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Caregiver Perspective: Letting Go

Caregiving is hard on many levels. Being a caregiver is emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. My husband suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's, diagnosed at age 53, and has advanced to needing help with all activities of daily living.

The cost of caregiving

For instance, Peter cannot shower himself, needs assistance dressing, forgets the mechanics of toileting, and forgets how to eat some foods. We received our Alzheimer's diagnosis in 2018 when Peter was 53 years old, just 3 and a half years ago.

Watching my husband deteriorate is soul-crushing and emotionally taxing. Somedays are physically exhausting as I help with the tasks of showering and dressing and guiding and assisting with everything he may need.

Spiritually, I ask myself why us? Why is this happening to us? All of this can be deflating if I let it.

A change in perspective

I learned to adjust my perspective which has helped me tremendously. In doing so, I decided to let go of things that don't matter. It's spent simply enjoying time with my husband, even if that means just sitting on the porch holding hands or taking a short walk together.

I'm preserving my energy for things that matter. The dirt on the floor doesn't matter, paper plates don't need to be washed, and not everything needs to be tidy. The dirt on the floor will be there later, the hand that I'm holding won't.

I find that when I'm feeling impatient or agitated, it usually means I'm trying to accomplish too much while being a caregiver. I've taught myself to recognize this, and immediately stop what I'm doing to focus 100 percent of my attention on Peter! I never regret that decision; I can feel myself relaxing and Peter is happier, too.

Emails and text messages and phone calls don't need to be answered immediately. I try to block off time to respond to anything important. Everyone in my life is well aware of the commitment required in being a caregiver.

They will wait.

Smart scheduling makes a difference

Sometimes when I become impatient it's because I haven't allowed enough time to accomplish the task. For instance, getting to a doctor's appointment on time. Making sure there is plenty of time for the shower and the shave and breakfast and letting the dogs out and all the things that need doing. Allowing myself an extra half hour to deal with unexpected interruptions helps us to slow down and reduce stress.

Scheduling appointments first thing in the morning always makes me anxious. Trying to rush and get out the door, so I schedule appointments later in the day allowing more time to get ready and arrive on time. When my energy level is lower and I'm calmer, so is Peter.

Being a caregiver

Additionally, Alzheimer's is unpredictable and surprises are a common occurrence. Behavior changes, mood swings, a decline in ability, and memory are just a few of the things caregivers deal with. It can be frustrating repeating things over and over and tiring helping a loved one with simple tasks all day.

I try to remember that Peter is not giving me a hard time, he's having a hard time.

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