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Caregivers Help Those in Need

Four years ago I left Los Angeles, my home for more than three decades, and moved back to my native Minnesota to care for my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Overnight my life was turned upside down.  No longer did I live in one of the largest cities in the world with access to so much.  My home now was a small house in a rural farm town with just 4,200 residents.  My time wasn’t my own either, since Mom, once capable and independent, now required help with the most basic of daily tasks.

Mom needed help paying her bills and managing her finances.  She’d stopped driving the year before, so I drove her everywhere. Together we would grocery shop and do her housekeeping.  I took over laundry, cooking, making doctor appointments and eventually helping with personal care and hygiene.

Mom’s dementia symptoms were beginning to become more pronounced.  For example, she was convinced people – sometimes including me – were stealing from her.   She’d also begun to get her days and nights mixed up.  If we had a doctor’s appointment, mom would get ready the night before and then fall asleep in her chair.  No amount of coaxing could get her to go back to bed.

Sprinting from crisis to crisis, I became mentally and physically exhausted.  I was surviving on too little sleep and too much caffeine.

Caregiving had taken over my life.

Caregivers Help Those With Alzheimer’s

caregiving-caregiver-alzheimer's-dementiaWhile I felt alone, I wasn’t.  Caregivers are everywhere.  A 2015 study compiled by AARP estimates over 43 million adults in the U.S. have provided unpaid care in the prior 12 months, and on average, the caregiving consumed 24 hours a week.  Almost 60% of the care recipients had a long-term physical condition and a 25% of the care recipients had memory problems.

As our population continues to age, there are more and more people like me who are stepping in (and up) to provide unpaid care.

However, in my situation, I eventually reached my caregiving limit.  One day, I ended up in my doctor’s office complaining about a constant, dull pain in my abdomen, a nagging headache and the inability to get a full night’s sleep.

Can Caregiving Make You Sick?

The doctor ordered test, but nothing was physically wrong.  Even so, my symptoms continued.  The physician advised me to take more time for myself and do something fun. He told me I had to get rid of the stress or I wouldn’t be able to continue caregiving.

Something had to change.

Read next week’s post to find out what changes I made, how I made them, and if I was successful in lowering my stress level.

*Photos Purchased From Dollar Photo Club

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