On behalf of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month, Marilynn Garzione will appear as a regular guest blogger for the month of November. She will share her thoughts, feelings, and vast personal experience with Alzheimer’s Disease. Marilynn Garzione teaches at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York and is the author of Released to the Angels: Discovering the Hidden Gifts of Alzheimer’s. Visit her on her website: www.releasedtotheangels.com.
DISCOVERING OUR LIMITS
When the decision is made to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, your focus is on his need, his care, and the profound reality of his sickness. Little thought is given to the impact it will most certainly have on your life. You know, deep down, that it will affect you, yet your feelings and love outweigh any hesitancy on your part.
It is only after you begin your journey into Alzheimer’s that the reality of what it is hits you. Your willingness to take this on slowly becomes replaced with serious questions; will I be able to care for him properly? Will I know what to do? Will I have the strength for this?
Very quickly you realize that this role is all-consuming, encompassing every aspect of your life. You have the house to take care of and all of what needs to be done to keep it functioning. You have finances to manage. You have meals to prepare. You have medications to give. You have physical and emotional needs to consider.
You have a lot on your plate.
Looking back, it amazes me that, despite the obvious effects this was having on me, I continued to care for my husband, Patrick, as he struggled with the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s. I wanted to do this. He was my husband. I loved him.
Home care is not for everyone. I think in many respects Pat and I had a unique situation. He was older than I, and while his Alzheimer’s was complicated by the fact that he also suffered from diabetes and asthma, I, on the other hand, was healthy, with no issues that prevented me from caring for him.
But the reality is that the average family caregiver is often the same age as the person being cared for. With health issues of their own, a spouse may find that their physical needs may come into direct conflict with the needs of their loved one. They simply can’t rise to the level of care that is being demanded of them on a daily basis. It is no wonder that many caregivers face depression and emotional breakdowns. Studies have shown that average life expectancy decreases significantly as the caregiver begins to ignore their own physical and emotional needs in favor of the personal care of another.
Facing the limits of our capacity is a painful, yet necessary, need on our part. It may very well be that our loved one may need more care than we are able to provide. And if we have to seek professional help, either coming into the home, or within a nursing unit, we must embrace the fact that they will be able to provide the very care that we may want to give but no longer can.
And isn’t that what we want for our loved ones? The best care we can provide, or find for them.
-Jaime Venditti, 11/23/12