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How to Guard Against Martyrdom: Making Sacrifices as an Alzheimer's Caregiver

Caregivers, family, and friends of those who have Alzheimer’s may choose to make necessary sacrifices in light of their loved one's diagnosis and subsequent descent into the disease. In doing so, there are quite a few mental health items to be aware of in order to take care of yourself and, therefore, offer the best care possible to your loved one. I found one of them is martyrdom.

Notice the signs of martyrdom

The definition of "martyr" as it relates to this topic is a victim or constant sufferer, a person who sacrifices something of great value for the sake of principle (Merriam Webster). Now, to be clear, caregivers are sacrificing something of great value, and I’d wager something that your loved one never wanted you to have to sacrifice for them. But, nonetheless, this is where life has brought us.

Feeling like a martyr can manifest itself as agitation at the mundane, oversized reactions to simple problems, and internal or external dialogue of “why me?” Here are a few examples:

  • A raving diatribe outside of the doctor’s office for your loved one’s appointment because someone took “your spot”
  • Angry comments to the hairdresser who has to reschedule your appointment, after you’ve already lined up care
  • Ripping into your sibling because he forgot you had a commitment: “I ask you for ONE day a week.”

Any of these sound familiar? You’re not alone. I would hazard a guess that everyone who’s reading this post has done one or more of the items on that list. And it’s OK. But, when it does happen, take a step back, inhale a deep breath and consider it a warning sign that you need to check in with your feelings.

Check-in with your feelings

In my experience, and I’m not a mental health professional, it’s important to remember to lead with love. Your mind can easily poison the well, especially with something as draining as 24-hour care of another human, with negative thoughts. One example of this is: “Why is this happening to me?”.

If you find yourself exhibiting the signs and asking yourself such questions, find time to take a moment and reassess. Reframe the situation as “I get to spend this time with my mom,” “I get to be the one who gets to know my dad in this way,” “It’s my honor to be able to do this for my loved one.” It’s a simple thing, and you may not wholeheartedly believe it in those rough moments, but finding gratitude is a practice, so keep at it.

Also, find time to engage in an activity that brings you joy whenever possible. It could be as little a thing as a glass of wine and quiet time or as simple as a bubble bath after your loved one has gone to sleep. These are a few ideas.

You may also want to consider some of the self-care activities mentioned in this article about caregiver burnout or search “self-care” on ParkinsonsDisease.net to be presented with other ideas.

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