Relieving Alzheimer’s Stress is Exhausting

IMG_0255Ralph knows how to relax; but do I?

I recently wrote about Ralph’s good mood and said that his level of relaxation versus anxiety was the key. I wasn’t lying. Because he’s been relaxed, he has been in a great mood during the visits of both our son and our grandson and despite all the entertaining and disruption to his normal life that occurred while they were here.

There was something I didn’t mention, however, because I wasn’t aware of it until now that everyone has gone:  Keeping Ralph’s anxiety at bay has been less than relaxing for me.

The good news—I somehow lost weight in the last two weeks although I stopped exercising and started eating everything I usually avoid. The bad news—I am exhausted.

Keeping Ralph on schedule and unstressed is one thing when just the two of us are going through our set daily routine. Throw in extra people, break the routine: suddenly life gets a lot more complicated.

Not that I didn’t enjoy myself. I did because having people around to talk to and laugh with and make election jokes (kind of like funeral or Alzheimer’s jokes) with was delightful.

And not that my son and 16-year-old grandson weren’t amazing…both of them perceptive, understanding and patient.

But I still found myself smoothing things over. Making sure they were not overwhelmed by Ralph, and Ralph was not overwhelmed by them.

When my grandson told me “Oppa” was in much better shape than he’d expected, I was glad and relieved. But also, secretly, a little tiny bit miffed that I was doing my job so well that no one even noticed. (And I am not fishing for compliments here, because most of you face a ton more than I do, but I’m guessing you caregivers know what I mean.)

Well, there will be another test this coming week. Ralph has been invited to go fishing with his “fishing club,” three guys from Nashville with whom he has fished in Florida for the last fifteen years. I was originally going to drive him down, drop him off  on Monday and  pick him up from the guys on their way home Friday.

But then I realized, who was I kidding. Ralph would be increasingly anxious without me for ballast and he would end up being more responsibility than any three late-middle-aged (to put it kindly) guys could handle. So I am going too. We’ll see how I like being one of the guys.

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8 thoughts on “Relieving Alzheimer’s Stress is Exhausting

  1. Whatever the medical issues, I’ve noticed some individuals seem to tap into some force that allows them to put forth a stronger presentation of themselves when loved ones come to visit. Then, after they’re gone, the individual unconsciously drops back to the self the caregiver lives with every day — the one others do not usually see — so they may not fully grasp what the caregiver experiences.

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  2. Here I am again with the care-givee perspective.

    From time to time, my wife also lets slip that she doesn’t always point out things I forget. Sometimes I resent that a bit because I feel that I need to know if I’m progressing and her observations make up part of the data i use to gauge that. Sometimes I resent that she thinks that she needs to coddle me. Mostly I realize that it doesn’t matter if I know every occasion when my MCI shows itself, and her telling me as often as she could that “you forgot” might well lead to me arguing back “no I didn’t” and pointless friction and arguments. So I just try to keep in mind that she has the best of intentions whether she’s handling caregiving perfectly or not.

    Besides, it would be a bit hypocritical for me to judge her too harshly if she keeps some things to herself. A year ago, when all this was new, I freely shared anything that happened that I thought might be a symptom. I’m more selective now. I got off my commuter train a couple weeks ago like I have ten thousand times before and suddenly panicked for a few seconds when I realized that I didn’t have a clue where the hell to go next. I told her that. But I don’t volunteer the little stuff anymore, both because I don’t want to worry her and because it’s part of my denial regimen.

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    1. Gosh, this back and forth is so complicated. Reading your comments, I wanted to turn to Ralph and ask what he wasn’t sharing with me, but I didn’t. A couple of years ago I might have. We talked and even joked about the situation a bit more than we do now. I have to respect his denial routine, and frankly I have my own denial routine to keep up. As the care-giver, I want to be perfect but am training myself to accept that I am not. Thank you so much for your perspective. Your honesty and openness are inspiring.

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  3. I like what Carole said above about how we sift everything we say and do through our caregiver filter – that is so true, isn’t it?
    Good luck with being one of the guys on the fishing trip.

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  4. Everything we do or say as caregivers is sifted through our caregiver filter. How will this affect him? How will this affect those around him, who are witness to these changes. It is exhausting!

    It is a challenge to decide which situations we let fly, and which situations we decide to involve ourselves to help control (in a better way, I think) the outcome. It will interesting to see how his fishing trip goes. Even with you there to help “cover”, likely his friends will notice changes.

    Thanks for sharing Alice. I relate to so much of what you say.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. His buddies know about his condition but I suspect there have been more changes since they were last together. Will this be the last fishing trip? is always my question….will report back.

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