There is no way to successfully run and hide from stress when you are the caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Stress is both normal and expected, and should not cause you to be afraid. Distress, on the other hand goes beyond the boundaries of stress and takes you into a state of danger and desperation. If you are in distress you need to stop being a care giver and find an alternate means of caring for your loved one. The trick is in deciding on which side of the line you fall.
The purpose of this article is to help reduce the stress that a caregiver must face.
There are two categories of stress. The first is stress over things that you cannot control. The second is stress over things that you can control.
Stress over things that you cannot Control
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, ongoing disease, with the average life span once diagnosed of around eight years. Unlike other diseases, those years are not filled with the hope that if the loved one is given anti-biotics or if the loved one is cared for well enough, there will be a day when the disease is gone and the loved one is returned to you as you once knew them. There may be good days here and there, but the general pattern is a decline.
Adding to the realities of the disease itself is the fact that for many people the support system of friends and family that are supposed to help, do not, leaving, in many cases, a sparse few to help handle the burden. Furthermore, even those who are willing to help out for a short term find it too draining to help for the years that an Alzheimer’s victim may need care. Unfortunately, you cannot force others to help or other family members to pull their weight.
Additionally, you may need to make difficult decisions for your father, mother, or spouse such as deciding when they can no longer drive, or that they may need in-home or nursing-home care. These decisions are difficult and bring guilt and more stress.
Stress over things that you Can Control
The largest cause of stress that you have control over is planning. Failure to plan for the future needs of the cared for and the caregiver is an enormous source of stress.
Educate yourself. There are ample resources available by those who have gone through similar situations as yours and from those who have made a career of studying the disease. The more you know, the better position you are in to make good decisions.
Anticipate. Think of what the future needs may be by planning for the contingencies. Do not wait until the last moment to call a nursing home attempting to place a loved one. Many wait because they did not want to face the realities of the situation. Others lack planning because the event that led to the placement in a nursing home was unexpected. Whatever the cause maybe, the answer they will most likely get from the nursing home will not be a pleasant one. Although the need may be now, there may not be a bed available for weeks, moths, or even years. Compounding the problem, when you are desperate to place your loved one in a home because you have waited until the last moment, rarely will they be placed in the home that you desire. Putting them in your second, third, or tenth choice will only add to the guilt and stress of the situation.
This is an easy problem to avoid. Although it is an unpleasant future, chances are your loved one will need some sort of additional care. It costs nothing to fill out applications for different programs and homes. When your name comes to the top of the list, a week, month, or years later, you do not need to accept the opening. Even if you do not accept the opening, the name will not be placed at the bottom of the list. It will be kept on the side, like on top, until you are ready. That way, when an emergency occurs, or when it is just that time, placement into a program or home of your choosing is much, much easier.
Third, consult with an Elder Law Attorney. When you need heart surgery you do not try to perform the surgery yourself, nor do you go under the knife of your general physician. Elder Law issues such as Medicaid Title 19 are very complex and a slight misstep, even an innocent one, can have significant impact on your loved ones financial well being. When it comes to Elder Law Issues, too many people use the lawyer who closed a property deal for them, or one who has dabbled in the field by doing one or two Medicaid Title 19 cases. The law in this area is complex. Consult an attorney who specializes in the field. An experienced Elder Law attorney can help you formulate a plan that will protect your loved ones assets to the extent allowable by law.