The Caregiving Journey


by Frena Gray-Davidson

Caregiving is not a task. It is a journey. We learn it step by step. On this journey we are forced to look deep inside our own hearts. There's no magic key to the mysteries. Just each of us, this vast army of people caring for people.

There are lot of ways to get more help. Make a list of what you need and ask your doctor how you can get them. Doctors can write prescriptions for more than medicine. Also for equipment, therapy, home help.

Learn about diseases and their patterns. Open-heart operations often leave people in pretty bad memory function, at least for a while. Depression is a normal after-effect of a stroke and it usually passes. Learn you can never win a confrontation with a person with Alzheimer's, so don't even try.

Learn what a service really is. Hospice, for example. A lot of people, and some of them are doctors, don't want to suggest hospice help. One, because it means mentioning death. Two, because some doctors think death must be guaranteed within six months.

Not true. A person can enter the Hospice program, can sign off it for a while, can come back on it -- all according to their need.

I'm a huge fan of Hospice, can you tell? Why? Because Hospice staff know all about dying and pain and emotional support. They help people live to their fullest. and live without pain. And they support the rest of the family too.

There is nothing more transforming for a family than having brought all their best to walking with a loved family member to the gates of death. Under those circumstances, the natural sorrow nevertheless contains the seeds of future joy. Because they all did their best, together.

That said, paying attention to your family dynamics is wise. That sister who was never very helpful -- she'll probably be the same while you're a caregiver. The most distant member of the family who has least to do with caregiving usually has the most opinions about how badly you're doing. You probably won't be able to change them. So get your allies about you.

Your mother, not a very happy soul, will also not be happy by you as a caregiver. So don't try to make her happy. Just try to meet her care needs. Make yourself happy.

Making caregiving work means you make a care plan for yourself. A good night's sleep. Time off. You have to face what triggers unhappiness, resentment or rage. Let yourself off the hook. No one else can do that.
Only you.

The best caregivers care for themselves first. So that they can care fully for others. It's an art. Takes practice. Practice the first part starting today.

Good journey to you.

Frena Gray-Davidson is a longterm Alzheimer's caregiver and her latest book is "Alzheimer's 911: Hope, Help and Healing for Caregivers", available from Frena presents dementia seminars nationally and internationally. Go to her her website at and sign up for her free monthly online newsletter for caregivers.

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