July 16, 2012
High on my list of “definitive statements” is this; there is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. I challenge anyone to compile a right or wrong manual on this subject. The simple fact that we are all flawed human beings should be enough proof that we, as a whole, are made up of a plethora of imperfections.
Having said this, I must explain that the journey of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, will undoubtedly be one traveled through many trials and errors. My advice? Learn from your mistakes and if you should find something that works, stick with it for as long as it is successful.
According to Lon Kieffer, a.k.a. Doc “Defender of Caregivers,” the very things that make us “perfectly flawed,” for instance caring for our loved ones more than for ourselves, is what could possibly be just the thing that makes us the closest thing to perfect caregivers. However, there is a down-side to this.
The positive attributes that we may possess might also give way to weaknesses, like putting our own health on hold. This is an area in which I fully admit I failed miserably! I let my health wane throughout the ten years I cared for my dad and continued on long after his passing. My foremost excuse was that I had already had my fill of health professionals while caring for my father. More than enough to last me a lifetime. It was almost a year and half after Dad’s passing before I finally saw a doctor for myself. Please don’t make this same mistake. The heathier you are the better caregiver you will be. Keep in mind that every patient is different. This especially falls true when dealing with those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Some patients may experience an extreme certain symptom while others, with the same disease, may never even encounter it. This is exactly why I have never subscribed to the preconceived notion of “listed stages of Alzheimer’s.” One patient may stay at a distinct juncture for an extended period of time, while another may skip right over that stage.
Become a student of your patient; their personality, body language and facial expressions. Also, learn to stand your ground with all medical professionals. No one will understand our loved ones the way we do. Their physicians spend, at best, 10-15 minutes with them three or four times a year. We, on the other hand, are with them daily and may be the only ones who truly understand what’s going on with them.
The best caregivers are the ones that learn from their own mistakes and then try to educate themselves about their ongoing situation.
Allow the empathy from inside your soul guide you. You may find that your instincts are usually correct.