Caring for the caregiver

Today, my focus shifts a little.  Because I want to share what life is like in our household as we care for a loved one with dementia – it includes us.  The intent is not to whine nor is it to glory in our efforts, but simply to open our front door so that we are not only transparent but truthful.  Too many times in my life our family has put on a facade of happiness and well being that did not reflect the true life of a family living together and I think that did more harm than good.

I am grateful that mom is still physically strong so the challenges don’t include those that might require us to help her with tasks such as bathing.  Mom is still able to contribute to the family by doing simple chores.  As a side note, I am struck by the way mom’s dementia has taken away her ability to remember points in her past and present, but has not diminished her capacity to do rote housework such as washing dishes or vacuuming.  For what seems like routine activities for us like cooking or setting the table, I have come to realize that each has differing requirements for processing hence mom’s ability to do some and not others.

So, back to my point – making sure we as caregivers take care of ourselves is just about as important as caring for our loved ones.  We need physical rest, leisure time, activities that stimulate our creativity and learning, and of course good nutrition and exercise.  We are not alone in our care for mom – this is a family enterprise – still with many challenges that create difficult decisions to make.  But some folks don’t have such resources.  I know there are well meaning and truly valuable programs run by local, state, and national organizations as well as non-profit and for-profit companies, but sometimes it just takes a friend or neighbor that notices and stays to chat at the mailbox or drop off some banana bread or send a care package with “fun” stuff in it for everyone.  Next post?  A list of a few of my favorite things and my address….just joking!

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