Home Music therapy Cultivating Strength and Compassion as Caregivers of Dementia Patients

Cultivating Strength and Compassion as Caregivers of Dementia Patients

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Dr Linda Miles

According to current statistics from the University of Michigan, approximately one in seven Americans has some form of dementia.

Compassion challenges our assumptions, our sense of self-limitation, of worthlessness, of having no place in the world. As we develop compassion, our hearts open up”

—Sharon Salzberg

USA, June 24, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — Dr. Linda Miles, an experienced psychotherapist and author, knows firsthand how heartwarming and heartbreaking it can be to care for a family member who suffers from a chronic illness. Robert, her husband of 33 years, suffers from advanced dementia. Due to this disease, he often does not recognize his beloved wife. Recently, Robert and Linda renewed their vows, a reminder and a promise of unity until the end. It is also an embodiment of Dr. Miles’ own advice to all other caregivers: find strength by seeking out and creating moments of joy in the midst of suffering.

It was Robert’s idea, and Linda seized the moment. One evening, as she entered the room, Robert looked up and told her that he had seen her several times at work. He found her intelligent and attractive, and he wanted to marry her. His memory, in part, was true; they had worked together as colleagues at a mental health center decades ago. He just didn’t remember that they were already married. Linda happily said yes to this second marriage proposal; they renewed their vows in the company of their family, with the blessing of their pastor son.

According to current statistics from the University of Michigan, approximately one in seven Americans has some form of dementia. As baby boomers in the United States mature into seniors, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase dramatically. Caregivers of people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are often referred to as “second patients” because of the intense physical and emotional demands of this type of care.

Research from the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that when caregivers are motivated by guilt, a sense of duty, social pressure or greed, they are more likely to feel resentful towards the person they are helping and to experience psychological distress. On the other hand, caregivers who combine duty with the desire to show kindness and genuinely protect the person they care for experience less psychological distress. Such attentiveness is associated with positive feelings, positive brain chemicals including oxytocin and dopamine, and the increased likelihood of reaching out to others for help and support. The NIH also cites that 55-90% of caregivers enjoy positive experiences that foster togetherness with loved ones: shared activities, connections, spiritual and personal growth, increased faith, and feelings of accomplishment and mastery.

Lisa Jane Miller, a researcher at Columbia University, studied the relationship between spirituality and mental health and found that spirituality also protects against depression. Those who have regular spiritual practices and strong beliefs are much less likely to become depressed. Although the role of caregiver can be extremely demanding around the clock, those who are most resilient have faith in a purpose greater than themselves. When duty and desire are aligned, there is increased fulfillment and reduced psychological distress.

As human beings, caregivers will still experience moments of negativity and pessimism despite their best intentions and practices. When caregivers feel drained or drained from the second patient role, they can access a wealth of resources and practices to help them regain their positivity and purpose. Dr. Miles suggests the following:

1. Be open to loving kindness in unexpected places. Dr. Miles was touched by observing the kindness of strangers who go out of their way to help her and her husband. While struggling to get off a plane to visit family, the pilot noticed Robert’s difficulty from his cockpit and returned and helped Linda’s husband off the plane. Once, while she was running an errand, her husband fell in the driveway. A nice stranger – a restaurant delivery guy – was helping her get back on her feet when she arrived. Her neighbours, upon finding out about Robert’s condition after seeing an ambulance at their house, offered their time and help if she needed them. A passing handyman – who had once been the carer for a family member with dementia – offered to be on call if needed.

2. Take care of your personal health. Since caregivers are at higher risk for health issues, including lower immunity and higher risk of chronic diseases, it is important to follow a healthy diet, sleep, exercise and Adopt lifestyle habits that reduce stress. Regular medical checks are also important.

3. Practice mindfulness and/or prayer; experts have shown that such practices are very beneficial in preventing or alleviating depression.

4. Consider hospice. Although many people view hospice as an end-of-life service, it is available to families caring for someone with advanced dementia. They provide hospital beds, regular medical care, certified nursing assistants, music therapy, veteran support services, and respite care if needed.

5. Reach out to a support network of family and friends. Having a trusted family member or friend to share deep feelings, fears and frustrations with is essential. Because people with dementia may not recognize their caregiver and become hostile and aggressive towards them, it is important that the caregiver does not hold back these emotions and is free to share their feelings honestly and openly.

6. Look for a local or national community that offers support for caregivers and offers knowledge about the disease. Caregivers tend to be socially isolated, so fostering bonding is extremely important for their own well-being.

a. The Alzheimer’s Association is accessible online; they provide 24/7 help, with professionals on call to provide resources, information and advice.

b. REACH (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health) offers online instructions, problem-solving training, stress management techniques, and telephone support.

Caregivers of people with dementia can individually become better or bitter based on their ability to be kind to themselves and others. To overcome challenges and find purpose in life, it is important to find the pockets of light in the darkness. It is also essential to remember that, as in an emergency on an airplane, it is important to first secure your own oxygen mask before effectively assisting others to do the same.

Dr Linda Miles
Miles and Associates
+1 850-321-6612
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