Today is an Ativan day.
It is an Ativan day because it just feels like its all too much right now. I realize everyone is in the same boat but there is an extra kind of pressure when you are a full-time caregiver to your ageing mother.
In case you didn’t recognize this, it’s called Caregiver burnout.
It is a 24/7 job and I could not do this without my sister’s help or more importantly my entire family. Each one of my children takes the time to do something with her. But alas, they are all back at school and work. They have their own lives to live.
Caregiving is even harder when you are in a lockdown and your support systems dwindle even more. There is no program for her to take a break from us and us from her on a consistent basis. She goes to a senior’s day program every couple of weeks and spends the day at my sister’s home on Thursdays. Otherwise, she had not left this house since before Christmas. That is 8 straight weeks without a break. This is not the first time we had a long stretch and I’m certain it won’t be the last.
She cannot go outside because it’s too cold. She cannot visit because of lockdown, she cannot go shopping because of the pandemic. We are doing everything we can to keep her safe and happy.
Through the Alzheimer’s Society of London and Middlesex and McCormick Day program we’ve signed her up for an exercise class (that she now refuses to attend), a world virtual tour class, a painting class. All hold her attention for a little while. It does help but we still need to keep her occupied and entertained.
What she misses is her family. Her children, her grandchildren, her sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces. The ability to see them in person is vital to her mental health and well-being.
We have kept the landline so people can call her. She has communicated with What’s App and done a few Zoom Family reunions – but those can be confusing and overwhelming for her to process. We do call her sisters to keep in touch.
We try, I try… but I am tired. It’s called caregiver burnout. This is why it’s an Ativan day for me. To calm my nerves, for me to dig deep and find the love and patience that is needed to nurture a senior with the beginning of Alzheimer’s.
I know there are many things we cannot do during a lockdown and a pandemic but there are a few very simple things we can do. The first is to Call your mother. Call your father. Call your elderly aunt and your nutty uncle. They need to hear from you. If only to brighten up their day. Send a card, that’s even better. She treasurers those.
How you can help with caregiver burnout
Providing respite or added distractions for a senior or person who is being cared for is important to avoid caregiver burnout. Here are a few suggestions on how to help with some of the caregiving.
- provide respite on a consistent basis (this is not a one-shot deal)
- help with some of the doctor’s (or in my case) dentist appointments
- treat your senior to get their nails done, a new hairdo, a massage
- go for a walk in the park (take your time don’t rush them)
- take them out for lunch or a coffee and doughnut at your local Tim’s
- call them and take the time to chat (mark it in your calendar so you do this on a weekly basis)
- caregivers want a long weekend off too (consider a multiple-day visit over an extended weekend)
- gift them what makes them happy and occupies their time: puzzles, sudoku, paints, craft materials
- get them magazine or newspaper subscriptions – seniors don’t always enjoy reading from a tablet
- start a Netflix series and watch it with them
- bring over a family photo album and review the pictures with them to re-live some of the memories
- create craft projects with them and mail them off to family
- send them flowers or care packages if you are far away
- send a card (remember seniors are old-school, they use to only write letters and send cards)
- bring them a bottle of wine or their favourite tea, these small gifts tell them you took the time to pick something up to make them happy
- plan a getaway with them (when it’s safe to travel of course)
Kiwanis Senior’s Centre – City of London
Horton’s Senior Centre – Boys & Girls Club of London
Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging – Western University
Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for DownshiftingPRO.com and other online media outlets.