SAN DIEGO, August 5, 2014 — Learning that a loved one is stricken with Alzheimer’s can be tremendously shocking.
Though it’s possible that an explanation for unusual behaviors and personality changes provides some understanding and relief, when Alzheimer’s unexpectedly strikes a loved one, it is ultimately devastating.
Once a formal diagnosis is a certainty, there is no denying the truth.
Once the reality of Alzheimer’s presence has been accepted, it becomes difficult to watch a loved one in the throes of a horrible neurological disease which is progressive and incurable.
Resulting feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are perfectly understandable.
Alzheimer’s disease brings a most certain death sentence with an uncertain future and an impending unhappy ending.
In beginning, middle and end stages, Alzheimer’s coup de main is the complete physical and mental incapacitation and eventual death of a beloved family member or friend.
A major challenge for the caregiver is the ability to cope with the uncertainty of the exact stage of Alzheimer’s a loved one is in, and how long the progression of each stage will take.
A caregiver, therefore, is unexpectedly thrust into an emotional whirlwind filled with ever-changing, ever-evolving and unanticipated dynamics which significantly impact family life.
It is reasonable to expect grief as a result of acknowledging being involved in a process which leads to the eventuality of loss.
For most, the loss of a loved one is the most emotionally devastating grief experience.
As a caregiver shares the Alzheimer’s journey with a loved one, it can become a lengthy grieving process occurring over a period of many years, depending upon the individuated impact.
The lack of finality in a prognosis with no end in sight, the gravity of a caregiver’s responsibilities cannot be underestimated–it is likely an emotionally draining, physically exhaustive and all-encompassing journey.
Many practical concerns such as legal, financial, medical, transportation, home care, professional social support and more become necessary to address immediately.
The issues, needs and care for one with Alzheimer’s are ever-changing, and so must the care solutions also be.
Finding solutions to the ever-changing problems of a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, while simultaneously taking care of self, is likely a delicate and oftentimes daunting task.
As feelings of grief as part of the lengthy process of loss complicate the care giving process, so does any sense of guilt.
Feelings of guilt could be caused by a gnawing sense that there is never enough which can be done to care for a loved one, and not enough time or wherewithal in which to accomplish it.
It is imperative for a caregiver to give themselves permission and time for self care, in spite of the uncontrollable progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Providing love, friendship, care and needed support for a loved one might sometimes require acknowledging the impossibility of being able to fulfill all caregiver responsibilities without help.
Accessing resources and assistance throughout the journey by contacting Care Giver Resource Centers, Alzheimer’s Associations, medical professionals, social service professionals, hospital-based organizations, family members, friends, volunteer organizations, home care services and the like will eventually be needed in varying degrees during various stages of the illness.
Ensuring maximum independence and quality of life for the loved one stricken with Alzheimer’s are critical goals.
Seeking balance while serving as a caregiver means knowing when it is time to reach-out for resources and assistance, ensuring personal well-being and an overall successful care giving experience.
It is entirely possible for a caregiver to eventually find solace in the knowledge that everything which could feasibly be done is being done.
As a caregiver extends unconditional love, care, and help on behalf of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it might become apparent that any feelings of guilt are simply neither warranted nor deserved.
In the words of loving caregiver and daughter, Yvonne Roberts, published in The Observer, “I wonder if this will be the last Father’s Day Dad will remember. People say, ‘He’s 84, he’s not doing too badly,’ as if misfortune for the old is inevitable and rationed out.”
For loving family caregivers across America and around the world, please acknowledge and accept your hard-earn pair of invisible angel wings.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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