When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, life demands change. Can you guess who has to change? Yeah, it’s you, the care-giver. The person with Alzheimer’s will constantly change but will have no control over the changes. If you’re going to survive with your brain intact, you have to make the changes.
I’ve learned that there are five things a care-giver simply has to develop for themselves.
Courage. It’s probably the most important asset of all. With the future so uncertain you have to believe that you are going to be okay. Remember that others have paved the way for you and are there to hold your hand. Be brave!
Patience: You’ll find that it takes your loved one longer to do everything. And, you can’t rush them. It takes them longer to eat, longer to tell a story, longer to get dressed, and even longer to brush their teeth. Try to rush them and you’ll pay the price. They will take even longer or stop trying all together. Slow down. Take a deep breath. And…wait for them!
A Place of Refuge: We all need a place where we feel safe. We need somewhere that shields and protects us from the pain of watching a loved one slowly lose their mental and physical ability to return love. The work of a care-giver is exhausting. Give yourself permission to retreat. Take a break. Renew!
Faith: No matter what you think, in order to deal with the highs and lows of Alzheimer’s disease, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself. You need a place you can turn to where you can lay it all down and walk away knowing that what will be, will be, and in the end, it will be alright. Believe it!
A Sense of Humor: As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, those little moments of joy become more and more random. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of worrying that each change is the beginning of the end. What a waste of precious time. Remember always that your loved one has retreated into a world all their own. They can be happy there, if you let them. Stop trying to test their memory. Don’t try to force them back into your world. It can’t be done. Be bright. Be happy. Reassure them and laugh easily. These are the days you will remember. Make them happy!
No one will tell you it’s easy. It’s not. But here we are. It hasn’t killed us yet. If it doesn’t kill us, it will only make us stronger. We will live to see another day and if we’re lucky, we will live long enough for science to find a successful treatment or, even a cure. Be brave, be patient, take refuge and renew. Have faith, and laugh when you can.