Every so often, I come across an article written by a family caregiver who understands the stress that come with caring for a loved one and is able to share their experience, in a way I feel, could help other individuals caring for a loved one.
Below is a post from a family caregiver who cares for his father and is also a Professional Coach. I hope you find the post helpful and welcome you to share your thoughts, concerns and questions below.
What if my usually nice loved one becomes grumpy and confused?
~ A Michael Bloom
This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving to deal with and is especially common when families are touched by Alzheimer's disease or dementia. After my father was struck with vascular dementia and lost all short-term memory, I dealt with the challenges associated with his temper tantrums that were directly linked to his confusion.
Prior to his illness, my father operated in a very calm, logical, and predictable way. He was a chemist and organization was extremely important to him. I can recall thinking at times that he was a bit too regimented with activities although his way of operating provided our family with much comfort and security.
Once struck by dementia, my father would request to go home (while sitting in his living room) as the sun went down. This phenomenon of confusion at that time of day is called "sun- downing." The episodes could be extremely frustrating and I grew to miss those days when he operated as an organized, "control freak."
The other significant time of day that led to confusion was when he woke up around 3 or 4 a.m. most nights and got dressed to take the train to school (something he did decades earlier when he attended college). In order to survive these moments of confusion and not worry about my father leaving the house overnight in the freezing cold to seek a nearby train stop that did not exist, I did a few things.
First, I alarmed the doors so I would be awakened if he managed to open a door before I woke up. He actually did it once and it worked. We both got quite a jolt from that experience. After scaling the stairs in about 3 leaps, I found my Dad standing in the doorway with his mouth opened in shock and horror. If the situation had not been so frightening, I might have found his expression to be humorous.
The second strategy happened most every night. I would hear him get up and dressed. Instead of arguing with him about the fact that he was retired and did not need to go to school or work, I played into his fantasy. At times, he would think I was his father so I would act like it was our usual routine. I even prepared him a breakfast before he was planning to leave for school. Once he got through the meal, he typically forgot that he wanted to leave and would go to a comfortable chair in front of the television and would start dozing. At about 8 a.m., he would join my mother and me for a second breakfast and we would go about the day.
Even with my best efforts, there were times when I was unable to navigate peacefully through my father's confusion. This would lead to his yelling and very uncharacteristic name-calling. The key to surviving those hurtful and heart-wrenching moments was to remember how much love, respect, and support my father had always shown me. It was very sad that the person I was dealing with was a shell of who my father used to be. Fortunately, I was able to take comfort in the moments when he looked at me with a smile. During those special caregiving moments, I knew that the man I had loved and looked up to my entire life was somewhere deep inside that fog of confusion.
Practice Tip: Continue to show your caregiving patience when your loved one acts up during periods of anger or confusion. Make sure you take moments of space for yourself. Also, find a trusted friend or family member to share your feelings with so you can process and release them. Otherwise, your frustrations will build and burst your stress balloon which can lead to you lashing out or saying something you might regret. Even if that happens, just apologize, seek forgiveness, and move forward. After all, we are human and deserving of forgiveness.
Certified Professional Coach and Caregiving Without Regret™ Expert A. Michael Bloom has helped to revitalize the careers of hundreds of family and professional caregivers with practical, tactical soul-saving coping strategies and supports them in saving lives, including their own. With a wealth of practical expertise as both a family and professional caregiver, Michael serves as a welcome and sought-after catalyst to guide caregivers and health and human services leaders to stay energized and committed to work that has never been more important or vital than it is today. Preview Michael’s new book, "The Accidental Caregiver’s Survival Guide: Your Roadmap to Caregiving Without Regret," at http://www.theaccidentalcaregiverssurvivalguide.com. To learn more about Michael and his services, visit www.bloomforcoach.com.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.