As a caregiver, you bring comfort when your family forgets how to hope. You find moments of joy for them when they cannot find their own. As you comfort others, allow other caregivers to offer their voices to comfort you.
You have been good to those who needed you, and now you also need to be kind to yourself. Listen to your inner voice when it reminds you that comforting the person you care for is only one part of the caregiving process. You too deserve reassurance and support.
The comfort you need may be at hand if you open yourself to accepting it. Be open with the people around you and let them help.
“Living with someone who has Alzheimer’s can really wipe the smile from your face. Somehow, reminding myself that before I became a caregiver for my mother, there used to be joy and wonder in most of my days helped me recognize that if I tried really hard, I might still find them.
When I did, I was so happy to find a personal moment of inner joy that I kept it to myself. Then one day I began to share, ‘Listen mom, a bird is singing to you’ or ‘Look how cute that kitten is mom.’ The happiness in her eyes intensified my pleasure and our shared experiences of ‘joy and wonder’ became a daily event. Don’t get me wrong; we had plenty of bad days. After all, she still had Alzheimer’s.
But every night when I remembered that day’s joy and wonder, I felt comforted and felt the peace it brought me during the day wash over me all over again. Mom’s been gone for over a year, but I’ve made it a habit to continue looking for joy and wonder in every day. Not only do I enjoy my day more, but it helps me remember her differently than I might have if we hadn’t shared those experiences.”
“I’ve been caring for my mother for years and always felt inadequate as a caregiver. Mostly I felt guilty because I thought I should spend more time with her, but with two young kids and my job, there was just no way to do that on a regular basis.
Recently the nurse in mom’s doctor’s office touched my arm and said, ‘She’s so lucky to have you.’ I was stunned, ‘Me?’ She kept her hand on my arm and smiled, ‘You have no idea what a difference you’ve made. Without you advocating for her, she would never have the quality of life she has now. Give yourself some credit.’
She was the first person who ever said anything like that to me. I know this sounds silly, but her acknowledgement made a huge difference – she changed how I see myself as a caregiver and a son, and that took some of the emotional burden off my back.
We really ought to have a ‘Tell a caregiver he’s terrific’ day!”
“My mother has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t always know me anymore. So often, she bears no resemblance to the woman I knew, and I wonder who is this person in my mother’s body. The pain of feeding, dressing and changing the diapers of a stranger every day was destroying me. I was sure I’d never know another moment of peace.
One day, she was refusing to let me change her clothes and I was nearing my breaking point when I suddenly felt a memory I hadn’t thought of in decades. It was almost as though she was willing me to remember.
When I was small, mom would make up songs for me about how much she loved me while washing my hair, helping me go to sleep, cleaning up my crayons, eating my food, and other things. She made all the things I fought her on seem like fun with her playful and loving songs about them. The words were just a couple of sentences sung to the tune of one or two songs she knew, but they all repeated my name over and over and they all ended with a kiss.
I began softly singing to her exactly as I recalled her singing to me, except I substituted her name for mine. I started smiling at my silly song and my frustration eased off a little. Her eyes lit up and she smiled her beautiful smile that I hadn’t seen in so long, and then she hummed and started moving to the music. We actually danced a little, laughed, and sang a few times together before she agreed to change her clothes. The words I used for her songs didn’t make much sense, but her smile and the hug she gave me told it all.
She still has Alzheimer’s and she may not always know who I am – I can’t change that. But now, when I look at her, I don’t have to wonder who she is anymore. I recall the loving woman who taught me to brush my teeth and color inside the lines. My heart has found a little comfort enjoying the thought that my mother is helping me master yet another of life’s challenges.”