Lesson #31: Let Them Eat Cake

I want to dedicate this to mon cher Papa, who isn’t often the focus of my blog posts. He’s just so easy to care for that he factors less in the specificity of “lessons learned”, in terms of caregiving challenges. And yet I’m learning so much from him … More Lesson #31: Let Them Eat Cake

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Lesson #15: Do Your Homework

My mother has shown signs of “sundowning,” which is a peculiar behaviour in some people with Alzheimer’s. The name is apt; when the sun disappears, the change in light can trigger confusion and agitation in the brain. I noticed this in my mother during the last months of winter. At around 6 p.m., she would start to become restless and uneasy, a bit “clingy.” I assumed it was because she didn’t want me to leave, having become dependent on me and our other caregiver. … More Lesson #15: Do Your Homework

Lesson #10: Just Show Up

I have been in a mild depression for weeks, without any creative energy to lift me up and out. I’m no stranger to depression; it’s not the first or last time. When I was working for clients, it was relatively easy to take the time necessary to recoup and recharge. Nobody needed to know that I was down and out, except the people I trust to love and support me during those times. Now that I’m a valued caregiver, though, I can’t just “not show up”, and showing up with a positive frame of mind is more important than ever… … More Lesson #10: Just Show Up

Lesson #9: Who, Me?

I suspect that many caregivers live in a state of suspended animation, as if their own life is on hold. I’ve had this feeling a few times in the past two years — I turn 60 this year, and I know I should be planning my retirement, but it doesn’t seem appropriate or feasible. I keep renewing the lease on my apartment thinking – how permanent is this living arrangement? How long will my parents need me? It’s impossible to know. … More Lesson #9: Who, Me?

Lesson #7: Rushing is a Form of Bullying

We were standing just outside the change rooms at Walmart, where my Mom had been trying on brassieres. Nothing fit or felt right to her, and we had been at it for hours, with me running back and forth for different models and sizes. She needed me in the small stall with her, she was having trouble with the straps and boxes. We were both hot, tired and frustrated. I looked at my watch and said, “Do any of these fit? We really should leave. Dad’s been alone for a while now.” … More Lesson #7: Rushing is a Form of Bullying

Lesson #5: Ditch the Dreaded “D” Words

“Oh, that’s horrible! How awful. You must be devastated.”

This is a typical reaction when I tell people that my parents were diagnosed with dementia. “Both of them?” Yes, both of them. And when I tell people that I put my career on hold to become their primary caregiver, the response is varied but still predictable. Shock and awe. Sympathy. Curiosity. In a few rare instances, an immediate empathic understanding. But also the complete opposite; some people look at me as if I’ve gone a bit crazy, or am about to tell them the rest of the joke. You’re kidding, right? … More Lesson #5: Ditch the Dreaded “D” Words

Lesson #4: How do You Say That in French?

It may be a global world out there, but here in Quebec it continues to be an embarrassingly small one, where people argue over language ad nauseum. It’s enough to make you sick. But wait! If you are sick (and even if the law likes to pretend that you have rights), it doesn’t mean you are going to get a health care professional who speaks your language. Which is a crying shame, because when you’re not feeling your best, it’s really hard to focus on a foreign language. … More Lesson #4: How do You Say That in French?

Lesson #3: Leave Your Ego at the Door

I woke up wanting to protect my parents from me. Bullish, angry bossy me, ready to rant and rave at a moment’s notice, poised to take on the world and be their caregiving hero, no matter what it takes to make it work. Yelling at doctors, slamming the phone down on telemarketers, telling door-to-door salespeople that they shouldn’t be badgering my parents… all with good intentions, of course! Protecting them from the outside world, or so I thought. … More Lesson #3: Leave Your Ego at the Door