It's 2:30 a.m. and this caregiver can't sleep. So I'm turning to one of my "stress busters," – writing.
Every caregiver needs stress busters.
As we deal with the day-to-day ups and downs of our loved ones, the tension begins to build. There are days when we all want to scream, ignore, tear our hair out, or just get up and walk away – for an hour, a day, a week, forever.
We each have to refine our own coping skills and find some way to release the tensions that build, one on top of the other, like a house of matches, ready to collapse at any moment.
It wasn't any one thing that set me off today.
Sometimes, just the discouragement that comes with watching Charlie deteriorate month after month is enough to make me want to bolt, or at least, stay in bed all day and try to forget this terrible thing called dementia.
This morning the people in our community held a breakfast to honor Veterans. As I watched Charlie walk from the car to the meeting place, I couldn't help but notice how much worse his walking has become.
His mobility problem is not necessarily related to the dementia; it is a gradually progressing after effect of the paralysis from his airplane crash fifty years ago, and the small strokes he has suffered. It's not so noticeable when he's tapping around the house with his cane.
But today, as he tried to navigate curbs and walk the short distance to the club dining room, it was very evident that the wheelchair isn't far away. He has a walker that he stubbornly refuses to use.
Watching him try to interact with others at our table was equally depressing.
He seldom gets out now in situations where there are people other than family members, and they know not to ask him about things that may be difficult for him to respond to.
Not so with strangers.
When they ask him questions about where we came from, service related questions, or other things about his past, they get a blank look from him as his brain tries to come up with an answer. Or, worse yet, he may come up with an answer that is less than the truth as his mind confuses fact with fiction.
Every caregiver has to figure out ways to relieve the stress to which they are constantly subjected.
Your release may come from an hour or two of shopping, even window-shopping. It may be sitting in the park people-watching, a walk on the beach, a yoga class once a week, or curling up with a steamy novel while your loved one is napping.
Without stress-busters we all find ourselves taking our frustrations out on our loved ones, including those who are not the patient. Family life is never the same once we become a caregiver.
Whatever it is that gives you some peace, don't feel guilty about taking some time for yourself.
You, the caregiver, are the most important part of the equation. Without you the patient will either end up in a nursing home or in his final resting place. Do whatever it takes to find yourself some moments of sanity from the crazy world called dementia.
As for me, an hour later, I'm off to bed AGAIN.
"To sleep, perchance to dream---"(William Shakespeare)