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Caregiver Respite Tips Responses

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Hello, Gary...
I read your newsletter every time you send it out. One of the hottest topics for me is respite. But I donít seem to see myself reflected in the stories very often! 

My 92-year-old mother has lived with me since last summer and will likely continue to do so for some time to come. She is physically fairly well, considering her age, but she has significant memory loss and there have been a lot of cognitive changes. Comparatively speaking, Mom is not hard to care for and there are lots of us working at this! 

However, life is not easy for her, not for any of us around her.  She grieves the losses that she has had to face over the years. She has lost people: her parents, most of her siblings (who were all younger than she) and their spouses, her eldest son who died at 13 and her husband (my father). She has lost her autonomy: her ability to drive, to live alone, to manage her finances, to buy things, to go pay her property taxes herself, to cook and to dress herself. She has lost much of her memory, and memories provided much interest and comfort for her as she was always keen on family history and how it fit into world history.  I am sure you are familiar with this list of losses Ė it goes on and on and so many folks experience the same thing.

This grief makes Mom sad.  She cries for these losses and tries to reconcile it all, which is challenging as she cannot use cognitive processes the way she used to. 

Mom feels insecure, especially when there are changes.  And there are a lot of changes.  Changes in home care attendants and in how things get done; changes from one activity to another, which are hard for her to understand and cope with as they happen so fast, far faster than she has time to reconcile as she processes information so slowly.  So she gets clingy; she wants to be sure she knows where I am and what I am doing.  She reassures herself that I am nearby, but as soon as she goes back to her chair, she loses sight of me, becomes insecure again and has to track me down.  She is quiet, but her anxiety can be palpable. 

All of these things contribute to the stress load for those around her. 

I am astounded when I read of folks who are content with a cup of tea by themselves in the morning!  I even read of one woman who said she had access to respite through home care and she didnít take it!  These people must be saints! I am a patient, easy-going person and yet I am stressed to the max at times.  I garden, I get out of the city to go hiking and kayaking, see friends, read, study things that interest me.  I am only actively working with Mom for about seven hours a day, yet I am almost constantly maxed out!


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