Finding Motivation to Care and Connect: For Caregivers
There are those who know about Alzheimer's disease in the abstract; they are aware of it and the impact it can have on individuals and families. Then there are those of us who really know Alzheimer's as a reality, through the daily involvement of caring for a person or persons with the disease.
Last week, in my SharePost column on motivation, I had suggested that people without first-hand experience should try to get to know individuals with Alzheimer's disease in some way. These types of encounters will no doubt act as a strong motivator to get involved in the cause.
Family caregivers, like many of you who are reading this, are already motivated to the hilt. Faced with the reality of caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's, you are motivated to do whatever it takes to meet his or her needs-and then some, and often motivated to help others walking in similar shoes.
But if you're like most caregivers, you are not always motivated to do one other thing that is just as important: taking care of and connecting with yourself.
So busy caring for a loved one, a caregiver typically puts his or her own needs, desires, leisure time, even doctors' appointments on the back burner. Sound familiar?
I'd like to suggest a motivator that might get you moving toward "taking care of yourself": the fear factor of caregiver burnout. Caregivers who fall victim to burnout face a double-whammy. They not only harm themselves, but might end up falling short on the very caregiving responsibilities that they have strived to perform so effectively for their loved ones. It takes one's all-a healthy body, mind and soul-to be a caregiver.
In the latest issue of care ADvantage (www.afacareadvantage.org) , a free magazine for caregivers published by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, psychologist Dale Atkins, Ph.D., addresses this very topic. Her main point: "If you can stay balanced and give to yourself while caregiving to another, you will be less likely to experience extreme burnout."
Squeeze out some time and treat yourself to a latte in your garden, put your feet up on the couch with a good book, re-visit a favorite hobby, or go bowling. Something, anything-for you.
Community resources are out there to help you care and connect as well. Respite care is vital: Find out about hiring a home health aide or locate a respite volunteer to care for your loved one. Join a support group: This provides time away from your every day routine and gives you a forum to exchange ideas and share emotions with like-minded caregivers.
I know this is all easier said than done. I know it's hard to find a few minutes, let alone a few hours for yourself. Just give it a try.
For More Tips on Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver:
See Dorian Martin's suggestions in "Alzheimer's Caregivers: Finding a Balance Between Caring for a Loved One and Yourself."