Alzheimer's Awareness Month: If You Could Do It All Again Would You? Could You?
It is the first anniversary of my father's death. He lived with us during the last few years of his life, when he was no longer able to look after himself. When I look back on our time together, on the good times and the bad, I know we did the right thing and given the same circumstances, yes, like the song, I would do it all again.
He had been such a fiercely independent man; a lovely man. He found the loss of skills and being dependant on others very difficult. When he first came to live with us it took time for us all to settle in to our new living arrangements. There were so many situations we had to go through to find out what we all wanted, from watching TV, to meal plans, including him in our social life, working out who was helping him and when. Politeness, not wanting to hurt each others feelings, learning new coping strategies all made life very stressful at times, but we did find a way.
When I look back I see some of my coping strategies were so counterproductive! I was already tired, not sleeping well because I slept for many a night in a reclining chair in his room, but I still kept up all the activities, housework, taking him out a few times a week, trying to make sure I did not neglect my daughter, meeting my friends, working for a charity etc. I was a bit of a mad time. My anxiety found refuge in increasing my activities and channelling it into even more cleaning. It makes me laugh now. My family said they could always tell when I was extra worried because everything and everybody that moved was gleaming!
As he became more frail we had to adapt our methods of caregiving and our own activities. I found that because you are looking after a loved one all the time, it was sometimes difficult to see what was happening to him as he deteriorated. It must be the way we cope in distressing circumstances. Sometimes it takes a professional, a doctor or nurse, to tell you what to do. So when my father's life was quite near its end I had not recognised just how soon that might be. I was a nurse but the emotional attachment, your love of that person means you can sometimes deny the reality.
I hear from caregivers who are in the same situation I was in. I, and most of the other contributors to Our Alzheimer's, know what a lot of caregiver worries are about because we have been there. In this month, Alzheimer's Awareness Month, I hope my sentiments give you hope. Try the best you can, seek help from others, try to find coping strategies (try to avoid too much cleaning) that work, most important, keep healthy and look after your self.
5 Tips for Caregiving
- Your local Alzheimer's Association will be able to offer you help. Many chapters have groups you can join to exchange information and get support and friendship from caregivers.
- Your family doctor can help you as well as the person with dementia make decisions about care and heath issues.
- Involve other family members in decision making and caregiving provision.
- Find out about legal Issues and Alzheimer's
- Educate yourself about Alzheimer's