As the person cared for changes, so the job of caregiving is ever changing. Most people only recognize the enormity of this job when it becomes necessary to bathe, dress, and feed the elder. But all stages are difficult, challenging and stress filled in their own way.

Early Stage – The first major stress – is the loss of reason.

Before the diagnosis, you find that the person who has always been so reasonable now is unable to see another point of view.  When you find yourself trying to make sense out of a nonsensical conversation, you are already a caregiver. When you are trying to understand why you can no longer have a conversation, where you; express opinions, go through all the options and decide on the best course of action, you realize one person is no longer able to reason.

Mid-Stage – Second stress – now you have the crushing truth of a diagnosis and caregiving.

While the caregiver is trying to learn everything they can about this disease process, they also have to take care of the elder. Every school child knows how tiring it is to study, and concentration before a big test.  Learning depletes the brain of its oxygen and nutrition and makes you tired. Added to the stress of learning all about Alzheimer’s disease, the grief of the knowledge that this will only get worse- not better, places a huge stress on the caregiver.

During this time the caregiver still can hardly believe what they see before their eyes. The elder now has to be monitored at all times, because they now have no safety awareness. In the early stage and many times in the mid stage of the disease, because the elder still looks so good the caregiver is also in the position of having to convince others that there is a disease process going on.

The Last Stage – The third stage of caregiver stress – now you are providing hands on care.

Now the caregiver is having to not only select the clothes to be worn, but assist putting on and taking off those clothes. The elder now needs assistance with direct hygiene care, and resists this “help,” that they didn’t ask for and don’t want.

During this Holiday season look for those caregivers in your lives and step in to try to shoulder some of stress they may be feeling.  A great gift is always listening.

Virginia Garberding R.N.

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing

Author: Please Get To Know Me – Aging with Dignity and Relevance

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