‘Alzhumor’ Part 2: More Stories of the Lighter Side of Caregiving
BY MARIA DENEAU
It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to be perfect and doing everything perfectly as a caregiver. LOUD BUZZER NOISE. That’s impossible. So just “be light”…You ARE their light!
Last week, I shared three examples of what I like to call “Alzhumor” – stories to encourage you to laugh a little as you carry out the day-to-day work of being a caregiver. Now, I share three more stories that I hope will bring you a smile.
Alzhumor Coping Strategy No. 4: Lighten Up!”
One fellow advocate of mine, “Natalie,” has a husband with VERY early onset Alzheimer’s — he is in his late 30s. Devastating to hear, right? This family just rolls with it every day. Recently, she had to take him to get some bloodwork and labs done, and they couldn’t get a needle in his arm for anything. This was important for a recent health test. So, she just looked at him and said “You are a giant weirdo, you know that?! Why can’t you just get sick like everybody else?!” With that, she and her husband laughed until they were crying (he’s still alert and aware) and the phlebotomist was mortified. Natalie just turned to her and said “Honey, you gotta lighten up. We just have that dark humor in our family.” Bravo! Don’t ever feel the need to apologize for your humor if people don’t get it.
Alzhumor Coping Strategy No. 5: Don’t Let ‘em Manipulate You…’Cause They Will.
Another friend of mine, 23-year-old “Thomas,” lost his mom to early onset Alzheimer’s at 48 years old. He was also one of her caregivers. They had the BEST sense of humor, even before the disease hit. Very dry. One day, he was trying to get her dressed for a family party and she wasn’t cooperating. In a rare impatient moment (he was running late), he finally said “Come on, mom. Please put on your dress so we can go!” Mom, who was still able to dress herself, stated, “I don’t know how to put on my damn dress. I have Alzheimer’s. YOU do it. I can’t remember how.” Convenient for her, right?! What else can you do but laugh? Which Thomas did.
Alzhumor Coping Strategy #6– Expect the Unexpected. There Is No Other Way to Put It.
Then there was that moment when my dad was hospitalized from caregiver exhaustion and burnout after hiding my mom’s new personality traits, and my brothers and I had to take care of her for a few days: worst nightmare. My mom was in dire need of a shower and I finally got her into the bathroom, but she wouldn’t get in without a shower cap. Mind you, her hair was the dirtiest part. I didn’t argue; I just rooted through the cabinet for a shower cap and actually found one. As I turned around to help her put it on, she said “I’m ready, I found it.” Except that she hadn’t. She had found a pair of clean Depends and put them on her head like the Papal crown as she stood there buck naked. My first instinct was to cry, as this was a new frontier for my proper, elegant mom and me. Crying wasn’t what emerged, though. Instead (again), it was laughter. I started laughing, and my mom just laughed right along with me! Are you seeing a pattern here?
Ultimately, our loved ones with Alzheimer’s may not know WHY they love you, or who you actually are, but they somehow know that they love you, even in the oddest of ways. So when times get tough, just remember: keep laughing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Maria (Martini) Deneau is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and is the only daughter of four children born to Bernard and Evelyn Martini. She is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati and is currently employed by Kindred Healthcare in Southwest Michigan as a Home Health Specialist (Account Liaison) and has worked in senior healthcare since 2007. Maria serves as a Board Member for Fund Development at Senior Services of Kalamazoo County and also serves as a Networking Board Member for Professionals Focused on Aging in Kalamazoo, MI. She has also been recognized by the state of Ohio Senate for Outstanding Achievement and exemplary service to the community and its youth while living in Cincinnati, Ohio.