Baby Boomers as Alzheimer’s Care Givers

The majority of people caring for an Alzheimer affected parent are Baby Boomers. When thrust into the roll of care giver there are things that you can do to better cope with responsibilities.

The following is an excerpt from the book Into the Mist, When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer’s Disease by Deborah Uetz

Expectations: Coping and Solutions:

Personal Expectations and Acknowledging Successes

Learn to acknowledge your successes, even if is only a silently celebrated sense of accomplishment. It is imperative to remember that you are, indeed, human and when faced with caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, it is a process through which you will have both successes and failures. You will make mistakes. Your mistakes will rarely, if ever, be of any significant proportion. You will have successes. Just as important as it is to learn from our mistakes, it is important to learn from the successes. Do not be afraid to be human throughout the process.

Know your limitations. Knowing your weaknesses and limits is a tremendous strength. But knowing your limitations if you are unwilling to ask for help is an exercise in futility. If you know your limitations but constantly disavow their impact on caregiving or your won well-being as a caregiver, you are likely to compromise both your own well-being and that of the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Challenge yourself to tackle things you think you cannot do, but learn to know when you are pushing too far and you and your caregiving will suffer as a result.

At the same time, know your strengths. If you are prone to expecting failure before you begin, you will experience failure. It is just as important to acknowledge your strengths as it is your weaknesses, and to capitalize on your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.

One of the toughest challenges you will face is assessing your situation realistically and adjusting your expectations accordingly. The expectation that you will be able to care for the person with Alzheimer’s disease by yourself throughout the course of his or her illness may or may not be realistic for you. It is unrealistic for most people. This does not mean that nursing facilities are the only options. You do have options, but you must be willing to avail yourself of them. If you doggedly adhere to your elevated expectations despite evidence that they are unrealistic and not working, you are damaging both yourself and your loved one who has Alzheimer’s.

Try to understand where your unrealistic expectations spring from. Perhaps you know someone who was able to independently care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease and you believe you should be able to do the same. This is a mistake. No two individuals are the same, nor are their situations. And you did not live in the house with that person – there may well have been problems with caregiving that you are not aware of and the person is not telling you about.

You may expect that it is your duty as a spouse or responsible family member to shoulder the responsibility on your own. Again, this is a mistake. Part of being a responsible and loving family member is to do what is best for everyone involved, and that includes both you and the person with Alzheimer’s. Often, caring for this person on your own will not be the best for either of you. Caregiver burnout is common and it will affect your well-being, as well as that of your loved one. It is much easier to avoid burnout when you have assessed your situation realistically, thrown the phrases “I should be…..” or “I should do…….” out the window, and set a realistic standard for yourself and the people around you.

If you find yourself caught up in a cycle wherein you feel as if you have nothing but failures, you need to find ways to break out of that cycle. Talk to friends and family members who may be able to help you engage in a reality check, including helping you to see your successes and adjust your expectations. People who have dealt with Alzheimer’s in their own family may be particularly helpful. Support groups may also be an invaluable resource at these times – either online support groups or one available in your community. People who have filled shoes similar to yours have often felt the same emotions and can be adept at helping you to achieve a greater balance in how you view your situation.

If you have faced reality and really are in a situation where failures are destined based on the circumstances, reevaluate the whole environment and the circumstances that are continually causing problems. Take a realistic look at things that you can change and what needs to be done to affect changes. This may require making difficult decisions and enlisting the help of others to help you make changes, but it may be necessary. If you are, indeed, evaluating accumulating problems realistically, the aggregation of difficulties may be an indication that significant changes are in order. Caregivers agency

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