Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Health

LeBlanc: Don't lose your cool while caregiving


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It is a widely accepted fact that being a caregiver is an incredibly stressful undertaking. If this is you, then you know the amount of pressure can be emotionally crushing. Having been a caregiver myself I accepted a long time ago that we're only human and eventually, we likely will have a meltdown due to the incessant responsibilities upon our shoulders. It can happen to the best of us. Before we know it, harsh, injurious words come flying out of our mouths. These expressions are directed toward the loved ones for whom we're unselfishly caring!

Sadly, I admit I was guilty of this myself. The very instant this happened, I yearned to be able to take those words back; to grab them out of the air and throw them in the trash where they belonged.

Sometimes it was caused by being asked the same question 20 times in 10 minutes or maybe being accused of stealing an object that never even existed. This was just too much! Unfortunately, I had reached my boiling point.

The trick is to be able to anticipate when this is coming - and trust me, this is easier said than done.

I learned to find a "tension release" when I felt the burdens of caring for my dad with Alzheimer's disease starting to build. I would step outside and circle the house, doing some good ol' dirt kicking along the way. I know this sounds crazy, but it worked. Eventually, I would walk back into the house, shoes as dusty as can be, but with a newly composed state of mind.

Caregivers must learn when to take a time out. Do this before things go too far. Constantly reminding ourselves that it's not our loved one's fault, that it's the disease, can help only so much. As caregivers, we need respite.

When I am at a speaking event and someone in the audience asks about this, here is the advice I give: We must listen to the signals our bodies are giving us. Do not wait too long. Instead, locate some help. At first you might be able to handle things on your own, but as dementia-related diseases advance caregiving becomes a two-person job. Be proactive. Start searching for options before the problems arise.

Consider calling Alzheimer's organizations in your area. Explain your circumstances to them. They might be able to point you in the right direction to find the right resources. Also, your church might have some willing volunteers who may cover you so that you can get that well-deserved respite.

It is crucial! Do not beat yourself up with "caregiver guilt" when you make these unfortunate mistakes. Take a step back, apologize and start the conversation over again. They most likely will have forgotten what happened anyway.

Concentrate on making the situation better and put aside what just happened. Caregiver guilt will eat you alive if you let it.

We have enough on our plates - actually too much, which is exactly why things took a bad turn for a minute. As I said, we are only human.

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