Have you ever been on a hayride? Well, I sure have. I loved them as a child, no matter if we were being pulled by a horse covered in jingly bells or by a noisy old tractor. As I recall, that youthful boyishness in me always had me wanting the sleigh to go faster. Of course, that wish never came true. Instead, at a slow pace, I learned to enjoy the company of friends and family and the peacefulness of the ride itself.
Many years later, I was tossed into the world of caregiving for my father, afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. At that time I was in the midst of working two jobs and traveling more than two hours a day. Suddenly, it felt like a school bus had pulled out in front of me with its caution signs flashing, making it impossible for me to pass it. On my own I was still able to go 100 mph, but my poor father could not.
My duties also include managing the website and promoting content via social media. many difficulties involved in being a caregiver is the necessity of having to slow your life down. You cannot take a person who is suffering from dementia and expect to move them into your fast-paced world. Instead, you have to remove your shoes and step into theirs.
I would constantly catch myself trying to do everything at a fast pace, which was normal for me, only to turn around and find that I had left Dad behind in the dust, buried under a haystack of confusion.
Something that seemed so simple as taking him to a doctor's appointment turned into a major dilemma. I found myself constantly calling the receptionist, informing her that we were, once again, going to be late. It didn't matter how early I started preparing him; once his anxiety set in, it was like trying to swim up a river of molasses.
The fact is we were breaking the sacred daily routine; it had my dad moving like the loveable old man character that Tim Conway played on "The Carol Burnett Show."
As a caregiver, you have to adapt and move at the snail's pace that your patients may sometimes do; well maybe just slightly faster. Trying to rush a patient with dementia will get you absolutely nowhere. Many people may believe that the patient is just being stubborn, but if you look at it from their point of view, nobody likes to look like a fool.
For instance, you may say to them, "Could you please go and put on your shoes?" Well at that particular moment, with everything going on, they may not remember how to tie their shoes. So, instead of looking foolish, they just flat out refuse.
You need to become patient with them and, at the same time, with yourself. Training yourself to function in a slower lifestyle is much more difficult than it sounds. As the old saying goes, "You need to slow down and smell the roses." By not hurrying your loved one, the time you spend together will not be as stressful.
As primary caregivers, we become our patients' world, their security blanket - a lifeline. Even if we're sitting right next to them we should make the extra effort to reach out and hold their hand. Even placing our hand on their shoulder, reassuring them that we are there, can make a world of difference.
Gary Joseph leBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth .net. His newly released book "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness," can be found at www.common sensecaregiving.com.