I recently read a disturbing news report about a 69-year-old man in Florida who apparently killed his 89-year-old mother and then committed suicide. Police reported that he left a note stating that his mother, who lived with him, had advanced Alzheimer’s disease and that he was having extreme difficulty caring for her. The story absolutely breaks my heart. While I have certainly never felt that low, as a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, I do have some insight into the feelings of overwhelming hopelessness this man must have endured to be driven to such a horrific action.
Recently, I appeared on the Today show with Kathie Lee and Hoda to share some of my best tips for caregivers. The segments go by in a flash, so I thought I’d share a bit more about each of the tips I discussed on the show (see the video below).
Like so many other family caregivers, I often place my own care on the back burner because I’m focused on the immediate needs of those I’m caring for. But that self-neglect eventually catches up with me — sometimes dramatically. I share one eye-opening experience in my new book, Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving. An excerpt:
BREAKING UPDATE 5/15: Oklahoma becomes the first state in the nation to enact the CARE Act! SB 1536, also known as the CARE Act, has been signed by Governor Mary Fallin and will take effect November 1, 2014. The bill will help the 600,000 family caregivers in Oklahoma when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.
A colleague recently cautioned me about using the term "respite" because she thought people wouldn't know its meaning. I found this ironic, because I actually believe it's more likely that most of us don't know how it feels rather than what it means in terms of getting a break from caring for family and friends. We rarely get to experience time completely away from the responsibility and stress of caregiving.
I pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, slammed the shift into park and began to sob. The cries came from deep in my belly and slowly worked their way up to my tear-strewn face, emerging messily in a volcanic eruption of tears and snot. Yuck. No tissues in the car, of course. I tried to stop, but it wasn't happening. And I got loud. I noticed a few people looking at me but I didn't give a whip. Ahh ... the slow burn of emotions and the stress of caregiving.
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