Health & Lifestyles
Caregiving journey is full of self-doubt
High on my list of "definitive statements" is this: There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. The journey of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia will be filled with trial and error. My advice? Learn from your mistakes, and if you should find something that works, stick with it for as long as it is successful. Even your positive attributes may lead to problems — for instance, caring for a loved one more than yourself. This is an area in which I fully admit I failed miserably! I let my health wane throughout the 10 years I cared for my dad and continued on long after his passing. My foremost excuse was that I'd already had my fill of health professionals while caring for my father. More than enough to last me a lifetime. It was almost a year and half after Dad's passing before I finally saw a doctor for myself. Please don't make this same mistake. The healthier you are, the better you will be as a caregiver.Some tips that will make this journey easier: Become a student of your patient — personality, body language and facial expressions. Also, learn to stand your ground with all medical professionals. No one will understand your loved one the way you do. Physicians spend, at best, 10 to 15 minutes with a patient three or four times a year. We, on the other hand, are with them daily, and may be the only ones who truly understand what's going on with them. The best caregivers are the ones who learn from their own mistakes and then try to educate themselves about their ongoing situation. Allow the empathy from inside your soul to guide you. You may find that your instincts are usually correct.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, "While I Still Can," and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness" can be found at whileistillcanbook.com, stayingafloatbook.com, amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.