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COMMIT TO CARE: Critical Insights into Caring for Loved Ones with Alzheimer's

Aug 18, 2007
Deciding to be a caregiver for a loved one battling Alzheimer's disease can be one of the most challenging tasks you can undertake. But with strength, commitment and love, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of your loved one as they go through the stages of this complex disease.

Bonnie McGovern took on the role of caring for her sister Barbara when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As a child, she watched her mother care for her father who had been stricken with polio. As an adult, she emulated her mother's love and compassion when she took on the role of caregiver to her sister. Now, as an author, Bonnie is able to share many of the lessons she has learned with others.

If you are considering being a caregiver for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer's there are a number of things you can do to make the journey better for your loved one and for yourself:

Life doesn't end with the diagnosis: Don't treat your loved on as if their life is over. Be sure to find ways to enjoy the time you have and help them to make their days joyful despite their illness.

Adjust your behavior as circumstances arise: Many illnesses, specifically Alzheimer's have many stages. Be prepared for changes and deterioration in the health of your loved one. While it can be very difficult, accept that it's part of the process and make your best effort to adjust and adapt.

Be positive: A positive attitude goes a long way. Not only will your positivism have a beneficial affect on your loved one but it will make the journey better for you as well.

Put yourself in their shoes: Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease. People who were once very independent suddenly can't handle some of life's most simple day-to-day tasks. As a caregiver, take this into consideration. By considering what it would be like to have the disease and no longer be able to lead your life as you're accustomed to can help you be more patient. It will also make the day-to-day roadblocks that you face less frustrating.

Be a friend: Many patients are in denial. Sometimes one of the best things you can do for a loved one is to be a friend and assist them without making their disabilities so apparent.

Do your homework: If you face a roadblock, research ways to overcome the hurdles. Whether it's by attending support groups, scouring the internet, or reading books and magazines, look for ways to make your journey and the journey of your loved one easier and less stressful.

Maintain a safe environment: As the disease progresses, even everyday activities such as boiling water can be dangerous. Look for ways to make sure that the home is a safe environment to prevent accidents. Also make the environment simple so that your loved one doesn't become easily confused in the environment.

Make them happy: At times you'll simply have to do what makes your loved one happy - even if it doesn't make sense. Being a caregiver is often a lesson in tolerance.

Remain calm: Often bouts of paranoia, especially in public, can be quite taxing. The erratic behavior of your loved one can be frantic and frightening. Try to remain calm and in control of the situation.

Take walks: Taking long walks with Alzheimer's patients has been very helpful in decreasing the chance that they will wander away.

Exert your power: Be sure to have a power of attorney and a medical power of attorney so that you can make decisions affecting the health of your loved one and manage their affairs when they become unable to do so.

Take time for yourself: If you're taking care of your loved one in your home, enlist help so that you can have time for yourself. It's important that you preserve yourself and your health so that you can be there for your loved one when it really matters most.

Let go of your guilt: If there comes a time when you can no longer be the primary caregiver for your loved one, don't beat yourself up or become overwrought with guilt. It's okay to admit that you need help, or that you're simply not capable of providing 24 hour care for your loved one.

Choosing to be a caregiver for a loved with Alzheimer's disease is one of the greatest tributes to their lives you can make. By utilizing these tips and tools, you can make a tremendous difference and ease the stresses and challenges you face on this difficult journey.
About the Author
Dr. Proactive (Randy Gilbert) discussed with Bonnie McGovern(bonniemcgovern.com) tips from her book "Taking Care of Barbara: A Journey Through Life and Alzheimer's and 29 Insights for Caregivers".Listen free at: http://www.insidesuccessradio.com/GuestPage1.php/Bonnie-McGovern
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