Dec 3, 2009

Alzheimer's Caregiving Lots and Lots of Negative Feelings

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer's Caregiving Lots and Lots of Negative Feelings
The typical person has 50,000 thoughts each day.

Along with these thoughts come feelings.

In a real sense, you are what you think.

Alzheimer's caregivers are bombarded day after day with negativity -- it comes with the territory. As a result, it is easy for a caregiver to become negative.

I often envision caregivers trapped in a negative space thinking the same negative thoughts over and over.

It reminds me of hamster running around the wheel -- going nowhere fast.

If a caregiver is constantly saying negative things about their own station in life, it stands to reason their life will be filled with negativity.

Once an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness encompasses a caregiver they can go over the edge and into a state of depression.

From the day that I understood it was Alzheimer's, I had to confront my new and very negative environment with my mother.

I understood that if I did not get control of my own feelings and emotions I was going to go over the edge -- sooner or later. I stood on the edge more than once. On occasion, I felt like my world was spinning out of control.

Early on, I decided to start labeling my feelings, to understand the source of these feelings, and to turn these very negatives thoughts and feelings into positive action.

When my mother would engaged in the often crazy and bizarre behaviors that come with Alzheimer's I would often feel disconcerted.

Like the many, I was feeling angry, frustrated, guilty, sad, ...(fill in the blank).

I decided I needed to know exactly which feeling I was feeling, I had to label each feeling. I needed to understand the source of the feeling -- and then I needed to deal with the feeling immediately.

I learned to go into another room, label my feeling, understand the feeling, and frankly, to blow it away. I learned to take several deep breaths and dismiss the feeling as part of the Alzheimer's disease and not a part of my mothers's behavior. Poof. Feeling dismissed.

When I lived in Texas, I heard this saying. If you don't like the weather in Amarillo wait 15 minutes. This refers to how volatile, changeable, the weather is in Amarillo.

I used this saying to help gain an understanding of Alzheimer's disease. You never know when the weather is going to change, and you never know when the negative feelings are going to come. One thing you do know -- they are coming.

In the beginning, it might have taken me 15 minutes to label, understand, and dismiss my negative feelings.

Now, I can do it on the fly in just a few seconds. I label the feeling, take my deep breaths, and send the feeling on its way. I no longer need to go into a room by myself and dismiss the negativity.

This allows me take immediate positive action to get my mother back on track. To get out of the Alzheimer's trap.

Oddly, many of the situations that once made me feel like I was going crazy, now make me chuckle. Same exact situation, same exact bizarre behavior, very different attitude. Action.

I can't remember how long it took me to get this technique working effectively. A year, 18 months? I am still working on this everyday.

There is some good news here. One day, I put the hamster inside of me in the closet. I locked the closet. I threw away the key.

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.-- Willie Nelson

I believe that caregivers have choices. One choice you need to make is whether you want to live the next decade or so in the dark world of negativity. Or, if you want to come into the light -- into positive attitude land.

Nobody is going to make this choice for you. It is up to you to decide, and it is up to you to make the necessary changes.

Change doesn't come easy.

My suggestion to you is to buy a big pad to write on.

Go into a dark room, sit in a comfortable chair, and start writing down what you are feeling. It might be difficult the first few times you do it. Soon it will just start coming out of you. You don't need to see what you are writing -- let your hand go free.

Here is a list of some negative feelings: angry, hurt, miserable, lonely, abandoned, panicky, trapped, afraid, scared, furious, exhausted, resentful, frustrated, sad, depressed, fatigued, hopeless, guilty, bewildered, frightened, anxious, dismayed, unloved.

Once you start to get a handle on your feelings, you can start labeling them and understanding them as your experience them.

Once you can label a feeling you are on your way to taking control of those feelings.

Label the feeling. Why are you feeling this way?

What is causing you to feel this way?

Is the behavior that is causing you to feel this way a product of the one you are caring for, or is it a product of the Alzheimer's disease?

This is important. You must learn to understand the disease and this is the how and the where of when you start to understand Alzheimer's. You now live in two worlds. The new world is called Alzheimer's world. Don't confuse Alzheimer's world with the real world.

Now ask yourself this question.

Are you directing your own negative feelings at the person you are caring for? Do they deserve to be the object of this negativity?

You'll arrive at your own answer to these question over time.

Sooner or later you need to decide. Are you going to live a miserable life? Are you going to let Alzheimer's destroy you?

Or are you ready to do something very different?

Here is what I decided. I decided to fight the Alzheimer's. Along with this, I decided to stop fighting myself, and to stop fighting my mother.

When you learn to blow your negative feelings away, you will replace them with a new positive attitude. You will feel an immediate change come over your body.

Thinking negatively drains you of your energy.

Thinking positively fills you with energy.

You can use your new found energy to accomplish your mission more effectively.

You'll be able to look in the mirror and say these words, I am an Alzheimer's caregiver. You'll smile as you say these words. You'll feel a little taller.

When you make the leap from the negative to the positive don't forget to congratulate yourself.

While you are at it ask yourself this question -- Did the Alzheimer's beat you, or did you beat the Alzheimer's?

My name is Bob DeMarco, I am an Alzheimer's caregiver. My mother Dorothy, now 93 years old, suffers from Alzheimer's disease. We live our life one day at a time.

We decided to fight.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 5,000 articles with more than 401,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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