There is nothing about having or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s that’s easy.
Changes are happening sometimes at lightning speed and at other times they seem to creep slowly forward like lava from a volcano. Swallowing everything in its path. There is nothing left that it doesn’t touch. It can leave you feeling raw and exposed.
The changes in the parent/child relationship are catastrophic.
It is cut in two much like the umbilical cord during birth. This has been the relationship that you’ve known and trusted since you took your very first breath. The emotions from this change may not be apparent at first. One day you’ll be slapped across the face with the reality that your old life is over and you’ve lost that safety net that you didn’t realize that you needed. Some days will be worse than others and you do whatever you have to do to get through. You just have to remember tomorrow is another day.
Some days THEY will fight this change and then other days YOU will.
Your parents have been your port in the storm, your support, and your sounding board forever. In most families, they are your biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and fans. Once you realize that this is no longer your reality it will break your heart. It will feel awkward to both of you, like a dress in the wrong size or cut. It may fit well enough, but it will feel uncomfortable every time you have to put it on. If you are one of the lucky ones, your parents will accept these changes easily, if not they will fight you every step of the way.
You will miss this relationship more than you know.
You will become the supporter and their port in the storm. They will come to you with their problems large and small. The trick is to find the people who can offer you the support that you are now missing and need so desperately. It may be one person or a group of people, but leaning on somebody during this excruciating, emotionally charged time can be a lifesaver.
Sixty percent of caregivers suffer from depression. Having the right support system can help you avoid these pitfalls and make all the difference in the world. Alzheimer’s destroys the patient’s life in the end. but the trick is not to let it destroy the caregiver’s life as well.
Keeping yourself emotionally healthy is very important. You can’t be a good caregiver without emotional wellness. Having support, regular respite, and confidence in your decisions will make all the difference in the world to both the caregiver and the patient.
Keep something back for yourself for those times you will desperately need it.
Realize that you just can’t do it all. Be willing to give up control where you can and save that energy for times when you are really going to need it. Don’t let friendships become a thing of the past. You’re going to need your girlfriends. Keep yourself healthy and active. Try new things or rekindle an old hobby that you haven’t had time for.
Treat yourself to something special because you do deserve it.
Take that vacation or that college course you’ve had your eye on. Don’t let go of your own life. Caregiving doesn’t last forever and there will still be a “you” when it is over. The most important thing I can tell you is that you are not alone. There are people that can help whether professionals, friends, or colleagues. Search those people out and reach out to other caregivers, better yet join our Facebook group Caregiver’s Corner!
*This post was originally published in June of 2015, but it’s been updated and reworked for your reading pleasure.