
So how do I, how do you…bridge this gap? The gap between where I am managing as a caregiver and yet managing my life’s stuff and possibly finding time for fun.
I’m learning like you are and what I’m finding to be helpful are to have lists and schedules. I personally do not like to be so scheduled, but for now I need to be focused and on track on where I am, what I have next to do and what is coming up in the midst of crazy. (When I say crazy, I mean how Alzheimer’s can drive you – the caregiver crazy in all that you need to do to maintain on a day-to-day basis. I’m NOT calling the loved one crazy.) That explanation is for anyone who may be a little sensitive.
My obstacles may be different that yours, but they still carry weight to each of us personally. Looking for a job, managing home, caring for my mom while being shadowed, asked a ton of questions and beaten down (verbally) with her request to “go home” where she grew up is just part of what is on my plate. Now mix in the obstacles of unexpected things and her unhappiness of living where we do and her restlessness because she doesn’t recognize our place as her childhood home. Her non stop asking to see the people she grew up with and now family members who have passed on, causes her agitation, mixed with some tears and/or the occasional anger bouts – is not much fun to deal with. Trust me, I understand their minds go back in time to a place and to people they once knew, but it still makes you want to pull your hair out!
To those who write what a caregiver must do or get or need, you need to also join in the quest to find ways to help us do so. Not everyone has the means, or know how to take care of themselves or to be better to themselves. You get so caught up in the day-to-day (speaking from personal experience) you put yourself last or you you don’t care because you don’t have enough energy to think about yourself. But deep down you do care, I know I do, glossing over my needs and concerns are a coping mechanism. When I have the time, I’ll…., when I have the money to I’ll….; trust me it’s scary knowing what you want, wondering if it will all work out, if I can make it work out. As I’m on a quest of self discovery and to help or find a better way, here are a few things that come to mind that I hope can help you and perhaps as I write them, they will be a big reminder to myself to keep doing:
1) Things may seem bleak, they may be bleak, but it’s OK, go outside breath, cry, but you must release!
2) If you’re able to have someone watch your loved one, go for a walk, a run, a job, exercise; the endorphin release will make you feel so much better.
3) Journal and/or get a therapist. I know some people aren’t up for writing, but it does help to get out all of your feelings and thoughts. If you’re not up for writing and can afford therapy, find a good one to talk to. It’s another way to release and get personal tools.
4) Call a friend – who truly understands YOU. Not every person “gets it” that you don’t need them for a solution, but just need them!
5) Laugh. I’ve never needed a funny movie, television program, comic act, conversation or article more than I do now.
6) In the midst of the storm, it’s hard to remind yourself this too shall pass; make sure you have someone who can tell it to you. Or write it down.
7) Make lists of things you need to do for that day, week and perhaps month. Keep it in front of you because caring for someone with Alzheimer’s will alter your day and life, but when you’re in that place of “what am I to do next?”, the list will guide you.
8 ) And professionals may disagree with this one, but sometimes for a second you may have to ignore your loved one and take a life pause, to sit, think, regroup, breath, read, blog, write and to get back to you.
My wall is so big, that even as I write this I’m saying, I have to practice what I’m preaching because I know when I do take a slither of a moment for me, I feel better, when I have a list and can cross things off, I feel accomplished and little by little these small things empower me to handle the bigger thing.