Are 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:
Caring for people with dementia is reported to impact a person’s immune system for up to 3 years after their caregiving experience ends, thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves [The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2009)].
16% of caregivers working full time have a Physical Health Index (PHI) score of 77.4%, which is significantly lower than 83.0% for noncaregivers (Gallup Healthways Wellbeing Survey).
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 →
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 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 →
Well-being is at greater risk for care partners in dementia care primarily because it requires recognizing, 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 →
“A partner paradigm strengthens our interconnectedness and can bring more awareness to the kindness and support that is right under our nose.”
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 →
NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute the University of Michigan Health System as the original creator and include a link to this article.