Guest article by Mike Good
Before GPS, anytime you got into a car with a man there was no guarantee you would reach your destination – let alone arrive on time.
If you’ve ever found yourself circling an area at 20 mph while trying to read a Thomas Guide with a Bic lighter then you know what I mean.
Typically, I started out confident (and ignorant) of what the road had in store. Most of the time, because of a detour or wrong turn, I would eventually find myself in a Home Depot (my sanctuary) parking lot. I’d have a map spread across the hood of my car attempting to determine North by the position of the sun.
One morning everything changed when I opened a gift from my wife – a GPS! No more feelings of being lost, frustrated, and embarrassed. No more pressure from the back seat to stop and ask for help. Complete freedom to try every back road without fear of getting lost. No arguments about where to go because I now have a tool to guide me.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
When you’re young and dumb it’s okay to be carefree. While you’re caring for another person, you must have a map to follow. Whether it’s hand-drawn or professionally created, a plan is essential to navigating this journey. Sue Salach over at The Working Caregiver, writes that, “Creating a plan for potential life events can cut down on the number of the random stops we make.” You think you know where you are going but when hit a detour, you feel spun around, and stop at the Home Depot parking lot of caregiving.
Having a plan doesn’t have to be formal. It can be as simple as knowing where to get answers when obstacles change your course. Much like a GPS will help us get back on track; knowledge and advice from others help us navigate. And, I don’t mean those well-meaning yet annoying back-seat drivers; rather, I’m talking about people who have traveled this road.
Having an Efficient Road Trip
I know you don’t want to drive in circles, especially with today’s gas prices. You want a map that allows you to navigate as efficiently and as effectively as possible. But you don’t have your driver’s license yet. In fact, you’ve never received any formal caregiver training. So where do you start? What do you do?
Before you get into the car, start identifying your co-pilots. People like Brenda or me who understand your situation and will help you without biased commentary. If a co-pilot doesn’t resonate with you, open the door and kick them to the curb. It’s important to find those who you can trust and from whom you want to learn.
Each disease is going to require a different route and each driver is given a different car. As a result, you need to study and learn everything you can about your unique challenge. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is not bliss. I recommend topping off your tank on a daily basis – even if it’s reading only one paragraph or watching one short video. Make learning a habit.
As your knowledge grows, your confidence builds, and you’ll anticipate the curves ahead. And if you miss a turn and get lost, remember it’s okay to stop and ask for directions! Or if you start feeling sleepy behind the wheel, stop to let someone else drive awhile. If you don’t get support from others and try to drive the entire trip, you’ll become fatigued, negatively affecting the care you provide. As Brenda tells us in her short video, The Five-Minute Respite for Caregivers, even a small break can help “avoid a state-mandated vacation.”
Let education be your GPS. If you are dealing with Alzheimer’s, start by reviewing the basics. You can do this by downloading this free Introductory Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease [only name and email required].
No matter what you do, don’t do it without a roadmap and co-pilots to help make your journey efficient, effective, and successful.
Mike Good is founder of Together in This, an online resource helping family members caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Through short, informative articles and easy-to-use tools, he helps these caregivers take control and have peace-of-mind they are doing the right things.