Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dementia and _______?

Let's face it, most of us are not doing just dementia.
We are doing dementia and a full-time job, or dementia and the rearing of teenagers, or dementia and two or three volunteer services in the community, or dementia and all of the above.
Very few of us have the luxury of doing just the care and management of a person with dementia.
Since December 20, when one of my daughters went into rehab, I have been doing Lewy Body Dementia and bulimia and cocaine addiction.
First of all, there's just doing the learning and research on these particular illnesses.
Then there are the issues of where to get the best care: finding doctors, therapists, residential living centers--and getting my mother and daughter to these places and appointments.
Then the's the job of figuring out how to pay for it all.
And of course there's the need to visit my mother and my daughter, give them support and encouragement.
Finally, there's the need to care for myself--to find support and encouragement for me.
Oh, and also there are the daily ups and downs of these illnesses--every decision made yesterday will be changed today if my mother falls and breaks a bone or my daughter relapses.
And one more caveat: caretaking can itself be addictive, according to Al-Anon and other sources.
In other words, my mother and my daughter are my cocaine. It's only too easy for me to get all wound up in care of them and forget to meet my own needs.
Today's reading from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie ends with this resolution:
Today, I will pay attention to what I want and need. I will not discount myself.
That's great--but I got three phone calls from my mother's caregivers today, and one from her physical therapist, all expressing concerns about her and demanding my immediate attention.
She didn't eat any of her meals today, and she spit out her medications.
Meanwhile, I have a three-hour meeting for my work, a luncheon date with my youngest daughter, a long phone call from my daughter in rehab, and a dinner date with my husband.
Somebody tell me how in the midst of these conflicting demands I am going to "pay attention to what I want and need."

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