What are you doing today to guarantee your loved one living with Alzheimer’s will be cared for five or ten years from now?
You are the person she relies on most. She needs your hands-on care. She needs you to coordinate and direct her support team. To her, you are an essential worker.
In the future she’ll rely on you more than she does today.
My Dad’s approach to caregiving was to invest his health 100% in caring for my Mom during her Alzheimer’s. To “leave it all on the field”. Before we knew it, Dad had lost one-quarter of his body weight and was down to skin and bones. With Dad clearly struggling, Mom’s doctor recommended that Mom be admitted to a locked memory unit. This got Mom the care she needed. It also saved Dad’s life.
It’s time to think about sustainable caregiving for the sake of your loved one. You want your caregiving to be able to withstand the passage of time. So that in five or ten years when she needs you most, your mindset and your health, continues to support you both.
Consider these building blocks to sustainable caregiving.
- Caregiving breaks.
Professionals call caregiving breaks “respite”. These are times when someone, other than you, cares for your loved one. This someone may be a professional, a family member or a volunteer.
Your ability to provide sustainable caregiving depends on you using respite time wisely. Catch up on your sleep, go to your medical appointment, get some exercise, or do something that brings you joy. Remember this is an investment in the future care of your loved one. When you return to caregiving, you will do so with more resilience. You’ll be better able to face everything caregiving requires today and in the future.
- Motivate yourself with learning.
If you’ve ever measured your success by the size of your boat, the initials after your name or the RPMs on your sportscar, you probably understand the link between success measures and motivation.
If you’ve spent even one day as an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you probably realize how tricky it is to choose an Alzheimer’s caregiving success measure. If you measure Alzheimer’s caregiving success by the improvements you see in your Loved Ones’ behaviors, you set yourself up for failure. That’s because Alzheimer’s care always grows more complex over time.
What you are looking for is a success measure that motivates you to grow in the direction of providing more sustainable care.
Praise and reward yourself every time you ask a question about your loved one’s Alzheimer’s. A successful day is a day you ask yourself “why is Mom is so restless before dinner?”
Why is this a success? Because asking a question puts you in the mindset of seeking an answer. Before long, you may realize that it is sundowning that is driving Mom’s behavior. If you had never asked the question, you may have yet to ever discover the answer.
Caregiving breaks and motivating yourself with learning create a solid foundation for sustainable caregiving. They are long-term investments. These good habits go together with self-care routines like healthy eating, keeping stress levels low, getting enough sleep, and exercise that are good for you and your loved one.