While listening to an excellent talk on Alzheimer’s disease, I was reminded of something caregivers can easily forget when they are stressed by the difficult behavior of an Alzheimer’s afflicted loved one. People with Alzheimer’s may have lost their ability to communicate. They may have lost their ability to learn new things. They may be living back in their teenage years – but they haven’t lost their ability to read body language.
Our shallow breathing, our gritted teeth and our strained voices are all picked up by the person we are caring for. We don’t mean for this to happen. We are trying our best to hide our emotions and our fatigue. But – there it is. It slips out sideways and is picked up and read by our loved one. They know we are frustrated, and they know that they are the reason.
This, of course, makes them all the more agitated; all the more difficult. How can we help this? They want to drive when they can’t. They want to go home when they are home. They see strangers in the house, when it is really their own face in the mirror. They refuse their medications.
The whole experience for the caregiver is mind-bending. It’s emotionally devastating. It’s physically draining. Caregivers are only human, and our stress is going to show.
It all points back to self-care. Find respite resources. Make use of adult day-care. The more we can take care of ourselves, the less we will be the person acting out. We’ll be able to weather these difficult times better, if we’ve had a chance to be by ourselves for awhile, or have gotten out for some R & R. Protecting our loved one from feeling the “vibes” of our bad mood, or our anger and frustration, is one of the most compelling reasons for caregiver self-care. It is a prime example of why we are better caregivers when we put ourselves high on the list of people to take care of. Do it for them, if you can’t do it for yourself.
Published On: October 19, 2006