Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Take a Road Trip in Your Head for Your Own Good

The craziness of caregiving can have all kinds of negative impacts on our health.

So, want to lower your blood pressure? Want to make your blood chemistry better? Want to pump up the secretion of dopamine in your brain (that’s the chemical your brain pumps out when you feel a sense of joy, fun, elation, pleasure of some kind)?

Here’s how you do it: Start asking yourself these questions:
When was the last time I felt this feeling? Where was I? What was I doing? What else gives me that feeling? How did it look, smell, sound, feel, taste? Can I think of still more triggers? What can I do now to cultivate this feeling?

For example: Joy—When have you felt safe, relaxed, and joyful, utterly glad about what was happening in that moment? When have things truly gone your way, perhaps even better than you expected? When have you felt a spring in your step, an unstoppable smile, or a warm glow? When have you felt playful, as if you wanted to jump in and get involved?

Let yourself daydream for awhile and roll the answers around in your head. If your life is particularly stressful right now it might be difficult to focus on the positive, you’ll keep coming back to the now. But, take your time and pull yourself back to the good stuff.

Research has shown that thinking and feeling the good for even short periods of time has a wonderfully positive (pun intended) mental and physical impact.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Saturday Night Date With Alzheimer's

This blog is being written in my mother’s apartment at 10:17 pm on Saturday night.

Normally, like a lot of other folks, I’d be doing something else, probably something fun, on a Saturday night after 10 pm.

But, tonight I have the 10 pm – 10 am shift to watch over and take care of my mother who is 84 and has Alzheimer’s. I’ll be here 10-10 tomorrow night, too.

She’ll wake up about 3 am and I’ll help her to the bathroom, clean her up, and then get her back to bed.

The sitter who is supposed to be here has a health issue and has been out all week. My brother, who’s been the champion of our caregiving journey has done a number of overnights this week because I’ve been out of town. Since playing music keeps him sane and Saturday is his music night, I’m here for two nights. We are contracting with a service to care for Mama round-the-clock starting Monday.

If you’re a caregiver you recognize a number of issues at work; the challenges that pop up, juggling schedules, abrupt changes in plans, trying to do the little things that keep you sane, tag-team efforts to get things done and the fatigue…there’s almost always the fatigue, physical and/or emotional.

Recognizing that caregiving can make you crazy—admitting it—helps you step back and look at the situation a little more realistically. I know I won’t be here forever and, most likely, after toughing it out for the next 48-hours I can get some rest and get on with my week.

And yes, I realize that for some caregivers the demands far exceed mine. All our journeys are both the same and different.

The keys to being resilient; being able to maintain and bounce back are simple. Doing them can be a challenge.  

Here are three important characteristics of resilient caregivers:
1.     They are resourceful and have good problem-solving skills. They understand that there is no one right answer to any challenge.
2.     They are more likely to seek help. They don’t believe they can do it all themselves. And, if family members aren’t helping, they will look outside to community, church, social, caregiving groups and government agencies for help.
3.     They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope. They see the wave of stress coming at them but instead of letting it wash over them they swim, dive, paddle, jump or thrash their way through, under, over or around the wave to calmer water. They believe they control their own emotions, not the caregiving experience.

Just checked on my mom. She’s sleeping soundly. Hope whatever she’s dreaming is wonderful.