Can how you think effect your Alzheimer's caregiving effort? Can how you act effect your caregiving effort?
Can how you talk and the words you use effect your caregiving effort?
Can how you speak to a person living with Alzheimer's effect how they feel and act?
You bet it can.
There are about 30,000 total comments on this website (I lost some when I changed systems). Add about 6,000 emails to that total (I lost some of those also).
I read every comment and every email (well I am a little behind on the emails right now).
Here is what I learned.
There is a continuum of Alzheimer's caregiving that runs from Burden to Joy.
Over the last couple of years, I have watched a long list of caregivers move along the continuum from Burden to Joy. I watch. I pay attention.
I now realize that I have to explain myself better, let me start by saying I started at Burden. I started there even though I chose to be an Alzheimer's caregiver.
If you have been here for a while you know, I banged my head against the wall .
I ran the hamster wheel .
I took the Alzheimer's roller coaster ride a 100 or more times. I am no different than every other caregiver in that respect.
I'm still on the continuum from Burden to Joy. When it is all said and done, I'll let everyone know if I made it to the promised land of Alzheimer's caregiving -- Joy.
I actually got the idea for this article yesterday. I was in the grocery store and when it came time to order I said, "I'll take a pound of Boar's Head Mesquite turkey, please". The woman next to me made a little noise. I turned my head to look at her. She smiled and said, "you must have had good parents". I answered I did. Later I thought, well I sill have one, why did I say, did?
You know what else I do. When I am cashing out at the grocery store register I say thank you when I am handed my receipt. And then, I look the person that packed my groceries in the bag right in the eye and I say, thank you.
Over the years, especially when I was younger, older people would say to me, you are very courteous, you are very respectful.
Now we get to my point. If you want to think positive you have to start by training your brain to think positive. You have to think and do the positive.
So when I say please and thank you, I usually get a positive response. At the minimum a nice smile. My brain registers everyone of these smiles and I feel happy -- and positive.
I am now remembering the first time I thought to myself, it is a lot easier to think positively than negatively. It is a tremendous burden to think negatively in my opinion.
When you think positively you feel good, kinda bright eyed and bushy tailed. When you think negatively you feel bad, kinda like a very mild mild form of depression.
Well, I am sure about how you feel when you think positive, and I am not really sure what it is like to be constantly negative. I am sure it is easier to think positive though.
So when Alzheimer's strikes, you are going over to the dark side for a while. The burden psychologically and emotionally is enormous.
I actually thought and concluded a long time ago that one of the most sinister sides of Alzheimer's is that it not only kills the brain of a person living with Alzheimer's, it is going to try and kill the brain of the Alzheimer's caregiver.
How else can you explain that 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers suffer from depression. Thank goodness most come back fast once Alzheimer's is out of their life.
So you see, when you live a life surrounded by Alzheimer's it is very easy to go over to the dark side.
For me, I decided to get out of the Alzheimer's cave, and start living life. Actually, I decided that Dotty and I would begin living our life.
Shortly thereafter, I took my step to the left and discovered the parallel universe I call Alzheimer's World .
I looked Alzheimer's right in the eye. I was no longer banging my head against the wall or riding the hamster wheel. I admit, I still ride the Alzheimer's roller coaster, but not by choice. Its just part of the job.
You have to convince your brain to think positive. Your brain is no different than your stomach. You control your brain, it does not control you.
So if you start doing little positive things over and over, sooner or later your brain will come along for the ride.
Here is a good example. When I was over on the dark side, burden, when Dotty would continually tell she was hungry, I would get upset, angry, confused and bent out of shape. Then I would get bent worse when Dotty would act negatively to me.
After I made it to the World, I accepted that Dotty was going to be hungry all the time. I can actuall predict when Dotty is going to say she is hungry. I can see it coming. Most of the time I chuckle to myself. No, I am not perfect. Sometimes I snap at Dotty and tell her you just ate, or worse, I try to explain to her she just ate.
Dotty and I have gotten better at having this conversation. Usually I say, okay, and tell her we will eat soon. Sometimes when I snap at her instead of getting bent she says, I don't care, I'm still hungry. I laugh every time she comes back with that one. Positive thought.
It is important to think positive. I can assure you, if you think negative the person living with Alzheimer's will be more than happy to accommodate you. And, so will Alzheimer's disease.
After spending two days away from Dotty , I am not convinced that the cumulative acts we practice each day are what are most important.
This explains in part why we had a good, positive experience.
More Insight and Advice for Caregivers
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room