Monday, July 30, 2012

Not Knowing Can Make You Crazy

Lack of knowledge across a wide range of caregiving issues can make you crazy.

And remember, the definition of crazy, at least here, is doing things or thinking thoughts that are out of the norm for you and that can be detrimental to you life.

Learning about Medicare or Medicaid, how to deal with the dementia-inspired flights of fancy your care recipient takes or how to turn someone in a hospital bed can help you feel more in control.

However those topics are not the focus of this blog. This is about how you can take care of yourself.

So, here's what you need to do: Simply go online and enter the condition your care recipient experiences (ex. Alzheimer's) a + sign and the word associations.  Ex. Alzheimer's+Associations

You'll see lots of resources providing the condition-specific knowledge you need.

Also, go to fcacares.org and caregiver.com for two of the best caregiver-focused websites.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's OK to Feel the Happy/Sad

It's easy to let our emotions about caregiving and how we think about them make us crazy.

In a matter of seconds (or, more likely, one visit or contact) you can feel joy, anger, guilt, appreciation, sadness, happiness, frustration and fulfillment.

When I visit my mother at the Alzheimer's unit I always feel joyful when I see her. When I leave I almost always feel, "Thank you! Thank you! I'm out!!"

And, I've stopped feeling guilty about my....feelings.

It's ok.

You're human.

Caregivers who don't understand that it's ok to experience the range of emotions are the ones who have their lives stolen by the experience of caregiving.

Save yourself. Let it be ok to feel the range of emotions and then come back to the positive in your life.

The effort will help keep you from going crazy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Caring for Those Who Help You Care

Keeping yourself sane while caregiving can be helped or hurt by how you connect with the people who might be helping you in the caregiving journey.

If the person for whom you are caring is in some sort of facility--hospital, assisted living, Alzheimer's unit--you should do small things to show the staff you appreciate what they do. Nursing aides are some of the least appreciated employees in health care and have some of the highest injury rates.

A kind word, a small gift or even small bits of cash every now and then help show them you understand and appreciate their help.

Granted, some facilities discourage gifts and some aides may pump you for extras once they know you'll offer, but making friends with the people who provide day-to-day care when you aren't around is a way to make sure your loved one gets attention when you...aren't...around.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Their Reality, Not Yours

Caregiving for someone with dementia can be as much of a challenge mentally as it can be physically. They'll be communicating with you in a totally normal way and then something comes up and they're out there..."Yep, I remember when you were running through the dunes at the beach during vacation a few years ago and...wow!...look, it's George Washington riding a Harley Davidson!" It's a challenge to say the least. Mental health professionals tell me it's a two-step process. You use a simple agreement and then redirect. For instance, after the George Washington comment you simply say, "Oh yeah, and that summer we went to the beach I loved going to the seafood restaurants every night." It doesn't work every time, but more often than not it takes the person to a more focused thought. A friend once told me, "You don't use logic to reason your way out of a situation you didn't reason your way into." I'm thinking that it's hard to use logic with someone who isn't using logic themselves. Trying to use logic with someone suffering from dementia will make you crazy because their answers often don't meet your criteria for logic. Relax, and take a mental step back; it can save your sanity.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Is CRAZY?

The other day I was talking to a caregiver and mentioned that caregiving can make you crazy.

Immediately, they nodded their head and agreed. Almost everyone does that. We know caregiving can make us crazy, but what do we mean by crazy?

In my book crazy refers to actions and ways of thinking that are out of the norm for us. Forgetting to pick up your child at school, forgetting meals, running stoplights and stop signs, snapping at someone we love in a conversation, not being able to go to sleep at night, fumbling simple tasks...all those things are signs (and real-life examples caregivers have told me) of the craziness caregiving pushes us into.

There's no reason to feel guilty about the stress caregiving causes, you're doing your best.

But, when caregiving starts making you crazy, or leads you to do crazy things, you've got to step back and look for ways to take care of yourself.

Remember, if you won't care care of you you can't take care of them.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Water and Craziness

When was the last time you took a drink of water?

Not drinking water can make you crazy!

Dehydration is a major cause of problems with care recipients but too often caregivers don't understand how the condition effects them.

If your hydration level drops by 2-3% it inhibits your ability to do simple math and slows your reaction time when you approach stoplights and stopsigns...in effect, dehydration makes it harder to make decisions.

Also, when your skin dries microscopic cracks are created. The cracks become places where germs and bacteria enter making caregiver more susceptible to illness.

I ALWAYS keep a bottle of water handy and I rarely pass by a water fountain that I don't stop and take three swallows of water.

And yes, I've heard all the stories about water quality, but that's why your parents got you all those shots when you were little.

Drink more water (not coffee, tea or soft drinks), it'll keep you from getting too crazy.