DEPRESSION AND THE CAREGIVER GUILT

I regularly meet with sons, daughters, and spouses of an elder client who is failing. These close relatives often attempt to be the “care giver” for the failing elder, fulfilling their wish to remain at home.
While that is a laudable goal and one that many share, I always caution the caregiver to be very careful about burnout from trying to do too much, both mentally and physically. Care giving for a failing elder is stressful and when it is an around-the-clock obligation, the health of the caregiver is sometimes at risk.
Solutions are very family specific, depending upon who is available. One important theme is for a caregiver to be self-forgiving. I like the myths that my friends at Right at Home, a home health agency recently listed. Each of these (with my paraphrasing) is not true:
• I need to be perfect – no;
• I should only have positive thoughts about what I am doing – no;
• I shouldn’t talk about what I’m experiencing – no;
• I shouldn’t let others know about what is going on – no;
• My needs need to take a back seat to the services I am providing –no;
• Other caregivers are better at this than me and have a better attitude –no;
• I should do it all myself – no.
Caregivers – protect yourself. Dark, cold winter days will increase the chance for depression. Get some relief and thank you for what you do.

PLANNING FOR CHRONIC ILLNESS

Sayings are repeated because they contain some real truth. Two that I often repeat to clients are: “Life is what you experience while you are planning other things” and, in contrast, “Failure to plan Is  planning to fail”. Both contain truth and apply when you or a spouse receive a diagnosis of a long term and perhaps fatal, chronic illness.

 

Aside from the personal sorrow and fear when the diagnosis comes, we need to be responsible for those in our families who will be involved in care-giving and care decisions. That is done with a thorough review of the health prognosis, evaluation of assets, projected care costs, and projected impact on the family. Elder law attorneys (like us) are used to dealing with these complicated questions and helping families find the right answers for them. Frequently, it may mean modification of a house for wheelchairs and access, changing the registration of title and accounts, moving to a single-floor residence, adding on a suite to a child’s home, preparing care agreements, setting up trusts for long-term care, investigating financial resources, including Medicaid and veterans benefits, identifying care-givers, and, most of all – making the best of the situation for all the loved ones who will be affected.

 

There are answers but usually not ones you can “do yourself”, because the issues are complicated. We look forward to talking with you in a no-cost initial conference that can lead to the best answers.

Dotty’s Ten Tips for communication with a person living with Dementia

1. Do you know what makes me feel secure? A smile
2. Did you ever consider? When you get uptight it makes me feel tense and uptight.
3. Instead of getting all bent out of shape when I do something that seems perfectly normal to me and perfectly NUTTY to you. Just smile at me it takes the edge off the situation.
4. Please try to understand and remember my short term memory is gone – don’t talk so fast, or use so many words.
5. When you use one of those long winded explanations of me- I’ll say No because I can’t tell what you are asking me to do. Keep your words few and simple so I can follow you.
6. Slow down. Don’t sneak up on me and start talking. Did I mention I like smiles?
7. Make sure you have my attention before you start blabbering away. If you don’t have my attention, I’ll be confused and say NO.
8. My attention span and ability to pay attention are not so good, please make eye contact with me before you start talking. A nice smile always gets my attention. Did I mention that before?
9. Sometimes you talk to me like I’m a child or idiot. How would you like it is I did that to you? Go to your room and think about this. Don’t come back and tell me you are sorry, I won’t know what you are talking about. Just stop doing it and we will get along.
10. You talk too much – instead try taking my hand and leading the way. I need a guide not a person to nag me.

Resource: Alzheimer’s Reading Room