“One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.” Jim Rohn
It seems as if the whole last decade has been an unending parade of sick people with chronic illness revolving though my doors. So, I have become somewhat of a caregiver guru… I think that these events along with my own illness have been entrusted upon me to develop one single trait ….PATIENCE.
I was never a very patient person by nature as are most type A- personalities who like me thrive on being in charge, in control and being able to multi-task.
Being a caregiver has challenged all these notions and made me learn to prioritize things in life. Taking care of someone is difficult no matter the level of care you provide. But, as you already know the task becomes increasingly more difficult and challenging the older, more disabled, and more chronically ill the person you are providing for is; even simple things like brushing their teeth can be a shore if they have dyskenesias,or dystonias involving the head and neck. Been there done that! Electric tooth brushes work best at any rate for most Parkinson patients. And by the way, if they have dystonia helps to find their ‘geste antagoniste’ (a sensory trick applied by touch to another part of body to temporarily distract or interrupt the dystonia).
Dressing, feeding or helping someone ambulate is not so bad if you only have to perform once or twice a week. But, it is a different story when they are completely dependent on the caregiver to have their basic necessities met. Dressing someone who is completely immobile, rigid and unable to assist can make a weight of 100lbs feel like 300. This is when you realize you simply can’t have control of the situation all the time, especially when dealing with chronic illnesses that may be exacerbated by outside factors. You must learn to roll with the punches and take the good with the bad …patients WILL have good & bad days. Thus, you will have stressful days and not so stressful days! For instance, I have discovered that Parkinson patients tend to have increase in pain, & stiffness during cold weather. Take necessary measurements to avoid extreme temperatures, use sensory tricks, or discuss Botox injections or baclofen pumps if dressing is difficult because of rigidity despite adequate dopa levels or DBS with your health providers to help easy your stress and help care for your love one in a less disruptive way to all. Implementing some of these techniques will also keep you from pulling your back. Also, talk to your physician about a referral to the Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist, they can help evaluate for the patients needs at home and lend/or rent you equipment to use at home to make your life easier.
You also, must learn like I have that in order to preserve your sanity and the peace of those around you must relinquish control to someone else from time to time…simply can’t be the savior all the time! Taking care of someone especially 24/7 – Is a team approach! Surround yourself with a group of good friends that are trustworthy and can lend a hand in the care of your loved one.
I would not have been able to survive until this point without my best friends support …when I had to take my dad to doctor when he was undergoing chemo and radiation or my grandmother who suffered from PD…..my friends would step up and pick up my daughter from school…care for her…drive her to where I was if needed. During, daytime when I still had to work; I engaged services of a close friend to sit with grandma until I got home.
Besides patience, the number one ingredient to persevering as a caregiver is LOVE! When the going gets tough the only way you will make yourself go even when you are spent, heartbroken, at your wits end is love for your spouse, partner, family member, or child for whom you provide care.
Love gives you courage, strength to go that extra mile, smile when you feel like weeping and ability to rise above your situation. In the end is the commitment that matters even if there is nothing to be done… Love is what gives us all staying power…think about it… As Dr. Arthur Kleinman quipped “I am with you in this [journey] ….right until the very end.”
Dr. M. De Leon is a movement disorder specialist on sabbatical, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation); Texas State Assistant Director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org; http://www.aan.org, http://www.defeatparkinsons.blogspot.com
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