Take care of yourself

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We see so many articles, lectures, and books that preach increased awareness of caregiver burnout and caregiver stress. “Take care of yourself,” they tell us. “Take time for yourself and find ways to relax.” Frank Broyles, University of Arkansas coaching legend, wrote Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers after caring for his wife, Barbara. She was diagnosed in 1999 and died five years later, but her daughter says she started having symptoms in 1993. Broyles’ daughter, Betsy Broyles Arnold, today is an advocate for caregivers and teaches that attitude is the caregiver’s most important asset.

Mom was so very patient when dealing with my dad. As his mental age regressed, public incidents happened more frequently. He would make faces, mouth noises, or laughingly challenge wheelchair-bound strangers to a race. As his behavior became more unpredictable, Mom preferred to let him stay home. My sister and I began taking turns doing “Dad duty” shifts, staying home with him so Mom could go run her errands.

One day when I arrived at their home for a “Dad duty” visit, my father was sitting on the sofa in his pajamas. I looked at my mom, confused. She smiled and said, “They say the greatest cause of caregiver stress is lack of flexibility. I’m going to adjust my expectations every day if I need to. If he doesn’t want to shower or get dressed, he doesn’t have to.” Mom was right, of course, and we all followed suit. Showering, shaving, eating lettuce or broccoli… if he balked, we gave in. And moved on.

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