In The Early Days Of Caregiving, How Do I Stop Being Angry and Frustrated?
Many times when we are just getting used to the diagnosis, we haven’t yet assimilated it into our minds. We easily become frustrated or angry because we are remembering our loved one before the disease… the way they used to be. We also might be comparing the elicited behavior to what we would have done in the same situation.
At times like these, we need to:
- Remind ourselves that loved-our ones are doing the best that they can.
- Remember that their brain no longer functions the way ours does, or the way theirs used to be.
- Get a book about your loved-one’s personal diagnosis if there is one, and read it. Become familiar with what you will be facing: changes in behavior, or challenges you will need to meet so that you are not blind-sided. Anticipating changes helps you feel more in control when new things happen, because you have read about them.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Having dementia is new to them too. They may be frightened by the diagnosis and what the future will bring. Openly discuss their fears and give reassurance that you will be there to help them every step of the way. Convince them that you are a team who works together! Know that they are every bit as scared as you are, but they have no control over how their behavior may change, how their memory will falter, or the problems this causes. Blame the disease, not them. This will help keep their self-esteem intact longer. The more you understand and internalize the frustrations and fears they face daily, the less angry and frustrated you will be.
- In most cases, it is better to share the diagnosis and course of the disease with the person diagnosed. They know that something is wrong, and they feel the fear and frustration of not being able to do what they once could. They just don’t know why. Sharing the reason gives them validation that what they are feeling is real and that it’s due to a physical problem, not imagination. Disclosing their diagnosis to others takes this one step further. Explaining to others what having dementia is like puts your loved one in the “teacher’s role”, which makes them feel good.
- Every dementia patient is unique. No one knows what parts of the brain will be affected…this seems random. No one will be a carbon copy of the next person. Therefore, what happens to someone else won’t necessarily happen to your loved-one!
- You may no longer be able to plan out your day and have the outcome be exactly as you have planned. Ten years from now will that matter? No! Get the important things done, but learn to judge each day not by what you accomplished, but instead ‘was it a happy day for both of you’. Was it free from frustration and anxiety for your loved-one?
- Exercise together, whether walking the mall, your neighborhood, or your local YMCA. Vigorous exercise helps to “clear brain fog” and keep the brain functioning better. It also releases endorphins that make you feel happier.
- Dedicate some time to get away from your loved-one and socialize with friends while you can still leave your loved-one at home. This preserves your identity so your sense of “you” doesn’t fade away as the isolation increases. If you can’t leave your loved-one alone, ask your friends or relatives to help. Hire a companion service that has training with dementia folks. Once you are in the Alzheimer’s Association database, you are also eligible for some no-cost respite care so you can get away. Independent of that, they will also provide a caregiver so you can attend one of their support groups. You just need to give them prior notice.
- Don’t argue with someone who has dementia. You will never win.
- Learn the art of distraction if you are faced with the same question over and over. Don’t say, “You asked me that 5 minutes ago.” Just answer as if it were the first time you heard the question…or segue into another topic. Don’t let your frustration show!
- Body language and facial expressions tell more than what you say. Be aware of the tone you use and what your body is conveying.
- Do activities together that both of you like so that it feeds your soul as well as your loved-ones.
- With the passage of time, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Ex: going to bed with clothes on instead of pajamas, wearing two shirts, etc. If it doesn’t hurt them, you, or others, let it go!
- Learn to view your lives with a “fulfillment meter” rather than “what things did we accomplish today.”