Tuesday, December 3, 2013

To my Caregiver: “All I Have Are My Yesterdays…..”

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 

You want me to stop talking about the past. I know by the look on your face that it bothers you, but that is all I know.

I cannot remember what I did this morning. I cannot remember how to make my tea. I don’t remember the names of my grandchildren and sometimes I don’t know who you are although you tell me you are my son. But I do remember the school I attended as a child and I still remember my grade one teacher. The pain of saying goodbye to my father at the train station when he went to war is still vivid in my mind. I was 12 years old. He never came back. You assure me when you leave me that you will return, but how can I be sure?

I remember the day our town burned. It all started from a spark from the foundry. Mama kept us safe by taking us to a big hill on the other side of the town and wrapping us in wet blankets in case a burning shingle came our way. I think I was 5 years old then. You scold me when I am afraid when you put a fire in the fireplace. How do I know it will not burn me? You don’t understand why I always go and get a wet towel to hold. I think often of the train trips Papa and I took to visit Mama when she was so sick. It took us a whole day to travel there. You correct me when I ask if we are going to see Mama when you take me for a drive. You tell me Mama died a long time ago.

You have heard the stories so many times you tell me. You turn away. You do not want to listen. Sometimes you even become angry. But these are my stories. These are my memories. They are my yesterdays. And yesterdays are all I have now. They are my present. Please understand.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Six Principles of Care

By Sharon A. O'Brien
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
Senior Watch 

The tests have been done. The tentative diagnosis has been made. Your loved one has Alzheimer Disease. You are devastated. You now must face the reality of your fears.

Each day will bring new realities and new challenges. You accept the challenge. This is the person you have known and loved for 25-40-55 years. The love is deep and the commitment goes well beyond any difficulties encountered over the years.

There are six principles of care that need to be considered as you accept the challenge to provide appropriate care. 

1. As difficult as it may be sometimes, remember how the person behaves is a direct reflection of the disease. The person has no control over behaviour. It is not a deliberate attempt to shock you nor is it “stubbornness” or “childishness”.

2. The person with Alzheimer Disease deserves the same dignity and respect as before the disease struck. As the caregiver, you must protect the person from disrespect. Remind family, visitors, and professionals of the life journey and the accomplishments of your loved one. 

3. Stress the positive. Build on abilities. The person with Alzheimer Disease needs to be encouraged to continue with favourite activities as long as possible. Included may be playing cards, golfing, curling, and family gatherings. 

4. The family is an integral part of the Circle of Care. Encourage family members to learn all they can about the disease. The Internet, the Alzheimer Society, and local education programs are available. 

5. It is important to build partnerships with other members of the care team; e.g., caregivers, the family physician, the pharmacist, the spiritual adviser, friends offering respite care, etc.

6. The sixth principle should probably be the first principle. Look after yourself. Schedule breaks. Accept support. You are one member of the care team. Allow others to help you provide appropriate care. This experience will change you. You have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the life of a vulnerable loved one.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Aging is a Family Affair

By Sharon A. O'Brien, SC; RN, PG; BSW, RSW; CG 
Executive Vice-President of Policy & Education 
at Senior Watch 
Are we ready for the unexpected? There is not one of us who can say with certainty that we know what is "around the corner" or as some say, "what is coming down the tube". For years we have heard the Boy Scouts proudly declare, "Be prepared". How prepared are we, whether we are at 28 or 82, for the curves life may throw our way?

How many of us have wondered who would take charge if something happened to us or how we would respond if we were suddenly required to provide care to a loved one? Again the question needs to be asked by the person who is 28 as well as the person who is 82 or older. Many caregivers today, both men and women, are well into their 80's. Who will be in control of the care received? What practical steps can be taken now to prepare? 

What is a person saying to us when they drop hints such as "there is an envelope in the desk drawer I want you to read if I become ill"? What could we do now to prepare ourselves for the moment we have to fulfill the wishes of that envelope and we become the caregiver for a loved one? 

There are three main tasks for all of us to undertake: 
  1. We must come face to face with the reality of our mortality. Life just does not go on forever. We need to know what to expect and what we can do now to help make our older adult years enjoyable and comfortable.
  2. We must communicate our hopes and our dreams, our wishes and our fears to those who care about us. Whether it be a daughter, a son, or a spouse who assumes the responsibility of caring, we must be fair and provide the road map we have chosen.
  3. We must begin now to prepare for the challenging times ahead. How can we do this? Where can we turn? 

Senior Watch Inc. has developed sessions to assist both family caregivers and those requiring care to prepare for what can be a very rewarding experience. These sessions focus on the changes and challenges of aging and the steps that can be taken now to reduce the risk of later problems. Opportunities are given to identify community resources. Caregivers are challenged to acknowledge the impact of caregiving on various family members, and to develop practical ways of providing appropriate care, while the issue of "self-care" is kept in the forefront.

What is around the corner? None of us knows. However, we do know we can have some degree of control in what happens. It really does pay to be prepared! Want to deal with the issues? Give us a call...506.634.8906 or Toll Free: 1.800.561.2463