4 Lessons Learned from a Caregiver's Magical Hat
by Shelley Krupa, Business Operations Coordinator at Lake Hallie Memory Care
Of all the different hats I wore during my mom’s journey of dementia, I often wished I had one more hat to wear. I wasn’t ready for ‘I’m her caregiver’ hat. I longed for a different hat to give me answers to all my questions. Especially questions about when will she need more care than I can provide for her? The professionals I asked couldn’t give me a guidebook. I even tried wiggling my nose like bewitched and that didn’t work either.
The hat I wished for was a magician’s hat accompanied by a crystal ball to look into to find my way through the ups and downs. I’m guessing mom wished she had one too. I fumbled enough to make her wonder if I was the one that was struggling more than she was.
I never got that magician’s hat, but I did learn four valuable lessons of what to do when caring for a person with dementia. My mom passed away eight years ago, and those lessons I learned still serve me on a daily basis.
Lesson #1 – Live in the now, not the past, and not the future. Be present, that’s where all the clues are for how to handle what comes your way. Joy is found in the simplest of moments. Rejoice each day you survive and your loved one thrives.
Lesson #2 – Embrace imperfection. I struggled daily to be the perfect caregiver, to make my mom do things right, and to be her advocate when she couldn’t do things for herself. I failed miserably some days, and other days, I did so-so. Once I granted us both permission to be who we were each day, imperfections and all, the journey got easier to handle.
Lesson #3 – Don’t second guess your choices made against sacred wishes. The time to make wishes known is before something bad happens. Plan now for your own ‘what if that happens to me’ situations. Put together your own Power of Attorney paperwork. Unfortunately many people don’t do so. More times than not, dementia strikes suddenly and the “Don’t you ever put me in a nursing home!” wishes get challenged. Put on your hard hat, forgive yourself, and remember you’re doing the best you can.
Lesson #4 – Take time out for yourself every day. Do something that doesn’t require you to make tough decisions. For me it was running. I was unprepared for it, having never done it before. I took uncharted, undiscovered paths, and ran until I didn’t want to run anymore. I listened to my body and rejoiced as my head cleared away stressful thoughts as I ran. Walking works great too. Plus daily exercise is a great preventative measure against dementia.
I tip my ‘I survived’ hat off to all out there who are navigating the caregiving journey. Remember to trust your heart and believe in yourself. Your loved one is proud of your efforts, be proud of yourself too. You truly are a magician with love’s magical touch.