In this edition of Ask The Caregiver’s Voice, you’ll find:
- caregiving tips,
- experiences with caregiver dementia, and
- the role of touch.
The Role of Touch
QUESTION: Can touch, whether it’s structured touch (e.g. massage), or unstructured touch (e.g. hand-holding, hugging), help Alzheimer’s sufferers? If so, how? [This question was asked by the media. Ed.]
TCV: Absolutely, touch plays an important role with loved ones.
For example, as dysphasia makes it increasingly difficult to communicate clearly, touch acts as a substitute for connecting with our loved ones. Gentle touch, hand holding, caressing an arm, shoulder, while looking in our loved one’s eyes offers a way to connect and even bond while brain cells are being choked off and taking pieces of our loved ones away.
Any touch, even massage, will be stimulating for our loved ones, keeping their brains functioning a little longer.
However, as with anything, take cues from those for whom you care. Sometimes, they may be thinking of something else and your touch may do more harm than good.
QUESTION: Studies have shown that when a person is the sole caregiver, s/he may risk developing symptoms of the loved one’s illness. How do we help caregivers avoid a similar fate? [This question was asked by the media. Ed.]
TCV: For perspective on caring for one with dementia, when my husband and I began caring for my father in our home, I asked fellow caregivers in our support group at the adult day care center, “When will I know that I need to place my father in a nursing home?” They replied, “You’ll know when the time is right.” Although, I didn’t like that response–my analytical mind needed an exact date, time, and symptoms–my husband and I decided that once my father’s Alzheimer’s progressed into incontinence, that would be our limit of care before we sought expert help.
So much for planning! I continued caring for him and cleaning up after him long after he became incontinent.
My husband and I began developing Alzheimer’s!
What finally did it? We lost sleep trying to keep up with my father’s care and began developing Alzheimer’s!
My husband started hallucinating.
I became disoriented on well-traveled and familiar roads.
I forgot to open the garage door before starting the engine and backing out.
We were both losing it…BIG time!
There’s actually a name for this: caregiver dementia.
We need respite!
The one piece of advice I give to all caregivers is: Take respite.
Getting away from the situation is key to regrouping and being able to return to the often stressful act of caregiving–even if it’s five minutes. There were times I looked forward to a simple bathroom break. Imagine that!
Click for More information on Caregiver Dementia.