Surfing a Tsunami
Maintaining Your Balance, Strength, & Resilience
Ami Jaeger & Kitty Fallon
These insights are from the wisdom and expertise shared by caregivers in our support groups over the last six years. As a caregiver, you become an expert in your loved one’s unique progression with dementia or Alzheimer’s. There are common elements and processes to this disease as well as distinct expressions of symptoms and progression.
You may find yourself cycling back and forth through these reactions ~ I can’t get through this!....Can I get through this?....I can get through this!...I am getting through this!...I’m getting through this at what cost?
Planning for the Storm
• Build a team early ~ it takes a village
• Be prepared for surprises
• Accept limitations
• Identify what would be most supportive for you and your loved one
• Keep the team fluid as your needs change over time
• Get to know your community resources
• Attend a support group. It will feel overwhelming in the beginning but
empowering as you are better able to anticipate and respond
proactively to changes over time.
• Caregiving from a distance
• Reflecting on your roles
• What stated or unstated expectations for care and roles do you have
about your role as a caregiver, the types of care you intend to provide? Explore the stated or unstated roles of your loved one and other family members?
• Identify your beliefs and assumptions about such things as your role as a caregiver, what caregiving is, your relationship with your loved ones, inviting in outside services, and residential facilities, etc.
• Explore the values beneath the roles, beliefs, and assumptions. For example, focus on safety, best care for the current situation, comfort, and love.
• Attend to your own health
• What is the state of your current physical health? Make sure your primary
healthcare provider knows you are a caregiver. Are there any health procedures you need to address while your loved one is in the relatively early stages?
• What is the state of your current emotional health? What helps you feel the most balanced? Remain fluid and flexible but continue to care for yourself. For example, if you are not someone who naps, consider resting if you are tired particularly while your loved one is taking a nap.
• What is the state of your current mental health? Notice when you are more reactive, frustrated, and rigidly stuck on an idea. Pay attention to when you need help and reach out for support and respite.