Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Generally they run the gamut. first of all depending on what stage your family member is in, this will dictate some of the feelings. They tend to vary and have a significant range, sometimes for no apparent reason and sometimes for a very good reason. At the two opposite ends of the spectrum are HOPE and UTTER DESPAIR. They are intense and strong, it is unusual to have a mundane day. There is the psychological issue of coming to terms early on after the diagnosis, and knowing and accepting there is no cure-that can be mentally exhausting as is any grief process. Mental overload and exhaustion leads to anger, sadness, anxious feelings and sometimes physical symptoms and problems, more headaches, irritable bowel, aches and pains, back problems, neck problems, lots of signs of mental stress, the physical complaints are really, the stress on the brain stresses the body, the immune system is weakened etc etc. Throw in the fact that Alzheimer's caregivers don't really have too much time to take care of themselves, not getting enough sleep, not eating right etc etc and you have symptoms compounded.
Then there is the actual physical exhaustion, staying up all night, perhaps trying to balance a full time or (more than full time job), raising your own kids or grandkids, and then caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is a set-up for overload. The physical exhaustion leads to more anxiety and feelings often of depression, not to mention the fact that when you actually CAN get a few hours of sleep you may be so anxious and frustrated over caring for you loved one and the hopeless and helpless feelings that often pervade, you actually can't shut your brain off and let yourself sleep.
Sometimes it is hard to slow down, throw in all the appointments you have to keep for your loved one, in addition to all the other aspects that go into balancing a modern american family- other relationships suffer.
Does it have to be this way? Where do you draw the line? How do you break the cycle. Are there some happy caregivers filled with hope, maybe even joy? There are, maybe far and few between. Hope and joy often tend to come in snippets. They are easy to miss if you can't slow down a bit. There is no one secret..........


fred hecker said...

Thank you doctor, you've captured the despair I used to feel. There may not a one secrets, but I found that guided imagery worked quite well for my burnout.
It is fantastic stress buster, it only takes minutes and you don't have to leave the house to use it. For a membership commitment (that you can cancel at any time), I found a free guided imagery CD at www.caregiversecrets.com

Joseph J. Sivak MD said...

Excellent advice Fred, and the more one practices, the better you get at it and the more effective it becomes at releasing stress. Excellent advice.

karen said...

I am all and everything in your post. But still trucking along. Making myself ride my stationary bike 2 to 4 miles a day is what I strive for daily and that gives me something other than caregiving on my mind. And exercise releases some stress.

Joseph J. Sivak MD said...

Awesome Karen, you have got to take care of you before you can take care of everything and everyone else. blocking the time and doing the bike is great, (I am sure some days are easier to ride than others), but it is a fantastic stress releaser.

Talking about the book with the Lake Superior wind....... a calm day