11.07.16 Mary Yarmin-Garone, DeMystifying Alzheimer’s:
Good afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
Today I’ll talk more about handling sacrifice.
It’s hard to handle any level of sacrifice if you don’t receive acknowledgment for what you’re doing for your loved one, compassion for your plight and endorsement for your reasons for doing what you’re doing—for who you are instead of just for what you do.
Many of us need to be acknowledged of our sacrifices from others. Being told that “You’re doing a lot for your father”—so straightforward and so simple—can provide convincing proof that your efforts are neither invisible or in vain. Without statements of acknowledgment, you’re likely to be left feeling ignored. Then you’re bound to grow bitter and disgruntled about the hard work you’re undertaking. You’ll be less likely to persevere over the course of your loved one’s illness.
Even more than being acknowledged, caregivers need to feel that others are compassionate. Awash in daily duties for years, many family members wind up feeling adrift from—and forgotten by—the rest of the world. Statements such as, “It must be hard taking care of your father every day,” convey understanding and concern that lessen your feelings of isolation.
Receiving acknowledgment and compassion is essential. Receiving endorsements is ideal. Like most caregivers, you may crave others’ understanding why you’ve chosen to be a caregiver. You want those reasons supported even more. Statements like, “I can understand why you want to give something back to your father after all he’s done for you,” can help you feel that your intentions and efforts are respected.
When others fail to ask why you care for your father, you feel that they’re only interested in what you do, not who you are. When your motives are misconstrued—for example, assuming you’re acting as his caregiver because of guilt or some monetary gain—you feel insulted. When they grasp your reasons but argue against them—for instance, telling you that you don’t owe your father anything—you feel negatively judged.
Acknowledgment, compassion and endorsement should be available to you to help handle sacrifice optimally. Unfortunately, too often one or more of these ingredients of psychological support aren’t there. Sometimes caregivers are barely acknowledged, even by their close relatives. For example, the wife of a man who was paralyzed by a stroke found that their children and her husband’s siblings were so confirmed in their views that it was her sole responsibility to take care of him that they never bothered commenting on all she was doing for him.
You might also find that you’re regarded with pity rather than compassion, which undoubtedly makes you feel humiliated. You’ll then be less likely to seek emotional support. Sometimes, caregivers are even blamed for their choices to be a caregiver.
When acknowledgment, compassion and endorsement aren’t forthcoming, you should take the risk of reaching out to others to solicit those forms of emotional support. Sometimes that means attending support groups where family members commiserate about the sacrifices they make to bolster one another. Sometimes it means seeking out spouses or trusted siblings for heart-to-heart talks. Occasionally, it means appealing to your loved one by asking, “Am I providing the help you need?” or a jocular, “How am I doing?” or even the heartfelt “Can you see how hard I’m trying?”
Psychological thinkers, such as John Rolland, MD, and Lorraine Wright, RN, Ph.D., have long stressed the importance of family caregivers’ beliefs. There are two dimensions to these beliefs. First, family members attribute meanings to the disease. For instance, family members may react to a loved one’s diagnosis of dementia as if it’s a death sentence, no matter how hopeful the doctors are. Or a family member may have little concern about a loved one’s diabetes, despite physicians’ warnings, if other relatives have fared well with the disease and believe that this one will, too.
The second dimension has to do with the caregiving arrangements. For some, giving care to a sick relative means providing one’s mettle as a true-blue family member. For others, being expected to caregive because of blood ties is an unfair burden. Between the two poles lay a host of often conflicting beliefs. You may believe that caregiving is both an obligation and a torment. You may believe that you owe no allegiance to your relatives but feel no strain while helping out. Or you may be unsure about what to believe at all.
These beliefs have implications for how well you handle the rigors of a serious illness. If you believe your loved one is going to die and your efforts will make no difference to their quality of life, caregiving’s sacrifices will feel like one more cause for suffering. However, if you and your family have the more positive belief that your caregiving matters—contributing to a cure or at least providing solace—its hardships will be judged worthwhile and the sense of burden decreased.
Creating a strategy for handling sacrifice is essential to coping with the long-term effects of caregiving. But another question always arises. What is a realistic outcome for all the hard work you do? Many caregivers feel that realism will only make it more difficult to keep going. Others find that clinging to fantasies makes it more difficult to deal with a medical crisis at the end.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me next time for more Demystifying Alzheimer’s.

About Lillian Cauldwell

Own and operate an Internet Talk Radio Network for 10 years, 2005 to Present Published Author of Non-Fiction Book, 1996, "Teenagers! A Bewildered Parent's Guide. Published Author of several fiction books, 2006 "Sacred Honor" and 20010 "The Anna Mae Mysteries: The Golden Treasure." Playwright of Theater of the Absurd and Black Comedies. Screenwriter, Black Comedies