Thursday, June 27, 2013

I was a Guest Blogger! So Exciting!

Exciting news!  Recently I was asked to be a guest blogger for the LivHome Home Care blog, writing about my experience with learning to cope with Mom's dementia. Originally my submission was 3 pages long (posted below my actual submission here).  After I emailed it to the blog I was told I had to sum it all up in 500 words or less which wasn't easy but here it is....was posted on their site Wednesday June 26, 2013. 

http://livhomeblog.com/june-blogger-series-a-day-in-the-life-anne/

June Blogger Series: A Day In the Life with Anne

We’re continuing our June Blogger Series and exploring what a day in the life of a caregiver who has experience great loss.  Today’s guest blogger is Anne, who was  a full time caregiver for her mother until August 2012.   We wanted to give you a glimpse into what a day in the life is like losing someone you love and how to cope with their loss.

Here is Anne’s story:

From the day of Mom’s dementia diagnosis I started losing sleep.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how our family would be effected by everything that was about to come our way.  I started looking for information online.  One of the first things I realized was that I needed to find a support group.

I found a support group thanks to my Aunt Margaret.  She had been attending this support group at a local nursing home, The Episcopal Church Home in Louisville KY.  Margaret convinced my dad to go with her.  He was hooked!  Then I went.  I cried a lot during the first meeting hearing of how one day Mom would probably no longer know me, my sister, my dad.

Margaret, Dad, and I went to this support group once a month for several years.  The group consisted of family members who were caregivers.  We all discussed, laughed, cried, compared our experiences.  This group gave me the strength I needed to know that I COULD GET THROUGH THIS.

At night  I would lay in bed, my mind going a hundred miles an hour, thinking and worrying.  One night I got out of bed, went to the living room with my journal and started jotting down everything I was thinking.  FINALLY, I found my way of coping!  WRITING!  I put everything on paper and I could let it go.  I didn’t have to think about it any longer because it was on paper.  Sleep finally came.

When friends and family would ask about Mom or how we were doing I found it to be tough to rehash everything so I decided that a blog might be the way to go.  With the blog they could all read about Mom’s condition online and find out what was happening; we wouldn’t have to explain over and over.
I thought there may be other people we didn’t know who might stumble across my blog who were in the same situation as us and understand that they were not alone.  Along the way I found other blogs very similar to mine realizing that there is an entire community of people just like me!  I started looking on Facebook and Twitter.  Again, a whole new group of ‘friends’ who felt the frustration, sadness, the helplessness that I was feeling; an entire community of people who are caring for someone with some form of dementia who want to talk, help, and hug you.

It has been 10 months since my mom passed away on August 8th, 2012.  Congestive heart failure is what took Mom.  She did not die as a result of the dementia but I lost her years before her physical death, the dementia stole all of who she was.

My advice to anyone who is caring for someone they love with dementia is to find help.  Find a support group.  Find at-home care.  Plan for the future of your loved one.
You cannot do it alone!

*******************************************************************************

This is my original 3 page submission which I was later told could only be 500 words or less...


Dealing with Dementia by Anne Forrester Balcom, Louisville KY
People cope with things in different ways. 

For me, the best way I found to cope with my mothers dementia diagnosis was to write about it and they way it made me feel.

 First a little history...

Since the age of 39 or 40 Mom lived with health adversity.  She was first diagnosed with coronary artery disease and almost immediately sent to the hospital for her first double bypass open heart surgery.  Mom's recovery was a long, arduous one.  Six months after her surgery she found out her bypasses had failed and was sent back into surgery for her second bypass, this time a triple. 

It was after that second surgery that we were told that Mom more than likely would not live to the age of 42.  I was just 11 or 12 years old at the time; a young age to find out I was going to lose my mom.  It was from that moment that I began learning to cope with tough, life-altering news. 

None of my friends had a sick, dying parent.  Why did I?  I had to learn early that life isn't fair.  I don't remember exactly how I coped with the terrible news about my mother but I remember having terrible dreams, nightmares really, about her dying. 

Bad news about Mom's health was a reoccurring issues over the next 30+ years. 

Mom was a fighter.  She lived well beyond her 42nd birthday and through several other devastating health diagnosis'.  Multiple Sclerosis, Type 2 diabetes, osteo & rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.  Because Mom was such a fighter and had such a strong will to live she was able to surpass her life expectancy by 35 years!  Afterall, she had a lot to live for:  two girls to raise, two girls to see graduate from high school, college, marry, and have children.  Mom lived to see it all with poise, grace, and a sense of humor. 

Over those 35 year we had many "close calls" with Mom's health and being told by the doctors that "this may be it".  Well, it was NEVER "it".  Dad, Mom, my sister Camille, and I began taking the bad news and the "it" news in stride after a while because it became our new normal.  Mom ALWAYS lived.  She really LIVED!  She lived her life in constant pain but she could deal with it, laughing and joking about it all.  Mom never complained.

Years later when the diagnosis of dementia came in 2006 we all were thrown into a whirlwind of 'what do we do now?".  This couldn't be happening!  Yet another health crisis for my mom with no way out this time, no cure, no happy ending.  We all had to come up with a new way to cope because we knew we ALL were in for a very long, tough road ahead. 

Camille, my sister, had just experienced the loss of her mother-in-law to Alzheimer's disease.  She was familiar with all that goes along with it.  Although Camille was upset with Mom's diagnosis she seemed to be able to take everything in, go on with her life as normal and was a big help to both Mom and Dad.

My parents, Hal & Marilyn, went into denial although they wouldn't admit it.  Sure there were tears cried and some discussion with us of planning for their future but instead of actually planning they turned to spending money on things they didn't need.  One example...they bought matching Vespa motor scooters (and this was after Mom had stopped driving a couple of years earlier).  BAD IDEA!  Camille and I wouldn't have it.  We had to put our foot down and had them get rid of the Vespa's


From the day of Mom's dementia diagnosis I started losing sleep.  I couldn't stop thinking about it and how our family would be effected by everything that was about to come our way.  I started looking for information online.  One of the first things I realized was that I needed to find a support group. 

I found a support group thanks to my Aunt Margaret.  She had been attending this support group at a different nursing home, The Episcopal Church Home in Louisville KY.  Margaret convinced my dad to go with her.  He was hooked!  Then I went.  I cried a lot during the first meeting hearing of how one day Mom would probably no longer know me, my sister, my dad.  

Margaret, Dad, and I went to this support group once a month for several years.  The group consisted of many family members who were caregivers.  We all discussed, laughed, cried, compared our experiences.  This group gave ME the strength I needed to know that I COULD GET THROUGH THIS, I wasn't alone.

At night  I would lay in bed in the quiet of the night, my mind going a hundred miles per hour, thinking and worrying.  One night I quietly got out of bed, went to the living room with my journal and started jotting down everything I was thinking.  FINALLY, I found my way of coping!  WRITING!  I put everything on paper and I could let it go.  I didn't have to think about it any longer because it was on paper.  Sleep finally came.
 
When friends and family would ask about Mom or how we were doing I found it to be tough to rehash everything so I decided that a blog might be the way to go.  With the blog they could all read about Mom's condition online and find out what was happening; we wouldn't have to explain over and over.  Then I thought there may be other people, people we didn't know who might stumble across my blog who were in the same situation as us and understand that they were not alone.  Along the way I found other blogs very similar to mine and realized that there is an entire community of people just like us, just like me!  I started looking on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I had found a whole new group of 'friends' who felt the frustration, sadness, the helplessness that I was feeling. 

There is an entire community of people who are caring for someone with some form of dementia.  This community is full of people who want to talk to you, hug you, help you. 

It has been 10 months since my mom passed away on August 8th, 2012.  Congestive heart failure is what took Mom.  She did not die as a result of the dementia but I lost her years before her physical death, the dementia stole all of who she was. 

My advice to anyone who is caring for someone they love with this horrible disease is to find help.  Find a support group.  Find at-home care.  Plan for the future of your loved one. 

You cannot do it alone! 

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