Saturday, July 13, 2013

Caregiver Emotion #6 – Defensiveness

Caregiver Emotion #6 – Defensiveness

After the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you probably delved deep to find all the information you could to be the best caregiver possible. You searched reliable sources on the Internet, contacted the Alzheimer’s Association for educational opportunities, and attended support group to learn about first-hand experiences. After all your work and dedication to caregiving, cousin Sally breezes in for a ten minute visit and proceeds to list things that you are doing wrong and critiquing your job as a primary caregiver. Is it any wonder you become defensive?

Now, before you push Sally out the door and refuse to take any additional calls from her, pause to consider if anything she said had merit. She may not have presented her “help” in the right tone of voice or in a tactful way, but perhaps if you sift through her suggestions, you might find one useful nugget. Since you are the one with experience, and the one who knows your loved one best, you are responsible for using best practices while caring for your loved one, even if your least favorite cousin Sally suggested it.

When you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s, you learn how your loved one reacts to environmental changes. It may not take much to throw everything out of kilter. A gathering of friends and family may once have been something you looked forward to, but now you know it will only confuse the person you are caring for. Rather than just being defensive if someone criticizes your change in entertainment patterns, take a few minutes to explain that circumstances have changed. You don’t want to isolate your loved one, but it will be helpful for friends and family to visit in small groups rather than hosting big events.

One place you do need to be defensive is if anyone tries to take advantage of your loved one. During the early stages, Jim was the telemarketer’s best friend. It seemed that he always agreed to anything they suggested. It wasn’t unusual to come home after work and have Jim say. “Someone called about that thing.”

“What thing?”

“You know, that we want.”

“Who called?”

“I have no idea.”

After a few of those conversations, I installed caller ID. I often had to call to cancel TV programs, donations to various charities, tickets to events we couldn’t attend, and occasionally say no to people we knew who really should have known not to make agreements with Jim.

Primary caregivers have to be defensive when it comes to protecting the person with dementia, but not let defensiveness keep them from accepting help or valuable information. As with every aspect of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, you need to control emotions, like defensiveness, in order to make the best caregiving decisions.

Copyright (c) July 2013 by L.S. Fisher
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