I always go off track on Sunday mornings, but yesterday I just couldn't seem to get it together to finish this post. While this has little to do with photography, it has everything to do with life. There are so many artists who I've talked to over the last year who are dealing with the challenge of Alzheimer's somewhere in their family. So, at the risk of violating one of the supposedly sacred rules of blogging, I'm starting the week completely away from the primary SCU theme.
For the last two years, I've managed and written the blog for the Friendship Centers here in Sarasota. The Friendship Centers are a non-profit 501c3 providing support to the community through Health Services, the Caregiver Resource Center, the Senior Centers and an extensive list of events and activities. Their slogan "People Helping People" couldn't be more appropriate.
In November of 2011, my Dad and I attended our first support group meeting at the Caregiver Resource Center. It was for caregivers dealing with Alzheimer's, and the battle was raging for my mother. Our Thursday morning meetings became a weekly tradition, always finishing with lunch at a local favorite. We'd sit outside and always take a trip down Memory Lane, talking about fun memories of the past and his love for Mom. They were together sixty-six years.
Alzheimer's is a horrible disease that robs a family of a loved one, little by little. My Dad was determined to keep those precious moments of the past alive and make a few new memories as well. I remember him once saying, "No matter how bad this gets I'm going to keep squeezing every precious memory out the good moments that come along and hang to them."
Last week I shared a post on the Friendship Centers' blog with tips to help Caregiver's get through the holidays. If this helps just one of you to remember you're not alone, then this post served a purpose.
The holidays are an especially challenging time of year for caregivers. I remember times with my mother when my Dad wanted to go back to some of the holiday traditions, but he just couldn't find the path. Frustrated, because things had changed so much in his life with my mother's Alzheimer's, we had to create new "traditions" and ways to celebrate.
My wife Sheila and my mother had a special bond, because of the trust Sheila had established with Mom. She never argued with her, corrected or contradicted anything Mom said. Instead, she just worked to appreciate the moment. That's Sheila with Mom in the image above at dinner one night at holiday time. In a lucid moment, Mom had a mini-panic attack when she realized how much things were changing. Two minutes later, just because of the love Sheila shared, Mom was smiling and back on track enjoying the evening.
The seven tips below were recently published in the Caregiver Resource Center's newsletter, and are so crucial to helping caregivers through the holidays. There was just one more point I wanted to add: Remember you're not alone in your feelings, the anxiety of the holidays or in dealing with the challenge of stress. Most important of all, as a caregiver you've got to put yourself first, especially with your health. You can't help your loved one if you're not taking care of yourself.
Seven Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress for Caregivers
Put together a support network: Include family, friends, community agencies and service providers and get comfortable delegating.
Learn to say ”No:" ‘ No ’ as being self empowering to allow yourself and your care partner the ability to enjoy the holidays in a new way.
Don’t aim for perfection: Be flexible when you need to be and change your expectations to fit the current situation.
Maintain your health: Take care of yourself, take your medications and doctor appointments, exercise when you can and enjoy a moderate holiday menu.
Start your own traditions: Find an alternative way to ease your burdens; create new holiday traditions that respect your needs and your care partner’s needs.
Prepared for the unexpected: It’s the holidays and plans may change and probably will, so what to do?.... change it if you can and if you can’t, accept it and move on. There is so much we are no longer able to control.
Remember to breathe: Some deep breaths will help relieve stress and may help you to find the humor in some situations.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.