Having a family member suffer from a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s is catastrophic enough. The world turns upside down, all the rules have changed, and life as you’ve known it no longer exists.
As our culture’s pendulum begins its swing back toward the family unit being the hub of our existence, so too has health care, in modern terms called “aging in place,” or in more old-fashioned terms, “family taking care of family.”
So now what? Suddenly you find yourself in an alternate reality, with its own social rules, communication techniques that are unfamiliar, behavior changes that come out of nowhere and you suddenly find yourself caring for someone whom you love but is now slowly becoming a stranger.
You’ve attended seminars on dementia care, attended Alzheimer’s support groups and learned about the disease known as dementia from knowledgeable websites and experts. You understand what this disease is, how it progresses, and what to expect during its stages. You’ve learned how to bathe, deal with aggressive behavior, perform redirection techniques and many other technical and care-giving skills required to care for your loved one.
Still, there’s a component missing. Your emotions.
Patience and emotions blur together.
Emotionally, watching a former spouse, father or mother becoming more helpless, childlike and less of themselves, at least outwardly, causes gut-wrenching pain, a fear of the future, and a loss that is incomprehensible. Not being the most patient at times doesn’t mean that you don’t love and appreciate your loved one and all they have done for and with you.
So many adult children and spouses now must juggle finances, navigate a complicated medical system, fight through privacy rules and “taking care of business” calls, striving to patiently wait for the “rules” to be given to you again and again, while all you’re trying to do is get a medication ordered or ask a question about a bill. The list goes on. Anger, resentment, and hopelessness rush into the daily mixture of emotions and attitudes you’re feeling. Not feeling impatient at times is an impossible goal.
Having patience comes naturally to some, while others struggle to maintain a modicum of calm. So, if you land in the second group of individuals, what can be done?
Most are familiar with the usual mantra “Take time for yourself.” Theoretically this is great, but realistically may be difficult to accomplish, especially for the caregiver who is taking care of a loved one with dementia, children, finances and a home — just to scratch the surface.
We’re told to practice breathing — that’s also a technique utilized by many who strive to conquer patience. Some find that sudden explosive activity such as 20 jumping jacks helps distract and burn off immediate frustration, but physical limitations may prevent others from such often comical bursts of activity.
Even a few minutes’ break can help.
Patience can only be achieved, acquired, or attained by determination; perseverance through tears, talking with best friends, physical distance breaks or respite, and spending only “you” time. Whatever, whenever, and wherever you can find it. This kind of patience relies on Quality alone time, not Quantity. For some, releasing tension may be physical, musical or theatrical. Whatever it is for you, treasure your “thing” — it will help you in the end.
Remember, be kind and forgiving to yourself. Patience at all times and in all circumstances is impossible to sustain. Allow yourself your shortcomings and find solace in the spare minutes that you love and cherish.