Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--Are You Ready to Scream?

Are you ready to scream. cry, laugh hysterically, pound nails into a board and check into a hotel for a few days? Possibly all at the same time? You may be care partner for an anxious elderly person.

Anxiety is an umbrella term for many clinical disorders, and I am not qualified to expound on them. Besides, that would be boring. The bottom line is, if you are dealing with this, you are stretched beyond your limits, and "working on your last nerve." You are beyond frazzled, and might be feeling a little guilty for how many times you lose patience.

For your loved one, connecting with a geriatric psychiatrist, through a referral from your GP, is essential. There are drugs and counselling which may lessen the symptoms and increase the coping mechanisms. Nothing works all the time, and sometimes life is going along fairly well and an event like a toilet that won't flush (see can become a problem of epic proportions. Finding the right drug at the right dosage takes time. But it starts with the right doctor.

But what about you?

As you navigate the unrelenting, exhausting journey of being the care partner for an anxious elderly person, you need resources. Lots of them.

Here are a few to add to your arsenal:

1) As much as you can, accept it for what it is. Medications will help, counselling may give some hope, and there may be other strategies that provide some stability, but there will be many times when your loved one's response is over the top and makes no sense.

Maude's daughter has a cold, so she hasn't come in for a few days. Maude is convinced her daughter is dead and the family is keeping it a secret from her.

Grace is getting treatment for macular degeneration, and the doctor is pleased with how her eyes are improving. Grace doesn't hear the positive and worries incessantly that she is going to lose her sight.

Betty is compulsive about cleanliness, and worries the whole day on shower day about who is going to give her the shower, and if they will know her routines. Even when familiar staff arrive, she worries.

You aren't likely to change these stressors, and the sooner you accept that this is how it is, the less you will be driven crazy.

2) Don't get drawn into arguing or reasoning.

The way I imagine it, the mind of the anxious person can be functioning normally, and then it bumps into one of the situations that cause stress. A reasonable mind with reasonable thoughts is suddenly filled to overflowing with exaggerated thoughts, crowding out all reason. Over-the-top statements, such as 'my daughter might be dead because she had a cold,' make sense to them. Don't try to reason, and definitely don't ridicule. Instead, make statements of fact, but don't argue.

"Your daughter has a cold. You can phone her tomorrow." Keep it simple, firm and don't argue. Arguing will frustrate you and it won't help.

3) Look after you. This journey you are on isn't easy, and some days you feel worn down before you're finished your first cup of coffee. You need to look after you. Get away, even if it's only for a few hours. Have friends in to lighten the mood. Eat right and get some form of exercise. Be good to yourself.

4) Find a sounding board. You need someone to talk to. Someone who will listen, even if your stories today sound much the same as yesterday. Someone who will listen, and not try to solve the unsolveable.

5) Laugh. Never at, but sometimes there is an opportunity to laugh with. Regardless, when the ridiculousness of it all overwhelms, go for a walk and laugh. It will restore your sanity.

Anxiety is all about me. The anxious person is consumed with the minutia of their lives, and often can't see beyond themselves. For this reason alone, their care partner needs to care for themselves, so they have something to give at the end of the day.

Interact with us: What helps you survive the ups and downs of being care partner for an anxious elderly person? What works?

"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength" Charles Spurgeon

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