As a professional in the field of aging, Sara had seen it all—until her own mother broke her hip at the age of 88 and became profoundly confused, unable to live in her own home. Join Sara on her journey through the strangeness that is dementia while trying to make sense of it all and finding humor in the details. [Editor's note: Sara no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]
Rule #1: Drop all expectations of “success”; caregiving is a process, not a goal. We boomers approach life tasks as if they were projects: identify the problem, determine goals, develop strategies and action plans. Forget all that. Caregiving is a day-at-a-time effort. It begins, it goes on for some period, and then it ends. It’s a process.
Rule #2: Perfection is impossible. There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. We think we have a plan, and then everything changes: a fall, a no-show paid caregiver, an irate sister or brother, a placement option that doesn’t work. We do the best we can each day. We should strive for good, sufficient, satisfactory, helpful, and healthy, or okay—never perfect.
Rule #3: Visit a support group; attend more than once. For many of us, it’s hard to find and attend a family support group; but if you do, the experience can be life saving. This is especially true for families dealing with dementia. Dementia-related behaviors can be so bizarre that you really have to hear other families and caregivers talk about the disease to really believe all that strangeness is possible. The dementia world is strange. The best way to learn the rules of the dementia road is to attend a support group and listen. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association Web site to find the support group nearest you.
Rule #4: Call in a professional social worker or case manager early in the process. Don’t wait. This long-term care thing is very complicated and made more so because of the family dynamics that are often involved. There is no need to struggle in the dark. When you finish reading my blog, see the article "Caregiver Resources" to find resources in your community. You can cut through weeks of confusion by accessing professional help early in the process. Visit Silver Planet’s Caregiver Resources page for more information.
Rule #5: Visit your nearest adult day care or adult day health care center. One of God’s gifts to families, adult day centers are places where oldsters can go during the day to get much needed socialization, health care monitoring, and exercise. Do what you can to get the person you care for to attend at least three times and they will be sold. Everyone will be happier for it. Visit the National Adult Day Services Association Web site to find the center nearest you.
Rule #6: If you are feeling overwhelmed with the caregiving process, see Rule #1.
By Sara Myers
The Good Enough Daughter Blog