May 29, 2012

Alzheimer's Caregiving Mind over Matter Leads to Happiness (1)

"Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself." -- Cicero

Positive effective Alzheimer's caregiving is about mind set in my opinion. How does a person go about developing the "right" mind set while dealing with a world filled with Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's Caregiving Mind over Matter Leads to Happiness
I am sitting here thinking about my initial feelings and mind set as I was learning for the first time that my mother, Dorothy, was suffering from dementia.

Needless to say, like most people I was overwhelmed. I thought, I don't know anything about how to do this. Nothing, nimbus, nada.

This understanding brought with it an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. You probably know what I mean.

I thought to myself, I wish I knew a few nurses so I could get some good advice. I admire nurses. Over my life I learned that unlike doctors a good nurse will tell it like it is. Sadly, I soon found out that the typical nurse didn't know much about Alzheimer's disease or Alzheimer's caregiving. Now, this was back in 2004 and we have come a long way. There is much more information available, more resources, and more tools available.

I made my first important decision. I decided to learn everything I could about Alzheimer's disease. Get a foundation in so to speak. One thing I had learned over the course of my life, you won't get far if you don't understand what you are dealing with. You can read this article to get a better understanding of how I built my own foundation and frame of reference, How to Develop an Alzheimer's Frame of Reference.

Along the way I wondered, what's the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia? You can get the answer to this question here -- What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia? About 3,000 people come to the Alzheimer's Reading Room each month via Google looking for the answer to this question (Strike that, it was 3,000 when I first wrote this, now it is 12,000 a month on this single issue and the number continues to go up).

Next, I wondered is it really Alzheimer's disease? Maybe it is something else. I hoped beyond hope that it would be. It took a couple of years to rule out all the possible illnesses that can present as dementia, but are not dementia and are treatable. I could have found this out sooner if the doctors and neurologist knew more about dementia at the time. They didn't. And, I didn't know what to ask. Now I do.

You can learn more about these issues in these articles: Is it really Alzheimer's Disease or Something Else? and Dementia and the Eight Types of Dementia.

I will also suggest that you review this page and share it with family members and support groups -- Alzheimer's Disease, Types of Dementia, and What is the Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia.

My mother suffers from probable Alzheimer's disease. I suggest you get the diagnosis in writing like I did. It is important for your own mental well being in my opinion. You have to get your mind straight. A 'hard" diagnosis is hard to accept, but it will help you and your family do what is intended -- "accept".

I did learn that problems with the thyroid can present as dementia and this problem is treatable. I asked our doctor to check my mothers' thyroid. The result was suspicious. He prescribed the appropriate medication. It did not cure her. There was good news though. She started smiling and laughing for the first time in over two years.

My heart stropped hurting. Dotty laughed, she smiled, and my heart soared. Our effort together improved over night. Get the thyroid checked.

Along the way I was often lucky. The publishers of the book -- The Alzheimer's Action Plan: The Experts Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems contacted me and asked if I was interested in reviewing the book. I received a pre-publication copy. I read all of it immediately. I call it the bible. I used my copy so often it is falling apart. Maybe the publisher will read this and send me a new copy.

It took me two years to understand Alzheimer's disease. To put in a rock solid foundation on which I could build.

Once I understood Alzheimer's disease, I knew what I had to do. I know from experience that in order to be successful at anything you need a plan. A good plan starts with a vision statement. Once you have a vision, you can formalize and define your mission.

Simple really. You need to know what it is you want to accomplish and how you are going to do it.

Finally, one night around 1:30 AM I had my vision. I wrote it down on my da Vinci pad. I decided that

Dotty and I would start living our life the way we always had.

From that moment I understood I needed to define our mission, make a plan, and then execute the plan.

That is how it all started. Frankly, at that moment in time I decided it was time for me to become an Alzheimer's caregiver. Not just any old Alzheimer's caregiver, the best Alzheimer's caregiver I could be.

After all, I had all the motivation I needed -- Dotty was depending on me.

My point here is simple and straight forward. You need to understand Alzheimer's disease. How it works. What it does to a person and how it affects them. You must get educated in order to proceed and succeed.

I'll talk about my mission and how I got to where I am today in part two.

A mission statement is a short written statement of purpose. The mission statement provides a sense of direction and guides you. The mission statement reminds you of what needs to be done, and how you intend to accomplish your goals.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room