By Theresa Bayman, Program Director Coastal Region
Recently, a member of one of my support groups (with whom I have become very close), reached her caregiver “breaking point.” Most, if not all caregivers, find themselves at this point at least once throughout their experience. This particular caregiver is a retired nurse – which you might think would give her a leg-up when it comes to care-giving for a loved one at home – but you’d be wrong about that.
When it comes to caring for someone we love, especially a parent or a spouse, the playing field is leveled. Dementia care-giving is unlike most other care-giving experiences because of the ever-changing needs and limitations of the person receiving care. With many illnesses, a caregiver can ask the patient “Are you in pain?; Are you hungry?; Would you like some company?” With a dementia diagnosis, caregivers do not always have the benefit of verbal answers and cues. Instead, they learn to read body language and anticipate needs based on other clues and symptoms. Caregivers are part nurse, part detective, part cook, scheduler, transporter, husband/wife/daughter/son, etc. In short – mostly superhero!
Meeting the ever-changing needs of a loved one with dementia requires continuous evolution of the caregiver(s) themselves. Often times family dynamics/roles must shift in addition to changing perspectives, reactions, the way we make decisions and spend our time – just to name a few. It’s a huge adjustment – even for people like my dear friend who has been a professional caregiver for many years. She came to me asking for help, saying “I can’t do this” but the truth of the matter is just that you can’t do it alone. Recognizing the need for help and support is the first step to becoming a truly successful caregiver. Help can come in many forms – church members, nurses, home health agencies, adult day care, hospice, facility settings, good friends who know how to listen, family that is willing to step up to the plate and take on new roles, friends who can bring meals or keep you in their prayers, support group meetings, Alzheimer’s Association counselors and staff and many, many other ways. These options are out there waiting for you because care-giving just isn’t a one-person job. You can do it – and you don’t have to do it alone! Counselors are standing by on our helpline 24/7 – 800-272-3900