Caring for Someone With Dementia—And Caring For Yourself

Caregiver and patient_FullAre you taking care of a loved one with memory loss? If so, are you taking care of you? Learning to care for yourself is one of the greatest challenges in caregiving. Here are a few statistics that speak to the importance and difficulty of caring for you, the caregiver:

So what do you do? Feelings of guilt, shame and worry may be familiar to the burned-out caregiver, but they are not healthy or successful motivators for positive change and self-care. Mindfulness offers a kinder, more effective path.  Continue reading

Parkinson’s and Dance: New Partners

Herschel and Karen Ele

Karen and Herschel Ele

There’s a dance revolution going on—for people with Parkinson’s and their partners. And the U-M Turner Senior Wellness Program is right in step. Here is one caregiver’s story about how Turner’s Movement & Dance Class changed his life.

My wife Karen and I have participated in many support groups for Parkinson’s Disease (PD). I also belong to a support group for caregivers of patients with a dementia diagnosis. For us, the Parkinson’s Movement & Dance Class is the best of all of them.

A better relationship

Clearly, something very positive happened while taking the class.

Karen Ele (in purple jacket) at Turner's Parkinson's Movement and Dance Class

Karen Ele (in rear in purple jacket) at Turner’s Parkinson’s Movement & Dance Class

Participating in the class has contributed to a better relationship between us. Karen has looked forward to the classes each week, and although she finds them challenging, it gives her something to be engaged in.

As a care partner, I have gradually felt more and more at home, even though at first dance was outside my comfort zone. I have felt happier, healthier, more outgoing and more relaxed as a result of the class.  Continue reading

Care Partner: 8 Healthy Steps for the Emerging Caregiver in Dementia Care

Well-being is at greater risk for care partners in dementia care primarily because it requires care partner2recognizing, identifying and responding to what can be an extremely insidious shift in roles, relationships and responsibilities. Emerging care partners are learning to respond to an illness that cannot be seen while being simultaneously assaulted by the stigma that often comes with a diagnosis of memory loss. Unlike other age-related illness, Alzheimer’s and other related dementias can result in enormous shifts in personal identity, in addition to how a couple and a family function privately and socially. Consider the following suggestions for cultivating well-being while care partnering:

ONE: Use the word care partner more; see how this impacts perception. Adults living with memory loss will thank you for it. You may thank you for it. Continue reading

Care Partner: The Emerging Caregiver

“A partner paradigm strengthens our interconnectedness and can bring more awareness to the kindness and support that is right under our nose.”care partner1

When do you realize you are a family caregiver? Responses in my experience range from the darkly humorous to the completely visceral, such as: “When my husband started calling me ‘mom.’” Emerging caregivers are often not new to caregiving at all, but rather isolated from the pack. This delays significant steps toward caregiver support and activities that contribute to well-being and caregiver identity, such as joining groups for information, support, stress reduction or counseling. There may also be significant resistance to the word “caregiver” and associated activities. It can feel one-sided and lonely; a loaded word fraught with fear, judgment from friends and comparisons to other family members who may have carried this title in the past.

Emerging as a caregiver can be an uncomfortable and vulnerable time, a trust free-fall. A sense of loss and disappointment is completely natural. Continue reading