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Archive for the ‘guilt’ Category

Forget Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief. They’re merely a jumping off point. Grief isn’t linear. Grief is multi-layered and doubles back on itself. Grief is raw. For many, it’s the closest a person comes to unhinging–to a break with reality. Getting through grief isn’t easy and isn’t predictable. Getting through grief is different for each one of us, but the more we share, the more we reach out, the more we help each other.

Suicide. Murder. Car accidents. Cancer. A sudden heart attack…or the long and winding road of Alzheimer’s. Grief doesn’t start at the point our loved one breathes his or her last breath. Grief is about loss, and loss can start months or even years before death takes the ones we love.

Grief is biological. Animals grieve. Watch this YouTube video where an elephant herd has found the bones of their matriarch. They form a circle around the bones, pick up her bones and hold them in their trunk, feeling each crevice with their trunk. This collective sorrow is healing–and even elephants know they need to grieve.

And yet some of us don’t show grief.

We don’t cry at funerals.

We don’t sentimentalize those who have gone before us.

We show no emotions–does that mean we’re heartless?

Showing and feeling grief are two different things. Some of us don’t share our emotions with many others, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel them.

Emotions don’t go away simply because we squash them down and cover them up–they ooze out the sides of our life. We overreact to a traffic jam. We drink too much. Sleep too little.

Others get lost in grief. The sorrow, regret, and sometimes guilt swarm around us and threaten to steal all joy and purpose. Years go by–and we’re stuck. We can’t move on. We have no desire to. It’s as if time has stopped and we got off and the train sped away leaving us back then–back there.

So how do you get through grief–how do you feel it when you need to and then allow it to pass–before it destroys your life?

No simple answer to that one. I won’t pretend to know.

Sometimes we have to force ourselves to get back into life. Join a group and make ourselves show up.

For some of us anti-depressants seem to help. For others, a therapist. We need to talk it out.

For others, we have to allow ourselves to wallow for a while–until we get sick of our own juices.

No one way.

How to be there for someone else who is grieving?

No “you should be better by now,” or ‘I’m worried about you.” That doesn’t help.

Be willing to sit quietly beside them. Show up at the same time each day, or each week.

Listen. Offer distractions. If you have to, get in their face and fight for them. If they reject you, keep coming back.

One of the most tender betrayals of grief and how very long it can take and how different it is for everyone–and that we have no right to judge someone else’s loss–is the movie, “Reign Over Me.” It’s about a man who lost his wife and children in the 9/11 tragedies. It’s one of the more honest conversations about grief–one that I think might help.

What those who are experiencing grief need is to believe in hope again–some small sliver of hope.

And you might just be the hope they’re looking for.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

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In the U.S. today, more people are addicted to prescription meds than those who abuse heroin, meth, and cocaine–combined. It usually starts as a result of surgery, an accident, or a chronic pain condition that has become unbearable over time. The sad part is that it turns good people into mush. They lose their closest relationships, their homes, their children, their livelihood–all for a pill. For many, it’s also a part of their caregiving journey.

As a caregiver, it’s easy to fall into this trap. After all, you’re home all day–many times isolated–and you have access to lots of medications. You might be a tad depressed, your back hurts, you’re exhausted–and if you could just sleep, just not be in pain for a few hours…

Or your loved one finds themselves reaching too many times a day for something to alleviate the pain and loneliness, –maybe it’s your spouse or parent or child who is struggling with a prescription med addiction. It might start in college–the new craze is to take Ritalin or other drugs to help you study harder and longer and be extra alert during tests. It might be with a spouse who had back surgery and the pills “helped,” but now they have a hard time letting them go.

Oprah and Dr. Ozdid a special on this topic, and the people they interviewed were heartbreaking examples of how common this problem really is–people you wouldn’t expect. “Whether it’s Xanax, Vicodin, Valium or Percocet, Dr. Oz says more than 50 million Americans have admitted to trying prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons.”
 

Women, young women with children, older people, teens–all walks of life face this problem. As we well know, Betty Ford, President Gerald Ford’s wife struggled with this very problem and then opened the Betty Ford Clinic to help others battle addictions.

I watched this happen to an acquaintance. She was a young mother with three boys and a husband who traveled for his work. Rumors and concerns swarmed around her, and friends tried to intervene. She finally hit bottom and had to have a liver transplant. If anyone knows about organ transplants, then they know that it plunges you into a world of doctors, medicine, and a life-time of pills. I heard that sadly, she passed away about 5 years after her liver transplant. She had gone bad to abusing prescription drugs. Her boys no longer have their mother. Hers is ultimate warning: addictions can become so big and so consuming that it can literally consume your life.

Is Prescription Drug Abuse Common Among the Elderly? Yes.

According to DrugAbuse.gov, “Persons 65 years of age and above comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for approximately one-third of all medications prescribed in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, which could lead to unintentional misuse.

How to Prevent or Cope With Prescription Meds Addiction:

  • Before you start to have a problem: get rid of the pain pills. If your surgery is long past, don’t leave them in your medicine cabinet. Toss them. Even if you think you would never be tempted, remove the temptation–for you and your family members.
  • Be a vigilant counter. Make sure you know how many pills your loved one needs, and be sure they stick to it. If you only have one prescription of pain pills and you count them out, then it’s easy to keep track and know if pills are missing.
  • If you’re not the only one picking up prescriptions, then be aware that many people who are addicted use multiple doctors and multiple pharmacies. Check the bottles, check the dates, check the doctors.
  • If you suspect a problem, then start paying attention. Check their purses, backpacks, bathroom cabinets, cars, and other hiding places. This is serious, you need to know what’s going on.
  • If you find a problem, start attending Al-Anon. As the support person, you need support and education. You need to create a game plan, and you need to know you’re not alone.
  • Know that this won’t’ be easy, especially if your loved one has a condition that really does include pain. Be willing to give them “tough love.” This could cost them their life, and I’d rather my spouse, child, or parent hate me than for them to die.
  • If your loved one is old-er, they may be obstinate (that of course, can come at any age) and they may refuse to attend Nar-Anon meetings (for those who abuse narcotics) but visit their website, become educated, and don’t give up.
  • Notify their doctors that prescription drugs are a problem, but realize that if they’re truly addicted, you may see agitated, even violent behavior as well as shakes, nausea, sleeplessness, and all kinds of antics.
  • Look at your own behavior: how have you contributed to this situation? Be honest with yourself. Don’t look at it as blame, treat yourself with the same compassion as you would your best friend. You were tired, you looked the other way, you made excuses, you needed to keep the peace. You can’t move forward until you admit there’s a problem, and that you’re somehow a part of this whole picture–but know that you’re also a part of the solution. Until you acknowledge the situation, it doesn’t have a chance to change.

You can’t control or “fix” anybody else. You’re only 100% responsible for you. Caregiving comes with many challenges, and the abuse of prescription drugs is a huge problem we have to start talking about. Don’t isolate yourself, make excuses, or feel you’re all alone. You’re not. There are others who have struggled with addictions, with being a family member of those addicted, and their insights and their example can help.

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Sometimes I feel I’ve got to…runaway, I’ve to…runaway..from the pain that’s hurting me.

That’s a line to an old 80s song that rolled around in my head many of my caregiving days. I literally felt a panic inside: what was I thinking, moving my mom into my home. How long is she going to live? Do I have months, years…decades? She won’t leave me alone–I can’t take a bath or have a decent conversation with my husband (much less anything else). What choice do I have? She needs me, but how am I ever going to do this day after day. What about my life, my dreams?

On and on my internal monologue hounded me. Not only did I want to run away from my mother–I wanted to run away from me~!

I started collecting fantasies. How would I run away. Where would I go?

I imagined slipping out in the middle of the night. Me and the open road, guided by the moon. I’d roll the window down and howl. Free at last!

I imagined changing my name to Flo. Living in a run down house in Key West and waitressing. I’d fish for fun, check out books from the library and become a walking mystery.

I imagined inventing an adult play-pen and decorating it with things my mother loved. That way, I could exercise, cook, or take a bath without worrying–and maybe that Ronco guy would sell it on his high energy info-mercials.

I imagined strapping my mother to a wheelchair and taking her everywhere I long to go. Mom and me at the Grand Canyon. Mom and me at the Louvre. Mom and me taking art classes in Rome. Mom and me traipsing around New York City…hey, if you can’t get rid of them, bring ’em along became my motto. We’ll become like a Where’s Waldo drawing–where will the dynamic duo go next? We’d write travel books for caregivers and their buddies.

If only my life was that exciting…and if you think I’m a bit odd, then you try living 24/7 with your mother who has Alzheimer’s–and was a hand full before that ever started!

Kidding aside, when my mom first moved in with us, I did feel like I wanted to bolt out the front door. It took a while for my brain and my body to get the hang of her being in such a close proximity. I had to learn how to not let her overshadow me at every turn. I also had to learn how to let her feel needed and appreciated. Our mother-daughter dance had to learn a few new steps.

I also had to give into my run away tendencies. If I didn’t, I knew I’d really hit the road. So I started running away–to my journal. I had to snatch and grab a few minutes here and there–but having a place to put my questions and my angst kept them from boiling over.

I had to learn to run away–to the back yard. Nature calms and heals me. Especially water. Just to slip out that back door and stand at the edge of the river, watch the Spanish moss sway in the trees, and pick up a stone to hold as I said a prayer changed everything. Yeah, I’d look back at the house and my feet felt encased in lead. How could I ever make myself go back in there? But I did.

I used to hide–in the pantry, in the linen closet, on the side of the glass front door where no one could see me. I’d slump down and just give myself a few minutes–but then, they’d find me. They’d always find me. I was a sandwich generation mom–I had my mom–and my kids and husband to deal with. Somebody always wanted to know where mom was.

I’d run away by using my biting sarcasm (mostly internally), but my quippy comebacks kept us on our toes and we’d usually wind up laughing about it.

Running away is about letting off a little steam. It’s a mini-stay-cay. You can’t actually book that plane ticket to visit Bhutan, the place that Michael J. Fox’s book, Always Looking Up says is the happiest place on earth. You can buy a Chinese gong. You can visit a Bhutan website. You can buy a table runner in that gorgeous orange the monks wear.

If you feel like running away, then do it. Figure out a way to let off a little steam. Go for a bike ride, get off your bike and pick a few wildflowers. Do a virtual vacation by visiting a few websites and take notes for a future trip. Slip out the back door, find a pebble and say a prayer. Also, consider checking out respite care. Who says you can’t have a weekend off now and then? Check your community resources, ask a family member, and give yourself a break. (I know how hard this is and I can hear your but, but’s…but if you don’t you’ll burn out!)

Feeling that urge to run away is normal. Fantasizing about it lets off a little steam. Laughing about it soothes the soul. You are already a good caregiver–and admitting that once in a while you’d sure like to step out of that role if only for a few minutes, means you’re human.

Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle

www.caroldodell.com

Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle

www.caroldodell.com

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Caregiving takes all of you–your heart, your arms, your back…and like all relationships, we’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way.

I made plenty of mistakes caring for my mother. She had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and her care progressed over the course of 12 or so years. At first, my caregiving consisted of calls, driving her places, overseeing her medications and doctor appointments–to eventually moving my mother into my home so I could give her full-time care. My mother passed away in our home and those last few months were some of the hardest and one of the most important times of my life.

So I understand why caregivers do it–push themselves to the edge. We have to give it our all at times–during hospital stays, as Alzheimer’s takes a dark turn, or as cancer ravages those we love.

I was watching a special on NASA’s quest to land on Mars. It’s 100 million miles away. That’s quite a dream and they’ve made lots of mistakes along the way. Costly mistakes. Some blunders can be blamed back to one person or one department, but some accidents are random, unpredictable–human error, solar flares, that most dangerous time when they enter the atmosphere that could wipe out everyone’s work in an instant and set research back years. It’s a huge risk, but the alternative is not to try at all.

They call that time the six minutes of terror. That’s when they’re not in communication and whatever happens is just going to have to happen.

That’s what it’s like to love someone, to try, make mistakes, deal with other people’s mistakes–and it all comes down to six minutes of terror when you have no idea how it’ll work out–all you can do is hope.  

There are a few caregiving mistakes you can avoid:

  • Caregiving too soon. Those first few calls from the emergency room scare you do death and it’s so easy to buy into the drama, to freak out, worry, and jump in. But the problem is, you’ve got to pace yourself. Caregiving can be one long journey and it’s wise not to react emotionally to every blip, to ask for help, and to look at the big picture and make short and long-range plans.
  • Caregiving too late: I was so busy being a mother to my children that I believed my mother when she insisted she could live on her own. I had little checks, little moments of concern–but I denied and ignored them. I wanted–and needed–her to be okay. I knew she was happy living at home–but I wasn’t paying attention. She wasn’t eating right, she was falling all the time (lots of bruises, lots of excuses), and although I was driving her or arranging for her transportation needs, she was desperately holding onto a life that was slipping away.
  • Leaving Yourself Out of the Equation: Worry, lack of sleep, long periods of recuperating from a bad fall or an extended hospital stay…you start to forget. You throw on your clothes, forget to comb your hair, don’t bother with check-ups, don’t fill your prescriptions. You’re always on alert. You don’t mean to, it just happens and months or years down the road and you forget a piece of you. You forget how to have fun, how to let go, how to relax. 
  • Taking Every Piece of Advice or None at All: Either extreme is exhausting–and scary. When I first realized my mother had Alzheimer’s I read everything i could get my hands on–it freaked me out.  I could see our future–her completely mad, me attempting to reach her. In truth, it wasn’t like that–not for a long time. We still had each other. We laughed, We ate together. We held hands. Yes, it got bad at the end but I’m still glad I went down this path. Too much information can drive you crazy. No information is foolish–there’s good out there. Treatments, medications, resources that help–but it has to stay in balance. You have to decide what you listen to.
  • Giving into Guilt and Depression: Both are bricks on your soul. They’ll drown you. I can’t say it’s not going to happen, that you’re not going to have bouts of guilt. You will. I can’t even tell you that depression won’t sneak up on you. But be careful. Depression is tricky. It’s like an alligator–it’ll take you under and won’t let you back up.
  • Not Trusting the Journey: You’ll get off center. You’ll lose your way. You’ll go to the bitter edge–but don’t believe that can’t find your way back.  Humans are amazingly resilient–we can nearly freeze to death or drown, fall down a mountain, recover from life-threatening illnesses–and survive. Don’t think for a minute that you can’t recoup from caregiving. You can. You gave of yourself and the good that you gave will return to you.
  • Not Letting Go: There comes a time when you have to let go. Whether it’s creating a healthy emotional distance or grieving an impending death, we have to learn to let go. I remember one very difficult night when my mother was having a bad episode. She was frantic, not knowing where she was, and I had to pry her hand loose from the rail just to get her back in the bed. I couldn’t do it by force and I didn’t want to hurt her.  I had to undo each finger, gently, calmly, and I knew right then that I was meant to help her figure out how to let go of this world. Letting go isn’t about giving up. Letting go is really about trusting.

All we can do is self-correct. We get off. We yell. We beat ourselves up for saying or doing the wrong thing. We fall into a funk. We lose our way–and all we can do is recognize it and alter our course. Every day, every hour offers a new choice.

Life’s a lot like that bouncing Land Rover on Mars. Will we survive the impact? Will we survive our own mistakes? Will we experience our own six minutes of terror?

Sure we will, but we have to try. 

~Carol O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

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For many, Mother’s Day is bitter-sweet.

We try to avoid the fact that our mothers are gone or might be gone soon. We don’t like to say the word, “dead.”

 For many, Mother’s Day can be so painful that we do all we can to avoid it. That avoidance is part of grief, and it’s necessary for a while. Grief is like a good soldier, but there comes a time when you say “Thank you, you’ve served me well,” and you let that soldier be released from duty. 

After my mother died from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, I felt incredibly lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My arms felt unhinged and just hanging on by tendrils. I had been her daughter and her caregiver for so long and had invested so much time, energy, and heart into that role that other aspects of my life had withered away.

I missed my mother, how ironic. After months, if not years of longing for my freedom, of griping and complaining, all of it felt so trivial in comparison to my mother no longer being in my life.

I knew I had to get my bearings because I could feel myself spiraling downward. Who am I? What was I doing before caregiving? Do I go back to that–or move onto something else? I’m now the matriarch of the family…does that mean I’m…old? I’m the one butted up against eternity. There’s no one to buffer me.  No one to turn to. I’m the one others turn to–and that makes me want to run.

Feeling lost lasted awhile. I stumbled around and did whatever had to be done. I zoned out a lot. Not exactly a great conversationalist at that time in my life. But tentatively, I began to move beyond my grief. I began to grow hungry for life, for a routine, for something to sink my mind into. I returned to college. Someone else telling me what to do seemed to work. I started writing again.

An Excerpt from Mothering Mother:

I put Mother’s wallet and glasses in the top drawer of my dresser today. They’ve been sitting on top of it since she died four months ago. Mother kept Daddy’s wallet, pocketknife, comb, and a small Bible in a heart-shaped cedar box he gave her the second time they went on a date in 1925.  Something about these wallets left intact creates a sort of bubble holding time and memory in perfect stillness. Their licenses, credit cards, photos and slips of paper remind me that they had everyday lives.

This makes me question this whole “here, not here” mindset we have. Giving a friend a bit of humorous advice prefaced with “as my Mama always said…” is a way of keeping her here. Will there always be a bitter side of sweet?  Will death and dying burn away, so that I don’t have to run straight into them before retrieving a remembrance?

I hear Mother all the time and quote her daily. My friend Debbie’s teenage daughter asked her mother, “Don’t you trust me?” The age-old question every parent is eventually asked, the question we all secretly know the answer to. My southern mother answered that question when I asked it two decades ago, “ Honey, I don’t trust myself in the dark.” Hearing her words echo in my head was somehow comforting.

That first Mother’s Day was like a tender bruise. I didn’t want a lot of fuss. I needed a hug and a card, and then I needed it to not be Mother’s Day anymore.

Some time that week, I had a talk with my mother. Yes, out loud in the back yard. I thanked her for being my mother. For all we had learned. For all we had gone through.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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“How do you care for your mom every day? How do you deal with Alzheimer’s day in and day out? How do you not give up? Doesn’t caregiving get to you”

Have you ever been asked any of those questions? You don’t really have an answer. You just do it–you get up each day and you do what you need to do, what has to be done. Most caregivers are far from perfect, and they might want to walk away, but they don’t.

In my book, Mothering Mother, I recall one of my favorite fantasies. When my mom’s Alzheimer’s was really bad, or when her Parkinson’s made it impossible for her to walk, I’d imagine myself dying my mother’s hair and dropping her off at the emergency room with a note pinned to her lapel, “Feed me Klondike Bars.” Then, I’d get in my car and drive straight to Key West. I’d change my name to Flo and become a salty waitress with no family and no responsibilities. I’d witness the golden sunset each night in glorious Margaritaville.

That one fantasy kept me from losing it some days. It was a mental release and silly as it sounds, it kept me from doing something I’d really regret!

When I was a sandwich generation mom, I was busy taking my mom to a slew of doctors, dealing with her telling me how to raise my children, and fighting so hard to keep my mother up and walking and communicating while dealing with Parkinson’sand Alzheimer’s. In retrospect, I did the best I could. We did the best we could. Caregiving is not about being perfect. It’s about showing up.

So what did I learn that I could pass on?

  • Choose. If you’re going to care give, then choose to do it with integrity.Caregiving asks something of us, and if we do it with a grudge, it turns toxic. Each day, make a choice. Choose to see the good. Life’s not fair, and death and disease happen, but know that you have a purpose. The only thing you have control over is your attitude, your perspective. Lay your head on the pillow each night knowing that not only did you give that day, you also received.
  • Pace yourself.As I’ve said in previous blogs. Caregiving is like running a marathon–with a bear chasing you. You have pace yourself, find a rhythm, not burn out–but you have all those fears, those hurts, those regrets–those are your bears. Stop trying to outrun them. Turn around and face them. They won’t eat you alive. You can’t know how long you’ll be a caregiver. Some people go into it sentimentally. They think the “end” is months, perhaps weeks away. They pour themselves into the role…and five years later they wonder what happened to their life. Have short range and long range goals. Take care of your health, your relationships, and your life.
  • Cultivate and protect your tender heart.Become a team. Remember that song, “You and Me Against the World”? It’s so, so easy to be bitter, cynical, and so exhausted that you’re on the verge of depression and serious illness. You can hate–and love–being a caregiver at the same time. It’s okay to admit it, but separate caregiving and disease from your actual loved one. Practice manners. Make yourself smile and hold hands. Laugh with each other at the crazy twists and turns. After awhile, you won’t have to force yourself. Keeping a tender heart is in many ways, selfish (it also makes you a whole heck of a lot nicer to live with). It keeps you young (metaphorically speaking). It keeps you healthy. It’s the Type A personalities who are bitter and cynical die quick and hard.

I truly believe that with these three secrets in hand, you can caregive longer and with joy and purpose. Yes, you’ll occasionally get off-center, lose your way, fall into the grumpy doldrums–but you’ll self-correct sooner. 

Choosing each day to care with integrity.

Pace yourself. This may take awhile, so make a plan and make sure you’re (your health, relationships, and life) are a part of that plan.

Protect your tender heart. It’s too easy to give into negativity, but that’s one miserable way to live.

I hope you’ll leave a comment and share your own caregiving secrets.

~Carol O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother

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Alzheimer’s is one insideous octopus of a disease. It does one thing to one person and something totally different to another.

Some individuals become docile, too docile. They stop talking, and pretty much stop moving. For others, Alzheimer’s turns them into a fidget machine. They pace incessantly, talk, babble, rant, need next to no sleep, and when forced to sit, their knee jiggles non-stop. Others are paranoid and will lash out at anyone who tries to touch them–it’s as if their brain–and body–is on fire.

And for some, Alzheimer’s makes them anxious, mean, and violent. There’s no other way to  put it.

They curse when before the disease they were  practically saints. They use vile language that would shock and embarrass a sailor, and their eyes look as if they could kill you in your sleep. For many, their violence is more of a protective mechanism.  They may thrash, hit, try to bite if they feel cornered, yell, cry. It’s more exhausting and embarrassing than harmful. They act like really big two year old.

In all of these cases, Alzeimer’s effects each brain differently. You  have to think of it as a chemical reaction, not a persoanl decision.

And then,there are the truly violent . Their rage is unpredictable and unprovoked. They slap, bite, kick, pinch, and for a few, and surprisingly, they possess the power to break bones, knock someone down, and are truly dangerous.Many are placed in care facilities because their families can’t handle it. Their families don’t visit as often because they’re scared. They feel as if their loved one is dead to them, and yet they struggle with guilt every single day. It’s an awful existance for everyone involved.

It’s that interum time that I’m addressing–when you’re starting to notice some anger–gritting teeth, cursing, grabbing your wrist really hard, knowing you against the wall–and you don’t know how far this will go. You make excuses. You provoked it. You shouldn’t have confronted them. They’re not taking their meds. It only happened once…these are just a few excuses we create to “protect” our loved one.

I urge you to speak to your doctor now.

For some, an added medication that stabalizes their mood (and yes, it may make them lethargic) can curtail their violence. It doesn’t work with everyone, but if you catch it early, it just might work.

For many, particularly spouses, you hide these changes in behavior  from your children, your neighbors, your friends.

You stop having people over. You wear long sleeves to cover bruises.

You’re afraid all the time. More afraid they’ll take your husband or wife away than that you’ll be hurt.

You can handle that–but the guilt, the shame, the thought of being separated is what keeps you silent.

You grieve the death of your marriage, of the life you had–and yet, you can tell no one what you’re going through.

You don’t want anyone to “see” your husband, your wife this way. You want to preserve their dignity.

I understand. I did this with (or for)  my mom. I shielded her from the world. I didn’t let people know how chaotic, out of control, scary and heartbreaking it really was. I let her dig her fingernails into my arm and scream at me, her eyes so wild I didn’t even recognize my mother any more. If I would do this for my mother, I can truly understand how a husband or wife would be wiling to do even more.

But here’s what I came to realize:

This is a disease. No one will judge you or your spouse–and if they do it’s because they don’t understand what’s happening. 

Your loved one can not  help this. This isn’t their “inner self” or what they’ve been thinking all along. You didn’t contribute to this either. It just is.

It really is nobody’s business and you don’t have to share it with everyone, but having at least one confidence, one dear friend or your clergy can help lighten your heart.

You know those statistics about caregiver stress and how many caregivers die before their loved one? They’re talking about you!

You’ fall into that category big time. All this stress could lead to depression, heart disease, obesity, and strokes–and you know your loved one wouldn’t want this for you.

You are not alone.

According to a recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association s of resident-to-resident violence in Massachusetts nursing homes and dementia special-care units, researchers found that about 25 percent of the dementia population in a care facility had violent tendencies. More and more law suits are cropping up because staff and patients are being attacked, and resulting in physical injuries such as fractures, dislocations, and lacerations.

Sometimes, you just can’t do it anymore. You feel that you’re in a living hell.

This is a truly dangerous state and you have to ask for help.

With guidance, you can find a good care facility that has a low patient to care staff ratio and administers the proper medications needed to lessen the violent outbursts. I know you don’t want to “dope” your loved one. But you can’t continue to be hurt, or risk that for others.

This disease can get really ugly, and if you’re in this situation, I am so, so sorry–but please, don’t suffer alone.

That’s not love, and your loved one wouldn’t want this for you.

Screw what your family would think, what they neighbors will think. Protect yourself and know that asking for help is the right thing to do.

I can’t promise you that you and your spouse can stay together–in the house. I can’t promise you that this is going to all magically get better.

Sometimes we really do have to grieve and let go–knowing that you’ll never get back what you had.

But I promise that while it’s going to be hard–and lonely—and you’ll probably feel guilty–after a time, things will get better.

Your loved one’s care might be better managed with help. And although your life won’t be the same, it can be good. A new good. A different good.

If you’re experiencing Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body or dementia related behavioral changes (violence or otherwise), please consider calling the Alzheimer’s Association National Hot line. It’s confidential and you can speak to someone who really cares. The number is: tel: 1.800.272.3900

~Carol O’Dell, author of Mothering Mother

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