My cautionary tale about self-care

ALZHEIMER’S, YOU AND YOUR HEALTH


“How long has it been since I’ve seen you Ms. Ivey?” my Neurosurgeon asks.

“Three years,” I reply.

“And what brings you here today?”

“My sciatica has, uh, encouraged me to reconsider your recommendation for spinal surgery.”

“But first you had to tough it out on your own for three years?” he asks.  

“Now is a more reasonable time in my life to consider surgery.”

I try to remember what things were like three years ago.

Back then, Mom attended the Adult Day Program three days a week. Mom cried when she was sad, and cried when she was happy. Mom shadowed Dad during the day, sun-downed at dinner time and wandered at night.

Back then,   Dad was burning out.   Dad did all the shopping, prepared all meals, selected Mom’s outfits each day, and assisted her with bathing and brushing her teeth.  Dad did the laundry, cleaned the house, maintained the yard, and more. Dad had accidentally lost fifty pounds since the year before, misplacing it as he scurried from event to event.  Dad’s doctor wanted Mom to attend the Adult Day Program five days a week in order to give Dad a break from care giving.

Back then I had one year to go to my fiftieth birthday, and had yet to find a graceful way to welcome it. Each misplaced pen, each forgotten to-do I interpreted as the prelude to my own imagined Alzheimer’s.  I tried one therapy after another seeking relief for my back, as I received alarmed calls from Dad reporting Mom’s fainting spells, missing wedding ring, misplaced glasses and other daily adventures.

The three years since have been a blur of grief, loss, survival and sciatic pain.
 
“Well, let’s hope that there is still something we can do to relieve the nerve now.”

I say a prayer that there is.  I add, “Lord, thy will be done.”

Are you good at setting boundaries?  How do you balance your self-care with the care of your Alzheimer’s Loved One?  Which is easier for you? Which requires more effort?  How can you balance the two and be at peace about your choices

When your Loved One needs more care than they get at home

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR DECISIONS


“How did your annual physical go, Dad?”

“Dr. T. says I lost 50 pounds.”

I take a deep breath.  “Since last year?” I ask.

“Yes.”

Fifty pounds?  Dad was already skinny.  Did he even have that much weight to spare?  That’s why his belt was cinched so tight last time I saw him.

Refocusing on the conversation, I dig deeper.  “And what did Dr. T. say about that?

“He said that I need to make a change,” Dad explains.  “He says that it’s my responsibility to care for Mom, and that I can only do that if I take care of myself first.”

 I take a deep breath in.  “So what are you thinking?”

 “It’s time to look for a Memory Care Facility for your Mom.”

I exhale. 

After all these years. After all my other-than-perfect efforts to support my Dad – I have finally learned a few things.  I learned that ultimately, Dad will make all the decisions about Mom’s care himself.  I learned that there are better uses of my energy than trying to speed Dad toward a decision before he was ready.  My opportunity was to grow my patience and my compassion, as I learned to work on Dad’s timeline. 

Has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver finally agreed to accept help with caring for your Alzheimer’s Loved One?   If not, what role can you play in encouraging this, without forcing their hand?  By letting the Alzheimer’s Caregiver arrive to this conclusion on their own time, you may find that you will have grown in your own unique ways, too.