A Fearsome Intimacy

Caregiving Fearsome Intimacy

When we hold our infants in our arms we are filled with awe and hope for the future. We envision a life of promises fulfilled. We never picture them feeding us, holding our hand to keep us from falling, or changing our underthings. I couldn’t type the word diapers. The thought of losing my dignity to such a degree is truly fearsome. In my mind I hear the words, “It’s enough to scare the pants off me.” The irony makes me shudder and chuckle at the same time.

The caregiver and the cared for locked in a fearsome intimacy. I don’t know where the quote above came from. If I did I would give credit here. What I do know is those five simple words speak a devastating truth.

 

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Get Enough Rest, Really People?

caregiver-stress

Tips on how to recognize and cope with caregiver stress appear on almost every caregiver website, blog, and column. Too bad none of the advice works.

Click on the link below to learn why.

Why Caregivers Ignore All That Good Advice About Dealing with Stress and What You Can REALLY do to help.

 

 

A Teen Encourages Others to Help

The following is a guest post by  Minaal Khan, an 11th grade student at John Champe High School in Aldie, VA.

As teenagers in the age of technology, we need to be less materialistic and spend time with people as well as our favorite devices. People are who make the world a better place and who provide beneficial social interactions. We need to stop ignoring people and start using devices less often. Helping people can make you a better, worldlier person. This will make you truly appreciate the world. Hearing about someone else’s life can inspire you and may even change you for the better.

Teenagers need to start giving back to the community and helping others. We are at the age that will define us as adults. If we do not start giving back now, we will never do it as adults. We need to be thankful that we are healthy and appreciate what the generation before us has done to ensure that we are raised properly. They left us a great world that we can make even better by spreading kindness and selflessness. Everyone deserves to have someone help them when they are in need, so we should be kind and care for people who may have neurocognitive disease.

Caring for people with Alzheimer’s helps you feel accomplished as you do something good in the world. It also reassures the person you were caring for that there is hope and kindness left in our world when so often all we see on the news is violence.

Caregiving is an act of kindness that the other person will remember and builds self-esteem. It does not require you to sacrifice several hours, you can also spend time with your friends or family.

Helping someone who has Alzheimer’s will also help the family of the person who has Alzheimer’s because they will know that someone is taking care of their loved one. They will not have to worry about finding a reliable caretaker which increases the cost of care.

Caregiving is extremely rewarding and can change the lives of many people, the caregiver, the person with Alzheimer’s, and the family of the person with Alzheimer’s. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment because you have made a change in someone’s life. We need to help others as much as we can.

 

Welcome the Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas is often a time of sorrow for families of those with any of the many forms of dementia. Often family and friends have stopped calling or visiting. Family relationships break down as one person provides daily care.

You may decide it’s just not worth it and spend the day trying to block out memories of happier times. I get it. But consider what may happen if you embrace the past for a few moments. You may be surprised by what your loved one remembers.

Welcome the Ghost of Christmas Past. Forget about putting up a tree if you don’t feel up to it. Don’t bother with a special meal unless someone delivers it to your door hot and ready to serve. Instead open the old albums and put out the oldest, most treasured ornaments. Play all the old Christmas carols. Cry for what is lost. Cry until the tears no longer come. Then, if you can, welcome the ghost of Christmas Past. Allow him to illuminate the memories you most treasure and share them with those in your care.

The image below is from Disney’s, A Christmas Carol, where the Ghost of Christmas Past appears as a candle illuminating events that formed the person Scrooge became.

ghost_of_christmas_past

Push aside the present and feel the love you shared on all the happy times you shared if not for the entire day, at least for a moment. The love and laughter you shared may be the most precious gift you receive this season.

One of my favorite treasured Christmas decorations from childhood is also a candle.

single-choir-boy-candle

This little guy, once part of a set of five, appeared in our home a few days before Christmas when I was eight years old. Upon our mothers passing in 2002 my sister, three brothers, and I each took one. Mine is now lopsided. His face is grimy from years of being packed away in newspaper, and his robe has a chip in it from being dropped a time or two. Despite the abuse he has endured over the years, he is far more precious than the thirty-five cents stamped on the sticker that still clings precariously to his underside tells us Mother paid for him.

If you have a favorite memory of Christmas past shared with the one in your care, feel free to post it in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanksgiving with Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing)

Thanksgiving is the holiday most focused on gathering around the table with family and friends to share a sumptuous feast. My father-in-law, Rodger, was never one to miss a meal. He ate breakfast, lunch, and supper at precisely the same time every day. He grew up on a farm in Italy. Like most Italians he had a very healthy appetite.

When advancing Parkinson’s disease and dementia triggered severe swallowing problems I knew I had to be creative. Everything he ate had to be pureed and any liquids had to be thickened to the consistency of honey. I bought a food processor and experimented with ways prepare tasty versions of the things he loved to eat. I showed him that the mushy stuff he insisted wasn’t food was the same thing he used to eat. I had him watch me mash the potatoes, prepare the vegetables, and put them in the food processor.

“This is real food,” he finally admitted. “But it’s not as good. I need the real, real food.”

I wanted to serve him roast chicken, a baked potato and fresh green beans with a slice of apple pie with ice cream for dessert. He should have been able to eat anything he wanted. But the danger was too great.

I made a lot of thick soups and stews full of vegetables and beans. Flavor and nutrition were my main focus and when the peas turned the pureed chicken stew green I told him it was one of my Irish specialties. He ate it all.

When Thanksgiving came and the house filled with wonderful of aroma of roasting turkey and baking pies I made sure he was able to enjoy as many of his favorite dishes as possible.

Here is my recipe for A Dysphagia Thanksgiving:

Turkey – I tried pureeing both dark and white meat turkey and found it too grainy so I used a well-known brand of junior baby food and pureed it further to remove all lumps.

1 cup homemade stuffing – Place in food processor with 2 tablespoons of homemade gravy. Puree until smooth, making sure all lumps are removed. (Add gravy one teaspoon at time as needed.)

½ cup mashed potatoes – mash or puree to remove all lumps. Add gravy to the potatoes for flavor.

½ cup creamed spinach – puree until very smooth

For desert – remove crust from one slice of pumpkin pie, top with whipped cream.

At the end of the meal he said, “This is just like my wife used to make.” I knew it wasn’t true but as long as he enjoyed it there was reason to be truly thankful.

An estimated 15 million people in the United States have the current diagnosis of     Dysphagia. Patients with Dysphagia are at high risk for aspiration pneumonia which weakens them and can lead to death.  Nearly 60,000 people die each year from complications associated with swallowing disorders.  For more information on Dysphagia go to: http://dysphagia514.tripod.com/vitalstimtherapy/id1.html

National Family Caregivers Month – Tell Them You Need Help

Spread the word. Let everyone you know how many of us there are and how much we need their help. Don’t be shy. When someone says, “Let me know if you need anything.” Give them something to do.

Here are some suggestions:

Visit once or twice a month for thirty minutes so I can shower and rest for a few minutes.

Call when you are going to the grocery store and ask if we need anything.

Cut the grass or rake the leaves in my yard.

Once a month provide a meal so I don’t nave to cook.

Take my car to be inspected or pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy.

Be my friend when I need to vent and please don’t judge me when I am at my most vulnerable. This is harder than I ever imagined and I am doing the best I can.

What would you add  to the list above? What will you say when well meaning people say, “Let me know if you need anything?”

What Adult Children Need to Know About Alzheimer’s/Dementia

Prepare to Care -What Adult Children Need to Know About Alzheimer’s/Dementia Before and After It Strikes Home

What a great group I had for the debut presentation on October 8th. Right from the start these caring young adults indicated how interested they are in learning more about these dreadful diseases and how to prepare for what may be coming to their families.  The questions and comments kept coming throughout the presentation.

When I became a caregiver I knew it would be hard. But, I had no idea of how difficult it would become, how long I would be doing it, or how much it would change me.  Because of those seven years I have become a caregiver advocate. For those who are caregivers now, I facilitate a caregiver support group and I write this blog. I wrote a book about my experience caring for my father-in-law, a book that has been called brutally honest and portrays me as flawed as I truly am. I wrote it to show people what it’s really like to be a caregiver.   As meaningful as these things are to me, I want to do more to make life better for caregivers and those in their care.

 It is now part of my mission to help adult children Prepare to Care. Although we touched on some very frightening and emotional possibilities you can see from the photo below that the result was a positive one as each participant left more informed and better prepared to face the tough decisions they will be called upon to make in the future.

prepare-to-care-2

The Imperfect Caregiver is second from the left in the second row. Her daughter, who is now learning all she can to Prepare to Care, is second from the right in the second row.

While many families now provide home care for relatives and loved ones, the number is expected to significantly increase in the coming years with the aging of the Baby Boomers. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance:

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months (National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP)
  • About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. [Alzheimer’s Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.]

Employers  and civic group leaders interested in arranging a presentation to their employees can reach Bobbi Carducci at bcarducci@comcast.net.

 

Four of the Saddest Words Ever Spoken

She doesn’t remember me.

I hope my children never have a reason to say them. But it could happen. If it does I hope they understand that even in my confused mind they are still a part of me.

By the time I reach that point I will have lost much already.

My short term memory.

My rich vocabulary.

My love of long, hot showers.

My ability to cook.

My driver’s license or even how to find my way home if I did still have that privilege.

 

I pray I’ll still have the ability to read and understand the words my favorite authors have so painstakingly crafted. A world without books would be barren indeed for someone who loves to read as much as I do.

Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia will have taken me somewhere back in time.

Perhaps I am reliving my days as a busy young mother and you, my darling daughter or son, are still in elementary school. You have not yet grown into the wonderful adult you will become.  I see you pink cheeked and out of breath after running up the steps, opening the screen door, and calling out, “Mom, I’m home. Guess what I got on my spelling test today!”

It may not seem like it in the moment but the memory of you is deeply implanted in my heart. The heart that beat so close to yours during the time I carried you. The heart that cried with you when you were hurt and rejoiced with you when you achieved a goal.

If the day comes when I look at you and ask, “Who are you?” I hope you will smile, give me your name, and tell me about your mother.

I love you. I pray you never forget that.

Dr. Phil: Please help support caregivers via the Dr. Phil Foundation. Caregivers are in desperate need of respite and you can help make it happen.

Caregiver Support Coming to Purcellville, VA

I’ve been away from the blog far longer than I planned. However, being a caregiver and all that entails is never far from my heart and mind.  One of the most important and meaningful things I’ve been doing while away from the keyboard is training to be a Caregiver Support Group Facilitator through Alz.org.

Here are the details of where and when this group will meet.

Caregiver Support Group, Purcellville, VA, 20132

When: Thu, April 28, 3pm – 4pm
Where: The Carver Center, 200 Willie Palmer Drive, Purcellville, VA, 20132 (map)
Description: Alzheimer’s Association Support Groups Alzheimer’s Association support groups provide a place for people with Alzheimer’s, their caregivers, family members, and/or friends to share valuable information, caregiving tips and concerns throughout the Alzheimer’s journey. Groups are facilitated by trained leaders and are ongoing, free and open to the community. Please call our 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) or contact the facilitator directly for more information and to confirm date and time. The Carver Center | 200 Willie Palmer Drive, Purcellville, VA, 20132 | Bobbi Carducci, bcarducci@comcast.net

For information on where to fond a support group near you go to: http://www.alz.org/nca/in_my_community_support.asp

If you are a support group facilitator I’d like to hear from you. Perhaps you’d be willing to share resources or tips on what your group finds useful. If you attend a support group I’d love to hear about how your group has helped you.

A Call for Help For Caregivers

Below is a link to an article in the November/December Issue of Virginia Woman Magazine (Loudoun) titled A Caregiver Near You Needs Help.

Feel free to share the link as you see fit. Who knows, it may make a difference for someone.

http://issuu.com/virginiawomanmagazine/docs/loudounnovdec2015highresnobleeds/17?e=17049404/31065692

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