By Gary Joseph LeBlanc
If life has taken you in the direction of becoming a full-time caregiver for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or another dementiarelated disease, be prepared to face many hardships, unlike anything you have encountered before. Sadly, not everyone who attempts to be a caregiver will be successful.
On the upside, however, you are now joining the ranks of a very unique group of individuals. Hold fast to the motto cherished by The United States Marine Corps: Semper Fi! (Always Faithful)
Let it be known that there’s no shame in admitting when you are struggling or even if you feel defeated. In fact, the sooner you realize that you’re not cut out to handle this, the better. The earlier someone steps in who can assure you that they will provide a better quality of life for the person living with dementia, the better.
Caregiving is an ordeal unequal to any other and it takes a special kind of person to handle all it truly entails. If you’re not this type of person, please don’t go through the rest of your life inflamed with guilt, for this is definitely not what these loved ones would wish upon you.
Some caregivers hang on too long due to pride. Being embarrassed to admit failure about such an important mission, by not getting your loved ones the actual care that they need, is a bigger failure.
When taking on this charge, there is no strict timeline on how long this crusade will last. Get ready as your commitment to holding out could last a couple of years or even longer than a decade!
Endeavor to develop deep compassion, not only for your loved ones but for their family members as well. This illness doesn’t only affect patients, but it strikes out at everyone close to them. Many families get torn apart, never healing their wounds. It may seem unfair but oftentimes the caregiver needs to act as a referee—sometimes becoming a sounding board for all the family members involved. They bring all their concerns and strategies to the one person who needs to vent the most. This is why support groups are such an important part of the process.
The number one complaint I hear from caregivers everywhere is, “Nobody in my family is willing to help. Everything is left up to me.”
Then, as a caregiver, you must learn to control your emotions, because the patient will tend to feed off of them. It’s a difficult task to master.
The unselfishness of a caregiver who puts his or her life on hold is matched by no other. This includes a social life, financial burdens and sometimes health. In my mind, these people can rightfully be called “heroes.” Being selfish is something a caregiver simply doesn’t have time for.
While running this campaign you need to stay true to your heart and learn to follow whatever instincts that are deep inside you.
Someday, after this arduous journey is over, you’ll be able to look back upon it and realize that this experience has developed you into a morally and ethically better person.