Tag Archives: dementia

Caregivers Can’t Control Things

Caregivers can’t control things. We often learn this the hard way. I couldn’t write for a month because of chaos in our household. Now that we’ve overcome recent challenges, I’m grateful that our problems have not been worse.

Caregivers can't control things

We were hit by illness. Our aides had crises in their own families. I had to address economic logjams that made all the other problems harder to solve. When things go wrong, it’s way more difficult to care for a person with #dementia. But as I consider recent events, I realize that we are very, very lucky.

Health Challenges for caregivers

*******  A few weeks ago Mom was in terrible pain. She can’t speak to tell us what’s wrong. To get our attention, she grinds her teeth. It’s excruciating to hear someone grind their teeth for hours. Fortunately, we were able to narrow my mother’s list of possible problems down to  a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). We are LUCKY to have caring, skilled people around who PAY ATTENTION AND UNDERSTAND my mother’s issues.

******* After we figured out what was wrong, our hospice nurse was able to get the presiding physician to prescribe liquid antibiotics for my mom. This was a tremendous help because it’s so difficult to transport Mom to a doctor. She can’t stand or walk. Getting her into a vehicle is really hard. WE ARE ALSO VERY GRATEFUL THAT MOM HAS #HEALTH_INSURANCE, so the cost of her medicine was low.

Logistical problems that derail care

******* While we were dealing with the UTI problem, our refrigerator failed. The fridge was just seven years old, but it was beyond repair. I had to feed my mother small, frequent meals because the antibiotics gave her stomach problems. When stomach pain began, she started grinding her teeth again! Thank goodness I was able to drive to Lowe’s and buy a fridge during their appliance sale. I thought about the people in Puerto Rico who were left for weeks with no electricity. Can you imagine taking care of a sick person while you have no water to drink, no electricity, and no way to get food? I am THANKFUL, THANKFUL, THANKFUL  that our home is not in a hurricane zone.

******* As we stumbled through the fridge crisis, I had to practically beg one of my clients to pay me for work I did last summer. My check was months overdue and I really needed money to pay for that refrigerator! They agreed to write me a check, but I had to drive 100 miles (each way) to pick it up. One of our helpers promised to be here with my mother while I made the trip. Then after I left he called to say that his son had a health crisis and he couldn’t reach our house before the hospice aide had to leave. When I got this message I was 90 miles from home! We are VERY FORTUNATE to have a kind neighbor. She agreed to stay at the house until I could cash my check and race home. The trip was stressful and I drove too fast. But I know we are lucky to have a neighbor who is willing to help.

caregivers live everywhere

Many caregivers face worse problems than I do while looking after loved ones. Residents in Northern California are losing their homes to relentless fires. #Caregivers in Houston, Miami and San Juan are still trying to put their lives back together after devastating storms. People often tell me that taking care of my mom is an act of heroism. But I know better. We’ve been blessed with a lot of resources that help us survive our most serious problems. Wherever you are, I hope you find ways to overcome your worst #caregiver challenges as you deal with the chaos of life.

Social Connections Help Caregivers

Social connections help caregivers stay healthy through the long struggle of dealing with #dementia. It’s not easy to spend time with friends when you’re immersed in #caregiving. But research shows that staying connected with people can have a positive impact on your physical and emotional health.

Social Connections Help Caregivers

I didn’t write here for a while because I was practicing the important skill of networking with people I love. Over the past few weeks, I was able to spend some time with old friends from college and work. Several years ago, my college circle lost a cherished member. Our friend died of ovarian cancer. The rest of us continue trudging along — searching for meaning and joy as we go. We have all had to face the complexities of caring for aging parents. Each one of us bears that stress in different ways. But even as our lives grow more complicated, we understand the value of maintaining our friendships. They give us strength.

Many people have examined the positive effects of building strong social connections. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Bethany Kok, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have researched the topic for years. Their work studies the links between emotions and social connections. Frederickson says their research shows that daily moments of connection with others “emerge as the tiny engines that drive the upward spiral between positivity and health.” 

Erickson, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology, is not the only researcher reviewing the impact of social connections. John Cacioppo, professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, looks at the issue from a different perspective. His group studied the ways that a lack of social connections can influence health. Cacioppo found that feelings of isolation can interrupt healthy sleep, increase our levels of cortisol, alter our immune cells, and prompt feelings of depression. In a 2016 article in The Guardian, Cacioppo says that “when you allow for all the other factors, you find that chronic loneliness increases the odds of an early death by 20%…which is about the same effect as obesity.”

I’m not a scientist, but my life has teetered on both sides of this divide. Last winter, I felt isolated by my #caregiving duties. I was very close to falling into depression. Bringing hospice support into my house lifted my burden in small ways at first. When hospice aides helped me get more free time, I could feel my mood rise. Once my mood improved, I had more energy to go out and take positive actions to improve my health. First I started walking more, then I began to go for bike rides. All these things made me feel better, but nothing beats quality time with friends. Taking time to re-connect with them has given me the fuel I lacked just a few months back.

If you feel like you want some of that social fuel, start getting it by making a list of the people you miss. Maybe you read each other’s notes on Facebook, or send the occasional email. But when was the last time you called and talked to them for more than five minutes? If there is someone you are missing, just pick up that phone and see if you can’t re-connect. Start the conversation by remembering some fun you once shared. See where it goes from there. We only live this one time and so many things in life can wear us down. #Caregiving has its high points, but it can beat us up physically and emotionally. Taking the time to nurture our best relationships can help us rise once again. Even if we can’t re-build a strong connection immediately, it is worth the effort to try and try again.