A caregiver’s thoughts on Independence Day may not be festive. Independence is something caregivers have to sacrifice most days of the year. The 4th of July is no exception.
Practically every task in our daily lives revolves around meeting the needs of someone else. In most cases, the person we care for is far more vulnerable than we are. Even if they are physically strong, they have lost the capacity to be able to take proper care of themselves. Nine days out of ten, we put their well-being ahead of our own, often to the detriment of our health. If we’re lucky, on that tenth day we can get a few minutes alone to take a walk, have lunch with a friend, or address some matter in our life that has been neglected.
This sacrifice of independence, is different than the sacrifice a parent makes while caring for their child. A parent knows (or dearly hopes) that their kid will grow up healthy and able to exercise their own independence one day. But caregivers can’t motivate themselves through the hard times by thinking about a happy ending on the horizon. We know that our independence can only be achieved when our loved one leaves the earthly plane. There’s a great sadness at the core of this understanding. To fulfill our role, we need to put that thought aside and focus on the moment we’re in.
Some days I am desperate for a little personal independence. At times I wake up but keep my head on the pillow, daydreaming about the things I want to do that will take me away from the drudgery built into my daily routine. But I know in my heart that as much as I crave independence, I don’t want to lose my mom. She is funny, she is sweet. She is so much like a little child that I am sometimes tricked into thinking that’s who she is. It’s a cruel form of role reversal. But managing this challenge has enriched my life in many ways, too. My mother’s illness has brought some wonderful people into our lives and made me value our family much more than I ever understood possible.
These thoughts are pretty random, but I’m sure that this mood catches many of you as you consider the unpredictability of life, wondering what will come next. Maybe caregivers just have to steal an Independence Moment, instead of an entire Independence Day. We know how to observe a Moment of Silence, or a Moment of Appreciation. Let’s invite ourselves to take a few moments of Independence, too. Go ahead. Independence Day is almost over so I’m taking my Independence Moment right now.
Caregivers need sleep for one crucial reason: All humans must sleep, it’s a biological necessity. #Caregivers, however, may also have risk factors that increase the importance of getting enough sleep.
Current research suggests that toxins are removed from our brains while we’re sleeping. The risk of Alzheimer’s rises if the brain’s cleaning equipment can’t de-tox our neural networks. If you believe you might have inherited the gene for dementia, you have an even greater need to protect your brain’s health. In a University of Toronto study which included people who carried the APOE-E4 gene, participants who “slept most soundly showed the greatest preservation of memory and thinking skills. Among study participants who died, the poor sleepers were more likely to exhibit the characteristic brain plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Like many #caregivers I get up at night to attend to my mom. I wake in the wee hours, walk to her room, and change her. If I’m lucky, the process goes smoothly and I can crawl under the covers and slide back into the dream waiting at my pillow. But I’m not always lucky. If I pinch my arm in the bed rail or remember some annoying task that should have been done, I’m suddenly wide awake and far from slumber. Few things more aggravating than lying awake when you know you need rest.
Ideas for Caregivers who need Sleep
I have a few tools that can help me fall back to sleep. They are not 100% foolproof but they help.
- Sometimes I use a very simple yoga posture called Child’s Pose. You sit with your face down on the floor and your arms out in front. Here’s a photo. This position is very relaxing and I often feel like I might fall asleep with my face in the carpet.
- You can try to relax by doing a Forward Bend. Just sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and reach for your toes. You don’t actually have to touch your toes, just aim in that direction with your face looking toward your legs. Click this link to see an example.
- If I’m concerned about missing sleep for several nights, I use a relaxation CD called Relax into Greatness about one hour before bed. This recording explains that there is a difference between sleep and relaxation. Sometimes we can fall asleep but our body is not relaxed. If we’re not relaxed, we may not enjoy that nourishing level of sleep we need. The guided meditation on this CD relaxes you head to toe. When I listen to it before bedtime, I fall into deeper sleep and wake up really refreshed. This is especially good for people with chronic insomnia or PTSD.
Of course there are nights when none of these things work. If you have some effective methods of getting back to sleep, please share them so other #tired caregivers can benefit, too!