It isn't easy being an Alzheimer's caregiver. Caregiver Life can improve once you learn how to identify unsettling behaviors and change them.
While it is not commonly understood Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers often experience the same or similar problems.
There are effective and easy to solutions to the problems we face. But, before you can become a problem solver, you must first learn how to recognize your problems.
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By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
Does your loved one make false accusations? Accuse you or others of stealing from them?
Put you in a situation where you find you need to explain to them the error of their way or errors in their thinking?
Have you had any success trying to get a dementia patient to cooperate or change their way of thinking by explaining?
I doubt it. If you are doing the same thing over and over and it doesn't work why do you keep on doing the same thing? This happens most of the time because you can't think what else you can, or could, do. Join the club. We have all been in that boat.
Did you ever see the movie Groundhog Day? In the movie the actor Bill Murray keeps waking up at the same time each morning - and it is the same day every day. He keeps reliving in the same day over and over. Sound familiar?
In the beginning the Murray character is a mean person. He does all kinds of mean things, and even tries to kill himself. It didn't work. He wakes up the next morning and it is the same day all over again. He is still alive and its the same day all over again.
Sound familiar? For most caregivers its Groundhog Day over and over again - every day.
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Let's take me for an example. I took care of my mom, Dotty, for 8 and a half years. 3,112 days. So if you are wondering if I know how you feel - I know how you are feeling, I understand. I understand because I was you. Still am in a way.
I was the bad Bill Murray for 18 months. Everything I tried to do backfired on me. I found myself waiting for my mother to wake up in the morning with an ache in my stomach. Only one word can describe how I was feeling
Ever feel that way? Every feel a sense of hopelessness? I tell you what I felt - heartbreak. My heart hurt.
Then one day I woke up and had an epiphany of sorts. I realized if I kept on doing what I was doing, it wasn't going to work. I had to change.
I was spending way too much time complaining. That didn't help. Of course, some call that "venting". Well after venting for the 500th day in a row you'll find that almost everyone disappears. They just can't take hearing it anymore. Sooner or later you will also get sick of it. I did.
Here is what I want you to do. I want you to buy or get a notebook. Don't be lazy get the notebook. Don't forget, its gonna be another Groundhog day tomorrow. Are you sick and tired yet? If so get the notebook. If not, you will be soon enough.
I want you to start writing in your notebook. When you are feeling happy or sad write down what you are feeling and the time of day. When you loved one starts doing something crazy like accusing you of something you didn't do, or telling you to get out, or just doing any of the wacky things persons living with dementia do - write it down and write down the time of day.
Pretty soon you will find out you are writing down the same things over and over. And, more likely than not they are happening around the same time of day. Groundhog Day?
Same wacky behaviors, around the same time of day.
It's Groundhog Day all over again.
With notebook in hand you finally get a grip on the situation you are in. You find the patterns of behaviors. You will identify the problems have them organized in your notebook.
This is going to allow you to attack one problem at a time. This is going to allow you to solve the problem.
This going to allow you to change
Bad into Good.
How are you going to do it? But substituting new patterns of behavior for bad patterns of behavior. Let me make this simple. You are going to make most of the bad stuff go away. You are going to replace the bad stuff with good stuff.
Skeptical? Don't be. I learned a lot in 3,112 days. I solved every problem one at a time. There is good news - you get better at it as you go. You finally understand what needs to be done, and you learn how to get it done.
In Groundhog Day Bill Murray learns how to play the piano, ice sculpture, and how to catch a boy falling out of a tree so he doesn't break his arm. He does this every day.
Finally, Murray decides he will win over the girl of his dreams. While doing that he doesn't wake up in a mean and cantankerous mood each day. Instead, he wakes up with a sense of purpose in his life. He does get slapped in the face, and ridiculed over and over. He never gives up.
Murray is finally waking up each day with a sense of purpose - get the love of his life.
Like Murray I woke up with a sense of purpose on May 5, 2007. I decided that Dotty and I would start living our lives. We did.
So just like Bill Murray I stopped waking up filled with a sense of dread; and, started waking up with a sense of purpose.
Go get the notebook, or get someone to get it for you - right now.
Tomorrow I will write - Alzheimer's Caregiver Life How to Turn Bad Into Good. There is a lot to learn. Here is the good news - it won't take 3,112 days.
I'm your Groundhog. Are you sick and tired of the way things are?
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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.
The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.
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