Can't Take Being an Alzheimer's Caregiver Anymore?

Watching your once mentally sharp parent decline before your eyes. The parent's uncontrollable anger and outbursts. The devastation of memory loss. Worrying that your parent will wander away from home and never come back. When you are taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's, you are trying to cope with your own grief over their illnesses, help them with their feelings of loss, keep them safe, make your immediate family reasonably content and work at your job. You are wearing out, but caregiver guilt won't let you say – enough!

Listen to Your Own Needs

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Most of us, when we have a vulnerable loved one, want to take care of them. We aren't excited about having strangers take over the care of our loved ones, and our loved ones normally aren't excited about that idea, either.

However, outside care eventually becomes a necessity for many. When we are talking about elder care, often people jump immediately to the "nursing home" solution, since in days past, that was pretty much the only choice people had once someone couldn't stay at home, or with family. Things have changed now, but that doesn't mean it is easy.

With more options for care comes more confusion. When is in-home help enough? Is assisted living the best option? And what about nursing homes? Are they the nightmares of the past?

That Promise You Made

Hindsight can make us pretty smart. Sometimes, when our parents are younger and healthier, we make promises: "I promise I'll never put you in a nursing home." We should not tell our parents we'll never put them in a nursing home, since we have no idea what the future will bring. Also, that promise just underscores their view of the old style nursing homes, which were truly depressing places.

Unfortunately, there are still areas of the country where nursing homes are far from excellent, and our whole nation has a long way to go before most homes are what they should be. But we are talking about your reality here. We are talking about what is happening right now.

You may have made a promise that you could need to break. If that's so, remember that by caring for your parent for as long as you have has honored the spirit of the promise (I snitched that phrase from a terrific hospice chaplain). The idea is that you've done all you can to keep your elders safe and to help them through some tough times. However, times have gotten tougher than you expected, and you must look for other options. That's okay.

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

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