In the New Year, because your loved one’s situation hasn’t changed, you might think that nothing can improve your own situation. But if you are open to change, you may find that the symbolism of the New Year does offer opportunities to make your life better. Resolve to improve your life through better self-care.
Look young! Feel young! Think young! The constant barrage of information about how being forever young is the only desirable way to live is enough to make even a young person feel old. Now researchers have shown that this ageism is potentially harmful to one's cognitive abilities over the long term.
When it comes to Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the sad reality is that there is no cure. But a significant number of people have an increased risk due to genetics, and everyone has an increased risk as they age...What do we do, just give up and give in? Or do we look for ways that may give us a better chance to get through our last years without signs and symptoms of this devastating disease? I say let’s fight. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have determined that winning may be possible. Some people will develop the disease no matter what they do but, according to these researchers’ latest study, there are everyday factors that may influence our risk of developing dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s.
If ever there’s a group of people who suffer deeply from unearned guilt it’s caregivers. Whether you’re the parent of a vulnerable adult, an adult child of aging parents or the spouse of a vulnerable adult, you are bound to have your “if only” times where you are sucked into the quicksand of guilt. The reality is that most things you could have done differently wouldn’t have made a huge difference overall. Even if another approach would have made a difference, you can’t go back. Staying mired in guilt is counterproductive for you as well as your care receiver.
Whether or not it’s a conscious thought, many of us look at a new year as a time to make changes in our lives. We become energized for a few days. However, most of us are quickly caught up in routine. Whether or not we like the routine, it’s familiar, and the status quo often provides the path of least resistance. Therefore, even if we’re stuck in a life that’s not satisfying, we stay with the familiar. Change seems too hard. This is a glaring truth that most caregivers recognize.
Dear Carol: The New Year is arriving and I’m trying desperately to make my annual list of things that I’m happy about and the things that I want to improve on. This year I’m struggling. My once healthy mom had a sudden, massive stroke in October and is now in a nursing home. She’s always been vibrant, both physically and mentally, as well as a kind, loving mother and grandmother. Her volunteer work is a local legend. Now, she’s barely able to speak beyond a mumble. She can’t eat without help. Her mind is muddled and the doctor says that she is unlikely to improve. When I look at her I feel my memories of her, as she was, disappear and I feel sorry for myself. I feel guilty about my self-pity because I know that this should all be about her, but I can’t help it. All I can see is the horrible present Mom’s past fades away. How do I get anything positive out of this New Year knowing that Mom’s future is so bleak? KW
My dad went into surgery with a smile and hope. He came out with severe dementia. Something unexplainable at the time had happened and Dad became a statistic – one of those “poor outcomes” we hear about. My head knew this tragedy was permanent, but my heart wanted my “real” dad back. The kind, loving, intelligent man whose love for me was steadfast. I wanted him back. Unfortunately, my family and I had to learn to accept the fact that Dad would never be the same.
End-of-life discussions may not seem to fit with the commonly cheerful image of the holiday season. After all, who likes to talk about potential death? Yet, too many people die in a manner they would not choose. When we consider that the true reason for this spiritual season is to celebrate our faith, what could be more fitting than incorporating the message that we want the best for our loved ones for their entire life - and that their life will include the death process?
How can faith help both caregivers and people with dementia get through something that makes no sense even to those who believe in a loving God – or maybe especially to those who believe in a loving God? Many people have asked me this question. My own spiritual beliefs have been vital to my caregiving life, but I wanted to give people more depth than I could provide on my own. With that in mind, I asked Dr. Benjamin Mast, a licensed clinical psychologist, Associate Professor in Psychology & Brain Sciences and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Louisville author and also author of "Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel during Alzheimer’s Disease," to give us some answers from his perspective.
Dear Carol: Last year Christmas was a mess and I’m determined to make this year better. Dad had a stroke two years ago and uses a wheelchair and mom has rheumatoid arthritis and uses a walker, so they both need a place with easy access. That would be my house. Both of my brothers, their wives, and their children join us. Along with our kids, the total of children is five. They are good kids but noisy which bothers my dad. Also, my brothers have opposing political views so I’m praying they don’t get into politics. To make things even more complicated, Mom is super judgmental and finds something to complain about in everything said by anyone even though they didn’t say anything that should offend her. I love my family and this isn’t about the work of hosting a holiday dinner. My siblings bring side dishes so I don’t have to do everything. It’s the personalities all together for eight hours and two meals that I dread. How do I handle this potential mess better than before? MW