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March 28th, 2017

Aging with Grace…

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Happy Holidays Everyone! As we close out 2016, please take a few moments to remind yourself that you are a wonderful, caring person who deserves the best of everything. Sometimes in our busy day to day lives, we forget to take care of ourselves and this is a huge mistake! In order to care for others in our life, first we have to care for ourselves. Along that line, I recently had a conversation with someone who is caring for a family member with dementia. Her thoughts and insights reflect some of what caregivers experience while fulfilling this challenging role.

Thoughts and Insights on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease/Dementia
In our attempt to care for loved ones, as best we can, we have to consider that we no longer live in a society (at least in the US) where family members automatically assume the responsibility for caring for a failing elder. By and large, most folks are ready to move on from the burdens and worries of raising children at the time our parents are dealing with failing health. In addition, when someone has a physical illness, the treatments are more answers on how to treat them. With dementia or Alzheimer’s, each person is different and the treatments and answers are not always as clear which leads to a fair amount of fear. That being said, I think it’s fair to say it’s quite common and understandable to feel somewhat resentful and angry about assuming responsibility for caring for the very people who raised us.

When a family member becomes the caregiver, they inevitably give up their own independent lifestyle to care for their loved one. We have the greatest intentions to begin with, however, over time and as the illness progresses, especially dementia related illnesses, the caregiver’s patience and understanding grows thin. Add to that any family dynamics where one might be at odds with other family members not helping out, and it’s easy to lose respect for the very person we originally wanted to care for. Some behaviors brought on by dementia related illnesses may lead us to wanting to reprimand our loved one as we would a child, when they no longer have the ability to even understand the behavior was unacceptable.

It is very important to reach out for support. We are all human and products of the society we grew up in. Knowing how to care for someone whose health is failing, especially if the disease is a form of dementia/Alzheimer’s, doesn’t necessarily come naturally. In addition, we are all deserving of having time to care for our own needs, which can be nearly impossible when all our energy is devoted to caring for someone else. There are wonderful, qualified people in our community who are ready and willing to help us understand the behaviors around dementia / Alzheimer’s’ diseases. We just need to be brave enough to reach out for help. If we are willing to learn about our loved one’s illness and what to expect as it progresses, it can be easier and less stressful to make healthy decisions regarding the care and quality of life for our loved ones and ourselves.

In wrapping up this article, if you’re a caregiver, reach out and get the support you deserve! Contact your primary care physician, the Alzheimer’s Association – VT Chapter, your clergyman, Project Independence, Central VT Home Health & Hospice or Central VT Council on Aging. You are not alone!
-Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice (www.cvhhh.org)
-Central Vermont council on Aging (www.cvcoa.org)
-Alzheimer’s Association, Vermont Chapter (www.alz.org/vermont)
-Project Independence Adult Day Service (www.pibarre.org)

If you have questions or are looking for information related to caring for an elder loved one or other individual with disabilities or health issues, please email me, deargrace@pibarre.giffordhealthcare.org or write to Dear Grace, c/o Project Independence, 81 N. Main St. – Ste. 1, Barre, VT 05641-4283

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