A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?'... She fooled them all .... "How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile.
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. To 20 oz.
She replied , "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "and that's the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."
"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced.
So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night... Pick them up tomorrow. For caregivers, this lesson is especially important. You need to put down the "glass of water" and rest.
1 * Accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue!
2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.
3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
4 * Drive carefully... It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.
5 * If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
6 * If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
8 * Never buy a car you can't push.
9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.
10 * Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.
11 * Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.
12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.
13 * When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.
16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.
17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.
18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.
19 * Have an awesome day and know that someone has thought about you today.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
20 *Save the earth..... It's the only planet with chocolate!* I THINK !!!!
I've just been reading about these two concepts for Alzheimer's care, which frankly could completely change the face of caregiving for families dealing with this difficult disease. Given that one of the biggest problems for family caregivers caring for their loved one at home is isolation/depression, the chance to be with a group of other caregivers (and care receivers) in an enjoyable social setting provided by the Memory Cafe is a perfect boost to mental and emotional health. Even respite care, though very necessary, doesn't provide the same kind of supportive, warm, interactive environment in which to simply exchange conversation, ideas and enjoy the company of others who completely understand the challenges of the Alzheimer's journey. It benefits both the caregiver and receiver to have this type of socially stimulating environment. It is not a "support group" for caregivers, since the aim is not to provide education, problem solving, or information, but rather just to have fun!
The concept for Memory Cafes is really beginning to catch on in England, and is now being actively advocated here in the US as well. The focus is on positive reinforcement among peers, laughter, food and simple pleasure in the company of others who are going through the same journey -- without any stigma attached. After all, other caregivers will be much more understanding of behaviors that might cause embarassment in a public setting. According to John T. McFadden, in an article written for the Alzheimer's Reading Room: A Reminder: Why We Need Memory Cafes, "Memory Cafes are, first and foremost, a setting in which persons with memory loss can share fun and laughter with their care partners and friends in a setting free from awkwardness and stigma."
Speaking as a former caregiver, I think this is a truly wonderful idea, one whose time has come! Mr. McFadden has written a newly released book to champion the cause, titled, Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities. He and his wife are planning to visit existing Memory Cafes in England in order to refine a model for use in America. This is a concept we should most definitely support. It just makes sense to tap this important resource we have in each other -- our sense of friendship and community, which can be an invaluable help to those on the front lines of Alzheimer's.
The second concept, which is new to me, but has been practiced at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York for the past 10 years, is overnight care for dementia patients to allow caregivers a good night's rest at home. This innovative concept makes 24-hour use of the nursing home facility, to provide day care from 8:30am to 4 pm and overnight care from 7 pm to 7 am.
The program creates a sort of party atmosphere for the participants, with music, marimbas, and dancing as well as singalongs, crafts, and therapy sessions that last till dawn. There is also provision made for those whose Alzheimer's may be more advanced, which includes soothing sounds, aromatherapy, massage and touch therapy. If you would like to read more about this, here's a link to an Associated Press article appearing in the Wall Street Journal, updated October 1, 2012, titled: Overnight dementia 'camp' allows caregivers rest.
Because so many Alzheimer's patients are very wakeful and sometimes agitated at night (called Sundowning), it creates major problems for families when their sleep is disrupted night after night by this behavior. Again, from a personal experience perspective, this was the single most insurmountable problem for my family -- sleep deprivation for months on end. It errodes a person's health, sanity, and makes the demands of caregiving impossible to continue. It is a major complaint of Alzheimer's caregivers and one of the main reasons for institutionalizing their loved one. It doesn't have to be if there are more programs for overnight respite care developed around the country. It really makes perfect sense to use facilities around the clock (with different shifts of staff, obviously), so that families can rest and resume their care duties after a good night's sleep.
I would love to hear your feedback on these two concepts and any personal stories you'd like to share about how your family is affected by these challenges of caregiving. Feel free to comment below.
OK, I know what you're thinking..."How can I possibly find humor when this illness is so serious?" I understand. There were times I felt that way, too. But, you know what? Lack of a sense of humor can, if not kill you, make you miserable enough to wish it did! As a caregiver, you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, whether you are dealing directly with a loved one's daily care, or doing it though others at a distance. Stress is stress, and it's basically bad for you in whatever form it takes. Humor can wipe stress out, and reset your whole being into a happier, calmer state, and make life a whole lot more liveable. Humor can help you avoid being sucked into seriousness over and over again until it feels like you are mired in quicksand and sinking deeper by the minute. Humor can actually be your lifeline and help preserve your sanity.
So, how, you say, do I get my dose of humor? Well, that's a highly individual and personal choice. There are many answers: funny movies, Erma Bombeck or other humorous columnist or author, a daily dose of humor via the internet, such as a joke a day, the comics in the newspaper (or virtual version) or a page a day calendar with funny sayings. Situational humor may appeal, such as watching a farce or, my own personal fave, Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean has me in stitches with his silent comedic talents. You may have your own favorite stand up comedian. Whatever makes you laugh is good! This isn't just my opinion, by the way, but has been documented through studies, reflecting the benefits of belly laughs.
I actually often found humor in my mother's little habits and sayings. She would often repeat the poem, "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone, they want full measure of your pleasure, but they do not want your woe." I guess if a saying had to be stuck in repeat mode, that was a good one to replay. After hearing that over and over, one day I happened upon a little wooden plaque that made a pun of this poem: "Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone..." I hung this in a prominent spot where it brought a chuckle each time I glanced at it. Little doses of humor count, too. Be creative!
So choose your brand of humor and start laughing your way to better health!
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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