by francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear francy: I had a few emails about over stressed and exhaustion from spouse or family member care givers. A young woman with a military-injured quadriplegic husband, 86 yr old woman with diabetes caring for a husband with heart issues, 64-year-old man caring for his 60-year-old wife with Alzheimers…all exhausted, all without ways to lessen their stress. So I wanted to share a few tips that I have used in the many years that I have given care. I hope you will find some of these to use in your daily self-care.
- No matter how unwell your family member, spouse or senior is they are not going to get better without you. So to accept your limits is really important. I had to sit down with my mother and tell her the rules of our Health Team effort. I would give her a place to live and assist her as much as I could….but…I could not carry her. I have a problem with my own back so I told her she had to walk, if she stayed with me. It may seem like no big deal but mother had tiny strokes and after each…she would drag herself around to “re-learn” walking all over again. She knew the rules and wanted to stay with me.
My husband with Alzheimer’s talked to me and I am here to care for him as long as he does not require heavy assistance or gets so out of whack with his emotions that he is dangerous. Some times dementia does that to the mildest mannered folks. So, I now have to know those are my lines in the sand.
WHAT ARE YOUR LINES IN THE SAND? Take time to write them down right now. You need to know yourself and so does the senior in your care.
- If I am strong, my husband will be strong. I am the pivot point…I am the person that counts, without me – he is all alone and unable to care for his own self. So, I have to keep myself strong. I have lost weight because I eat better and fix us both healthy food. I did not eat well with mom’s caregiving. I was tired and just grabbed stuff. Now I take time to cook. I take time to plan meals and my own food. No more eating junk, ordering in or having toast. I have to eat well. And since my day is crazy, I snack with veggies and cheese during the day and only drink water and green tea. I want more, I want soda, coffee and cocoa– I want cookies and chips…but I force myself to stay on track and stay strong.
I think strong. Yes, George puts me on an emotional rollercoaster. Some Dementia patients are so persistent that they make the care giver feel they are crazy. But I keep reminding myself I am in charge here. I am making the decisions. If George gets mad he is mad, I am doing this for “our” good. Just like how you raise children with NO’s. George gets NO’s. Emotional upset to the max is a big deal with Alzheimer’s seniors. So, it is up to me to stay strong in my mind. I have motivational cards and to do lists. People tell me I am doing a good job. I have breathing exercises and I write in a journal. I can not cure my Georgie’s mind, but I can change my habits and outlook on life and I try hard to do so, often.
- I need rest. Our brains rule our body functions, so I need to sleep. If I get less than 5 consecutive hours rest I am not replenishing my body. I need to rest, I will take a nap in the afternoon…I will sit down and relax my back. I will have a friend sit with George and walk out the door for peace. I need rest, I have taught myself how to rest on call…and I do not take drugs. But if you need them…get them. Drugs for sleeping have been designed to help people and that is what they do. Get rest…so you can face the day with a smile, not drag through the day with a low energy level.
- I have a life too, it’s just as important as my partner’s. I need to keep developing my own life even when I give care. Someday George is going to be gone. I am sixty…do I drop over and jump in his grave? NO. I live and if I do not care for my body and mind today, I will not live well. I have to keep up on news, on friends, on the world. I have to daydream, and think of fun things I will personally do someday. I have friends that I have recently made on Twitter @seniorcaretips. I enjoy these folks very much. We share ideas of care giving, recipes, personal issues, and fun things too. So I want to visit them someday. When I am really stressed I think about traveling around the US and visiting a day or two here or there and it fills my mind with good forward thinking thoughts.
I dress each day. Unless I am personally unwell, I get dressed and think of my day as a day that I need to have clean teeth, clean and moisturizer face, hair in order and clothes that look nice. I don’t have to be a fashion plate but I do have to keep my life together and be the best I can be for myself. I wear my jewelry, I buy myself flowers, I groom my dogs, I feed my cats. I may care for George, but I care for me first. I stay strong.
- I’m honest with myself about my good side and bad side. I do not try to be perfect. I try to be kind. I do not hide my frustration, but I apologize if I get angry to George. If I get so upset I am blind…I walk out the door and breath and sit on the steps for a few minutes. I have to keep my anger outside not inside. I ask someone to come and give me a break…I take a trip down to a sister-in-law and stay for a couple of days. I release tension that builds inside of me by talking about it, writing about it, exercising, and crying.
My anger is my anger, I can be angry. I can not be hurtful to another. My crying is my upset and I allow myself to be upset. I let George see I am upset and he reacts to it with gentle kindness. No one, no matter how unwell wants another to be hurt…so we help each other through our pain. I don’t pretend to be perky, happy or up energy. I force myself to learn how to actually be perky, happy and up energy. I find ways to re-charge my batteries…or re-boot my anger. I have to stay strong
- I drink water till I drop so I am flushing out any toxins from being upset or stress. I am breathing deeply to keep my blood pressure down so my stress does not damage my body. I stretch my body out and lift small weights to keep my body working well. I take my vitamins or Rx if you have it. Who will keep me well if I do not do it?
- I do things I don’t want or like to do. George fixed our car and checked the fluids, now I have to learn how to do this. George did the taxes now I do them. George did the vacuum so my back was spared. Now, I do it in little chunks so I don’t hurt myself. I have to do things I don’t like, big deal…that is life.
A friend’s husband did not cook so he brought in food for his cancer ridden wife and it was awful for her. She complained a lot about it. I finally said something to him and he said, “I don’t cook”. I said; “Learn how.” Another friend said she could not do everything at her mom’s house and come home and do her own home. We’ll then one of the homes needs to have a person to clean every couple of weeks. It has to be done. Everything has to be done, not just the things you like to do. What took two people to do each week, month and year…now will take one doing it all. That is what life is and get to it. There is no way around it unless you are so well to do you hire it all out. that does not mean you can not ask others to help you. A brother-in-law can do the lawn every other time. A niece can come over once a month and help you scrub tubs and toilets. You can get things done with help if you just think it through.
- I laugh, I dance around the house, I act goofy, I play games with George. I kid him and make him laugh. I will not have days of down behavior. I work hard to keep up. It is not easy, but I do it because depression is easy in care giving. I force myself to find calm and happy thoughts. If I found that I could no longer do this…I would go to a doctor and ask for an Rx that would help me. I expect you to do the same. This idea that its OK for others to suffer from your depression is selfish. Depression is a condition that must be accepted and worked on. Don’t tell me it’s Ok for me to be depressed because I care for an Alzheimer’s husband. That is not a truth…the truth is, I have to work hard to find my emotions and keep them in a place of calm and joy. If I need friends, counselors, doctors or therapy…I have to figure out how to do it. My body will react negatively if I stay in a depression for an extended time. It’s my job to be well and strong-accepting I have a bad back and need to be gentle with myself, or I am exhausted and need to be easy with myself is not wasteful, it is wise. But, there is a thin line between being careful and being lazy…that is the line you have to be honest to yourself about.
- I have “me” things, they do not get put on the back burner. I go to the free concert in the park and if George is in a bad mood it’s too bad. We both go. I watch a couple of TV shows. George watches TV all day…when it is time for my shows, we watch them. I love to read, if George interrupt me over an over again. I leave the room and find a quiet space because books are my world. I work on my writing each day and need quiet. George and the dogs have to be quiet for that time period. I keep things on schedule but I keep things for me in my life. I do not give up me, for George. I keep both of us together…it is not easy but I work on it. I am strong and I deserve being me. I give to George all day but I can not lose the ME.
- I face the truth of the future. George is not getting well -ever. He will go downhill mentally and emotionally and I know this and have prepared myself for it. That does not mean I don’t cry over it, it means that I accept it. I make future plans on that basis.
George’s mom died of colon cancer. So we have been very good about getting him checked each year. Now, I no longer take those actions. He does not need to take uncomfortable tests for some unknown malady when he is already confused and failing in his mind. When my mother was 89 and not well, the doctor scheduled her for a mammogram. She said no. She told me she had to die of something and if its breast cancer then that is what it would be. You have to accept and work through the situation. Talk about it to your senior and then you make the calls. Your senior will be too unwell, confused or upset to make decisions like that. It’s not fun, but its reality that has to be put on the table and looked at in the light. The day will come when no more drugs, no more treatment, no more tests, no more extended life decisions will have to be made. The decisions have to be made and you are the loving care giving support and you need to make them in the best interest of your loved one. There is nothing harder, trust me. But, its your job as the loved one, to make a decision on the difficult calls.
I am proud of you. I say that because I am proud of me, too. I am daily bombarded with care giving decisions and tasks that are not enjoyable. But I do them, and I try hard to do them with love in my heart….not a chip on my shoulder. I know that you do the same. At this moment millions of families in our country are being faced with care giving challenges…they are doing it on their own. Family giving care quietly in little towns and big cities. They are pulled between their own life and the life of the senior and then add in their family and friends. It can be lonely, exhausting and expensive…but it will give you an experience that will be the deepest of your life. When George walks out of this life, I will hold his hand to the last moment. He will not be alone. That is what love means and we are living and loving – together. You are going to need a great workbook of how to care for your senior at home. I have written one just for you. It will take you step by step through the how to’s of care for your family member or friend that needs assistance. It goes over how to help the senior in their own home and how to care for them in your home or in a care facility. Full time or part-time, the care giver will have answers to questions that constantly come up in the process of caring for dementia, Elder care or terminal care. This is the manual that you will read through and come back to in time of upset to find answers. It has gotten such good reviews that I know you will enjoy it. The workbook is $25 with S&H. Click on the picture to order it from PayPal.
I spend time-sharing with hundreds of families all over the US so they can cope with caring for their senior. I’m at home with my husband, George, on a full-time basis and I always appreciate a donation for my time-sharing with you on this site. I thank you for your kindness…and ask that you share my site information with those that you know are caring for seniors — francy
Join my Newsletter Listing: I send out a newsletter and talk about the behind the scenes of daily care giving with George and clients. You will also hear about Missy and my crazy, busy life with joy – in the middle of chaos. Its a more personal look at Alzheimer’s. Click on the picture and it will take you through the sign up with your name, city and email and I will send you a small thank you gift Free…for your time. I will hold all your information private. You will receive a monthly newsletter and can remove your name any time from my listing. And once again I would appreciate you spreading the news about my work, there are alot of care givers out there that could use someone to talk to and get ideas back. Thanks so much – francy