How To Survive Caregiving


The longer I am momma's 24/7 caregiver the more I realize how uninformed I was about the subject of Alzheimer's and caregiving when I first began. It's kind of like when you first give birth and you lay in the hospital promising to never let your baby down and to always catch them when they fall. You'll never let them eat McDonalds and soda shall never cross those small pouty lips. You promise to never make a single mistake and then you go home...

No more nurses waiting on our every move and attentive daddy's lifting the baby lovingly into your arms still in the afterglow of a miracle. Nope, you're thrown straight to the lions. The next thing you know you are knee deep in breast milk and dirty diapers with yesterday's spit up still matted in your kinky curly hair that may possibly be housing a family of Robins. Sleep is only a distant memory and you can't even hype yourself up on caffeine because you're breastfeeding.

Yeah, caregiving can be like that...with triplets! When you're a new mom you know that eventually it will get better. As a caregiver, you know that eventually it will get even worse. It can be a disheartening way of life if you're not careful to make sure you are balancing your needs as well as your loved one.

It is so easy to settle into a state of mind that only leads one way straight into the dark hole of depression. As a caregiver we're dealing with the wrong side of life and death and we know that every day is just another day closer to having to say good bye. Then there is the isolation of caring for someone when life is still going on around you and you seem to be the only one missing it. It's a hard life and one most of us wouldn't trade for the world, but we have to get better at surviving it.

We have to find ways to stay active not only physically, but mentally as well. For me, this was doubly so since I also suffer from a rare form of RA, called Felty's Syndrome. If mom and I don't keep moving we lose that mobility and that is something we need to hold onto with everything we have. Walking some a little each day made such a drastic effect in our lives. Just the act of getting out into the sunshine during the day I found could make the evenings so much more manageable.

The point I'm trying to make is nobody has all of the answers. As caregivers we are going to make mistakes, we are going to be sad sometimes, we are even going to get angry sometimes. The trick is to allow ourselves to feel these feelings and acknowledge them, but after that it's time to move on. We have to be able to let things go.

Keeping a positive outlook and attitude through exercise, healthy eating, and taking time for yourself is that best way to win the battle with depression. Learn the symptoms and the feelings or actions that lead up to those feelings and be able to recognize them early enough to seek help. Take that time for yourself every single day and exam how you're doing and what you're thinking and feeling.

Just a little bit of time each and every day that only belongs to you. Where the only voices you hear are your own. Keep a journal or start a blog or just meditate quietly, but know how you are feeling at all times. It won't always be the same, maybe its 15 minutes today, but tomorrow it may be an hour. Find somewhere sunny or happy and just breathe, meditate, pray, whatever you do that brings you that balance that you need to carry on.

According to The Survivor's guide by the most important things you can do to ensure success is to be flexible, develop a plan, remember your successes, make small changes, and make sure to take care of yourself.

We don't get manuals with caregiving just like with parenthood, but if we go into it with those same feelings of love and protectiveness you will find that the unbearable becomes bearable and sometimes even enjoyable. Just do your best, do it with love, and you can't go wrong.

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