I’ve often said that being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is the hardest job there is because it’s a 24/7 thankless, monotonous, mind numbing job.
It’s similar to taking care of a child. Except this child has zero short-term memory, limited common sense and problem solving skills and a quickly diminishing capacity to communicate. Combined with mood swings and an obstinate disposition, (which my mother so far — knock wood — doesn’t have), and you have someone who will, over time, suck the life right out of you.
My mother told us again and again last week how we needed to move a large radio from one room to another. She was passionate in her plea to convince us why this needed to happen — and none of it made sense. I heard her say this over and over again. Now imagine hearing it a hundred times for a year. It’s mental torture. And very stressful!
Getting my mom dressed and undressed, bathing her, getting her to take her medication and even buckling her seat belt became jobs far bigger than they needed to be. Many things are difficult and confusing for my mom, which means nothing is easy for the caregiver.
Patience with clenched teeth becomes the norm.
In a recent Huffington Post article titled “How to Best Help Alzheimer’s Caregivers? Teach Them Mindfulness,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marguerite Manteau-Rao expands on the difficulty of being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and recommends practicing mindfulness as a way to combat the stress. Mindfulness is described as the practice of “the cultivation of intentional moment-to-moment awareness, without judgment”, and has been found to produce significant results in terms of stress reduction.
Mindfulness practice is especially relevant to the predicament of dementia caregiving. It can give caregivers the inner resources to sustain themselves emotionally and physically over the long haul and is a tool they can always fall back on moment to moment, regardless of the intensity of the care relationship. Mindfulness can also help guard against the occurrence of depression.
Being mindful and in the moment with my mom was a blessing for me. But this was fairly simple because I was with her for a short time. I can imagine the difficulty in remaining mindful day after day, year after year.
Go to “How to Best Help Alzheimer’s Caregivers? Teach Them Mindfulness” to learn more about combating stress with mindfulness. And for those of you who live in the Shenandoah Valley and are interested in reducing stress in your everyday life, check out MindfulValley.com for information on conscious living.