SRAinformed :: August 2017 August 2017 - Page 7

SORE POINT #3: SORE POINT #4: LONE-SOLDIER SYNDROME NOT ANTICIPATING WHAT’S COMING NEXT Caregivers too often fall into “lone-soldier” mode thinking without even realizing it. Feeling responsible for a loved one, they assume the full burden, marching forward without regard to their own emotional needs. Eventual result: one badly wounded soldier who’s not much good to anyone. In reality, it takes a whole army to manage caregiving effectively. Failing to have emotional outlets where you can vent and “be yourself,” and failing to let others share the practical burdens, results in a recipe for giving up. SOLUTIONS: Let go of old ideas that asking for help is a sign of weakness. If ever you needed other people in your life, it’s now. n Join a caregiver support group. “I push families to join a support group,” says geriat- ric psychiatrist Ken Robbins of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s really hard just to talk to friends. They get tired of listening to you or have little to offer besides a pat on the back.” Groups offer a level of emotional support and group-think problem solving that’s different from what a mental health counselor provides in one-on-one sessions. n See a counselor if you’re experiencing depression. It’s no stigma to get help; caregivers (and especially dementia caregiv- ers) are in fact at higher risk for depression. n n Arrange monthly or weekly respite breaks. Like firefighters, caregivers tend to stomp out one flaring crisis after another. Unfortunately, it’s an exhausting way to live and fuels the stressful feeling that your life is at the mercy of an unpredictable force in your home. SOLUTIONS: Make contingency plans. “Live in the moment” is good advice to help you manage stress, but don’t do so at the expense of a little advance planning. Once a week, devote an hour to focusing on “if this, then this” scenarios. This type of thinking helps you begin the process of considering where you might find more help, what kind of home modifications would help and how you’d get them done, alternative living situations, and so on. n Make lists of your options, or of places and people you can contact to solve potential problems common to your situation. n Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s condition(s) and how it/they typically progress. Caregivers are sometimes reluctant to “read too far ahead” for fear they can’t relate to later disease stages. They’re also prey to fear of “jinxing” — worrying that if they think about something, it might come true. Diseases are realities, not wishes. Ask your loved one’s doctor to be candid about the prognosis and course of the disease, read info online, and ask others who’ve been there. n If your loved one has dementia, understand the various stages, where your loved one likely is, and what to do next. n SENIORRESOURCEASSOCIATION.ORG 7