But the topic this morning isn't about Mom, but sharing some of the things I learned and hopefully helping some of you fighting similar battles.
- Get yourself in a support group. You'll learn so much from other people going through different aspects of the disease. A therapist suggested Dad get in a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers and that's where our lessons started. The idea of an open discussion with strangers wasn't something in Dad's generational profile. He grew up feeling family problems were private and you "always do your own dirty laundry." Well, Dad was willing to go if I was, so off we went!
- Remember you're not alone. For so many of us it's difficult to ask for help, but when you're in a support group, it's not asking for help but sharing the challenges.
- It's okay to be angry and frustrated. My Dad always held it in. No matter how bad things got he'd always tell people life was good, yet he'd cry a little every night. Being in a support group, he learned that it was okay to be upset.
- You can't take care of your loved one if you don't take care of yourself. It was almost impossible to get Dad to leave Mom's side and simply do something for his own well-being. "Your mother took care of me my whole life; now it's time for me to take care of her." I never succeeded in getting Dad to do much just for himself, but our Thursday morning Support Group followed by lunch and getting him out of the house for a few hours became a weekly event we both grew to cherish.
- There's an outstanding book called "The 36-Hour Day." It helped me understand what Mom was going through and started to teach me to stop arguing with her and just go with the flow. If you're dealing with any level of challenges under the dementia umbrella, pick up a copy. I found that I could read it like a book of business case studies, picking out the problems that best suited what I was feeling and our situation. Just click on the cover on the right to link to Amazon.
- Last on the list, find the moments that make you smile. Even with Alzheimer's, there were still plenty of memories to make in our family. We'd watch for those isolated moments where the "sun would come out from behind the clouds" and Mom would share something incredibly poignant. There were also moments that we simply had to laugh about - like the time she watched Father of the Bride II and was convinced she was having a baby. It was a half hour of Lamaze-like breathing, leaving Dad and I almost believing I was about to have another sibling!
Most important of all is to remember you're not alone and take of yourself first. That brings me full circle to wishing you a terrific Sunday; time for those eleven-second hugs with people you care the most about and a day filled with smiles.
Happy Sunday and Happy Birthday Mom!