Here are ten suggestions to help you put your own needs into the picture when the role of caring for a parent, a spouse, or any loved one becomes your responsibility – no matter what the reason for the decline. When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s shorty after our fiftieth anniversary, I was determined to find creative ways to make our lives as fulling as possible for as long as possible. One of the essential lessons I learned, was that I needed to be whole in order to give him the best.
1. ESSENTIAL TO HAVE CAPABLE HELP
Most of us find difficulty in recognizing or accepting our need for help. Yet from the dawn of history, man has clustered in tribes or communal groups in order to survive. In our increasingly isolated society, we have difficulty recognizing that at some point in our lives we will need backup. We simply cannot manage without it. What would happen, when you are the sole provider for your loved one’s needs, if you had a fall or an injury or illness that put you in the hospital? Though my husband, Ady, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I did not have extra help until 3 ½ years later when he fell and broke his hip. In retrospect, not having the help during those early years was a mistake. My husband made the greatest strides when I had a few hours of relief each day to do errands or to have time for a walk or a game of tennis. I returned refreshed and ready to give my all. Finding either an aide, friend or family member or even a responsible student to play cards or checkers or chess, enabled me to continue to live as fully as possible under the circumstances—and to deliver better care. Finding the right people is another chapter.
2. FINDING TIME ALONE
One day a wise doctor asked me, “How much alone time do you give yourself each day?” My response was, “Very little.” I was caring for my husband from morning to night. Even if I managed to go for a walk, it was almost never alone. When I drove I was usually listening to a book on tape. Eventually, I realized that I had to give myself time to grieve for the loss I was living through. I could not shut out the reality I was facing by filling my mind every minute with extraneous thoughts. Slowly, I learned to walk alone without a friend or a book on tape. My thoughts, instead of being an escape from the reality, turned to questioning how can I keep my husband on a positive path? How can I make life better for him and for us? How can I build the scaffolding to give him the best chance for positive outcomes –physically, emotionally, and socially?
3. FOCUSING ON WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU, NOT ON WHAT OTHERS MAY THINK
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