According to the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures research, there are more than 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Some have assembled a team of family and friends so the responsibilities are evenly spread out, but that is not always the case. The solo caregiver manages—or tries to manage—everything on his own.
That’s where those who are on the outside looking in can become a caregiver’s hero.
OFFER TANGIBLE ASSISTANCE. We will never be wrong in assuming the caregiver needs help so rather than saying, “Call me if you need anything” we can ask, “What exactly do you need?” If we remember what we needed when we were on the mend from illness or surgery we should be able to come up with an endless list of concrete gifts of assistance.
MEALS. You need to cook for yourself and/or your household anyway so make a double recipe, pack that extra portion in a disposable dish, freeze it, and keep doing that for a week and deliver one full week’s worth of frozen meals to the caregiver who, receiving your food offerings, can look forward to not having to be creative in the kitchen at the end of the caregiving day. Engage others to sign up for this dinner on wheels program so the responsibilities are spread out amongst many.
ERRANDS. You’re running to the store for a few items; take the time to ask Sam if there’s anything he might need while you’re out. He may need a half-gallon of milk—and he might have needed it for the past several days—but embarking on that task proved impossible for him. With very little effort on your part you can make a huge difference in Sam’s well-being. Maybe the needed item is toilet paper; acquiring that for him makes you a genuine hero!
CHORES. The last task a time-strapped caregiver considers doing is housework or yardwork. You will not insult your friend or neighbor by offering to vacuum their house or clean their bathrooms. Or perhaps it’s a lawn that needs mowing or a flower bed, weeding; that sprucing up will provide the caregiver with a virtual—and literal—fresh view of their circumstances.
OTHER OPTIONS. Sam may turn down home improvement offers but he might say, “What I could really use right now is some help figuring out Nancy’s health insurance statements.” Or he might say, “My wife’s not much of a conversationalist anymore, I’d give anything to have an hour to talk with someone who is. Could you stop by later today for a visit? I’ll even talk politics if it means having someone else to talk to.”
WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE. The family caregiver has so much going on physically and emotionally, offers of assistance can be the salve that gets them through each day.
Grief: Your caregiving friend is grieving the loss of a person who is still with him. Unlike the sudden death of a family member, the Alzheimer’s caregiver suffers the prolonged loss of their loved one—oftentimes called ambiguous loss—because although physically present, the person with dementia is continuously leaving their loved one.
Exhaustion. Physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion sneak up on the solo caregiver and they are killers. The solo caregiver must put their needs above those of the one for whom they are providing care and sometimes they need you, the outsider, to help them prioritize those needs. Just like the airlines’ seatbelt instructions, the person meeting the need requires attention before the one requiring it.
BOTTOM LINE. You have so much to offer the time-strapped family caregiver; your gifts of kindness are more valuable than you could ever imagine.
Do you want additional insight into what caregivers with whom you are acquainted are facing? You can order Requiem for the status quo at Barnes & Noble and Amazon as well as all online and brick and mortar chain and independent bookstores. And if you have already read my debut novel, please consider leaving a review on the online retailer’s website of your choice.
- Bionic hip
- Loss of independence
- Healthcare TLC
I received a new right hip this past Monday afternoon which rendered me fully dependent on the staff of a local hospital, Evergreen Health Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington. As a two-night inpatient at the hospital, I was reliant on staff for absolutely all of my needs.
If you can imagine everything you do during the course of a day requiring at least one medical person to provide intimate assistance, you can easily imagine all the tasks incumbent upon the nurses, certified nursing assistants(CNA), physical therapy personnel, food delivery staff, and even someone such as Barbara the housekeeper, at your beck and call.
My personality is such that I’d much rather be giving than receiving. Each time I pushed the nurse call button I carefully considered whether such a request was warranted: bladder full to rupturing, yeah, warranted; refill of my patient water carafe? Maybe I could wait and encumber the next person who walks into my room.
From the time I checked in for surgery at 11:30 Monday morning until I was discharged at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, each person with whom I came in contact was fully dedicated to serving my needs. They noticed if my blankets were pushed asunder in my bed and straightened them comfortably around my body. When shuffling with my walker to the bathroom while wearing my backless hospital-issued gown they discreetly covered me up and made sure my dignity was kept intact.
Then there was the aforementioned employee who after knocking on my door said, “It’s just me, Barbara the housekeeper.” Upon granting the 60-something-year-old admission to my room, she said, “I want to be sure your room is clean and acceptable. You don’t need to do a thing, just lay there – and you (my husband) sit comfortably in the folding chair and I’ll work around you.”
I engage absolutely everyone I come across in conversation so it was quite natural for me to converse with Barbara the housekeeper. I asked her how long she had been working at Evergreen and it had been quite some time. “You must have seen lots of changes over the years.”
“Yeah, of course I have, but it’s good. I like what I do. I like all the people I get to meet over the course of a day.”
“I’m sure you’ve met those who, because of their circumstances, weren’t exactly the most friendly people you’ve encountered in your life.”
“Aw, sure, but you get that everywhere, not just in a place like this.”
True, so very true. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, each of us has a choice of whether to make or break someone’s day. I can tell you that there was not one employee at the hospital who broke my day, rather, each person made my stay there as palatable as it could possibly be. Mind you, the dings of call lights going off all day and all night from the nurses’ station directly across from my room weren’t the highlight of my stay, but those dings are far easier to accept when you realize that you initiated your share of call dings yourself and benefited from the responses of the dedicated medical personnel who had to answer such pleadings.
All in all, I’d have to say that if you have to go through the pain of getting a new and improved hip in order to lead a more comfortable life going forward, being treated with kindness during the process certainly renders the recovery far more appetizing. This former patient has no complaints whatsoever. She was treated like a queen.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month. READ THIS ARTICLE CAREFULLY TO DISCOVER HOW YOU CAN WIN A FREE COPY OF MY NOVEL, Requiem for the status quo.
Several of the AlzAuthors group of writers who have written fiction or non-fiction books on the subject of Alzheimer’s or other dementia are offering special, discounted offers to those who would like to get ahold of a select group of books being offered September 27 – 30, 2017.
I am a member of this group of writers and am offering a total of eight free copies of my novel, Requiem for the status quo: four (4) free Kindle eBooks and four (4) free paperback books (the latter available to residents of the United States only). All you need to do is Like/Follow my author Facebook page, then write a comment in the AlzAuthor post that appears on that page.
In order to get in the drawing for a free Kindle eBook or free paperback copy, you must indicate in the comment section which format you would prefer: Kindle eBook or paperback. Please don’t say you don’t care which format you receive; for accounting and distribution purposes I will only put your name in one of the drawings so be sure to specify your preference.
All those Liking my page and posting a comment indicating their format preference will have their names entered into a drawing that will take place at Noon, Pacific Standard Time, on Saturday, September 30th. I will Messenger the winners through FB to request either your e-mail address (for eBook sending) or postal delivery address (for paperback book shipment) so that I can send out your complimentary book copies the first week of October.
But I am not the only author offering great deals on books – all the books contained within the graphic on this post are discounted during the September 27 – 30th timeframe. Be sure to go to the AlzAuthors website, click on the Bookstore tab, locate the author and their book being offered at a discounted price, click on the photo of their book and you will be directed to the site where their discounted book can be purchased. Since I am personally offering free copies of my novel – as opposed to doing so through an Amazon.com promotion – you will not find Requiem for the status quo in the AlzAuthors bookstore during this promotion.
One way of expressing kindness is by expressing gratitude.
My husband and I have been gifted with daily gratitude each time we take care of our grandson during our daughter and son-in-law’s work week. We have a routine: our daughter drops off our grandson and all other items needed for his day with us and as she gets into her car she always says, “Thank you.”
Our son-in-law picks up our grandson after a grueling day of work outside and after securing our grandson into the backseat of his truck, he says, “Thanks you guys.”
We’ve been caring for our grandson a few days a week since early August and now with September coming to a close the routine is pretty much set in stone but what isn’t set in stone, what is always fresh and affirming, is that our grandson’s parents bend over backwards to express their gratitude for what we’re doing to enable them to go to work and not have to worry about the care their son is receiving.
Big deal, right?
It is absolutely a big deal. We thoroughly enjoy the time we spend with our grandson – it is such a privilege we have been given – and we enjoy seeing his parents each caregiving day. Their expressions of gratitude never get old; every time they say “Thank you” I am filled with warm fuzzies that carry me through the day and the night. Such delightful adult children.
I am reblogging the attached article about Christina Britton Conroy’s book that truly appears to be one all of us Baby Boomers need to add to our bookshelves. Personally, it has been a delight to be one of the AlzAuthors’ newest members. I am in such good company. Coming December 20th, you’ll be able to view my introduction as a member of this enriching group of authors.
Lucas came into our world on May 11th, 2017. His parents were already a blessing in our lives and when their family increased by one, the blessings increased exponentially.
He just turned twelve weeks old and let me tell you, his personality is coming through very clearly.
If you’re me, you talk a lot.
If you’re my grandson Lucas, you’re subjected to all that talking.
Just as is the case with every human being out there, when he’s had his fill of my jabbering, he’ll let me know that his Grandma Olson talking threshold has been reached – for the time being – but before that happens, he gifts me with smiles and conversation to beat the band.
What a reward it is to have an impact on a young person’s life and when that young person is now able to gift others with smiles, funny faces, and “language”, my oh my, that’s a gift of kindness of greater value than all the riches in the world.
I discovered something shocking during the weeks that followed my novel’s release:
Alzheimer’s disease is still a secret.
I know; we’ve all certainly read about it, especially when a celebrity is diagnosed with the disease. Every once and awhile there might be an Alzheimer’s Association commercial on television…that is assuming we don’t fast forward through it or walk out of the room. Another reason we’re familiar with the disease is that it is happening to so many people with whom we are acquainted – whether intimately or tangentially.
But it’s still a secret. The very definition of the word speaks to its intent: adj. not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others; n. something not properly understood; a mystery. from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary
In many of my promotional posts and boasts for my novel Requiem for the status quo, I’ve indicated that my book tour would probably look more like a senior center tour than what is normally the route for authors: readings and signings in major and independent bookstores. That’s the tact I took, approaching numerous senior centers in Western Washington. 25% of those I approached booked my author event on their activity calendars. But when I approached a major senior housing community foundation to get on their speakers’ calendar, I was told the residents pushed back at the foundation’s previous efforts to enlighten and inform when they hosted those who spoke to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.