Tag Archives: caregiver

Guilty of a totally unnecessary caregiver panic attack

So about 30 minutes into my flight to visit my mom, I took my phone off airplane mode to enable my Bluetooth headphones. (I know, slap my hand, that is an in-flight no-no.)

When I did so, I noticed the voicemail icon was lit up. When I went to see the time the voicemail was recorded, it was when I was at the airport, so I was surprised that I had missed the call. When I checked the phone number of the missed call, it was my mom’s home phone number. In fact, there were two missed calls from her, about 30 minutes apart.

plane sky

If Mom was calling me early in the morning, something HAD to be wrong.

Even though I knew it wouldn’t work, I tried to access the voice mail. No-go, despite my phone still showing a 3G signal.

Fortunately, the plane did not suffer from any issues due to my actions.

But for the rest of the flight, I was frozen with terror. My mind began spinning with all sorts of worst-case scenarios. Knowing Mom has been suffering from this mysterious ailment (most likely a hernia) for some time, I feared she had developed more severe symptoms. She called me wanting to know if she should dial 911 and now was waiting in agony for my reply. Or she had called 911 and was being taken to the hospital and I was several hours from arriving! There was nothing I could do up in the sky but wait it out. I had a two-hour flight, but it seemed like 20 hours.

Finally, we land and I immediately turn my phone back on. I listen to the voicemail. It was from the airport shuttle, confirming my ride. Whew, ok, that was a relief. (They usually call to confirm the day before.)

But what about the mysterious phone calls from Mom’s number? I called her when I got inside the terminal and all was (relatively) well. She had not called me. When I thought back on it, there were no missed calls from the shuttle company. Somehow, my phone read the shuttle number as my mom’s number (same area code, but quite different numbers.)

The point of this story? Caregivers have enough real crisis situations to deal with. Don’t invent imaginary ones, especially when you up in the clouds, helpless to take action.

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Dementia patients may try to mirror emotions

I read about an interesting study today that found those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may try to mimic the emotions of those around them. The results suggest that it is in the best interest of caregivers and family members to try to maintain a calm and positive demeanor in the presence of those with dementia. I know, easier said than done, right! Still, it is interesting to wonder if the emotional disturbances and changes are a result of Alzheimer’s patients becoming more sensitive to the emotions of those around them. And anyone who has dealt with someone with Alzheimer’s knows that there is a great deal of anxiety, frustration and sadness, especially early on before proper coping mechanisms are developed. The condition has a name: emotional contagion.

A new study finds that dementia patients may mirror the emotions of those around them.

A new study finds that dementia patients may mirror the emotions of those around them.

I’m not sure I witnessed my dad mimic other’s behavior but I did notice his excessive attempts at “fitting in” or being part of a conversation or situation. He would try to make a relevant comment but I could tell by his eyes that he had no clue what Mom and I were discussing. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this stage of the disease is actually more heartbreaking to me than later on, when many patients “disappear” emotionally. Once Dad entered the nursing home, he was heavily medicated as most dementia patients are, which tends to turn one into a zombie. I struggled more with Dad trying to be upbeat and tell jokes even while he was clearly losing his mind than the sullen, withdrawn shell of a person he became in the nursing home.

Whether the person with dementia mirrors the emotions of others are not, it of course is best for everyone if a calm and stable atmosphere is maintained. That’s not to say you should beat yourself up if you show exasperation in front of your loved one with dementia. It happens, we’re human. But even while dementia strips away abilities and memories, it may magnify sensitivity in other areas that before we have ignored.

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Caring for Yourself When Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

Today I’m featuring a guest post by freelance writer Katie Elizabeth. She offers up helpful advice and positive lessons for Alzheimer’s caregivers. If you would like to write a guest post for The Memories Project, feel free to contact me at joyjohnston.writer@gmail.com.

When someone you love, such as a parent, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s a scary and overwhelming experience. You have a lot of questions, you start preparing for the worst and you start to see Mom or Dad in an entirely different light. Suddenly, time seems exceptionally precious and you begin hoping for good days. That’s completely normal.

Unfortunately, what’s also normal is that you begin to forget to care about yourself. You start counting regrets, things you wish you would have done and early signs of the disease that seem so obvious now. While it’s natural to want to squeeze in as much quality time as possible or, sometimes, try to distance yourself, slow down. Don’t forget about how you fit in this equation.

Sometimes it seems impossible, but as caregivers we must find alone time.

Sometimes it seems impossible, but as caregivers we must find alone time.

Stop the Flagellation

There are no current, proven ways to stop Alzheimer’s from happening. While this is a simple fact, it’s often hard to process when you’re going through it. It’s often wise to seek counseling for yourself when a loved one is diagnosed to help you process the new information.

There will surely be days when you beat yourself up, such as remembering the eye roll you gave when Dad couldn’t remember something he did every day. Acknowledge it, move on and focus on the present. While that’s easier said than done, it’s a good goal to keep in mind. Noticing and accepting when you cling to the past is the only way to move forward.

Get Your Breaks

Whether you’re moving a parent in with you or finding the perfect care facility for them, it’s important to still carve out time just for you. No one can be a caretaker 24/7, and it’s certainly not a good idea to worry that much. It’s not selfish to create a relaxing time of the day just for you. Whether it’s shopping, a spa day or a good run, let go of the guilt and enjoy your special time.

By giving yourself breaks from caregiving, you’re ensuring that you’re at your best. Nobody wants an overworked, tired, cranky person caring for them. Your empathy, compassion and overall mood will improve with frequent breaks. It can be frustrating dealing with Alzheimer’s, even when the person is a loved one.

Is it Going to Happen to You?

Don’t feel bad if one of your immediate thoughts is “will this happen to me?” While scientists don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, there’s evidence that genetics is at least somewhat involved. Read up on the theories, but don’t drown in them. If you’re really concerned, consider adding supplements that show evidence of delaying dementia, such as a daily cup of green tea.

There’s no telling if Alzheimer’s will happen to someone close to you. However, worrying guarantees detrimental effects. Enjoy the time you have, focus on the good days and don’t lose yourself in the process.

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Handling the curveballs of life

After a three-day respite back home in Atlanta, I’ve returned to Roswell to be with my mom, who is still in rehab at the nursing home. I had a “small world” moment while talking to the cab driver that picked me up from the hotel. It turns out that his wife’s father had dementia and her mom had colon cancer, just like my parents.

I figured it was a good moment to get some feedback on the cancer treatment options in the area from a local. His mother-in-law was diagnosed in the latter stages, but survived two years. She did the chemo treatment, and had good days and bad days. All pretty typical.

What wasn’t so typical is how the wife’s life changed when she moved from the family home in Texas to be with her mom in New Mexico. No doubt it was a hardship and a struggle for the family, but when her mom eventually went into hospice care, the hospice staff were so impressed with the wife’s abilities that they offered her a job! She now runs her own private caregiving agency.

Now, I don’t expect that kind of ending for myself. As I’ve said before, I’m not comfortable in that kind of role. However, could my dad’s dementia and death and now my mom’s illness be creating a new path in life for me? Perhaps. It’s at least worth an exploration. I may end up with no choice but to be a caregiver for my mom. But the attitude and perspective I have in that new role? That is all up to me.

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