Alzheimer's blog

Alzheimer's makes caregivers masters of change

By Angela Lunde May 3, 2011

"Alzheimer's disease is the defining challenge of our era. Anyone who is not concerned about Alzheimer's disease is in denial." Those were words spoken by Maria Shriver on the Larry King Special that aired this past Sunday night titled: "Unthinkable: The Alzheimer's Epidemic."

Dr. Jeffrey Cummings from Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and Dr. Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Alzheimer's Disease Research Center from Mayo Clinic spoke about the Alzheimer's epidemic, the looming economic impact, as well as Alzheimer's treatment, prevention and the critical need to accelerate research.

Celebrities touched by Alzheimer's including the Reagan family, Angie Dickinson, Laura Bush, Seth Rogen, Maria Shriver, Leeza Gibbons and others spoke on issues of loss, caregiver stress and family struggles.

Leeza Gibbons recalled the time that her mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, looked at her and said, "You're such a nice lady — What's your name?"

"It stabs your heart," said Leeza.

According to the special, 15 million unpaid caregivers give up their lives to care for another, and caregivers often become sicker than the person they're caring for — "they are under assault."

On a link from the CNN website, Leeza Gibbons offers advice to Alzheimer's caregivers that I believe may be helpful to many of you. Here is an excerpt:

"Basically, it's (life) all about change. It's inevitable. Change either breaks into your life, or you open the door and invite it to sit down and have a cup of tea. It's coming. You can either react or respond. Your ability to manage change is what will make a difference. In a game of sameness versus change, change always wins. It cancels out the stagnant, the static and the complacent.

"When you are a family caregiver, it's time to become a master of change ... I found my transformation into the world of caregiving was made easier when I remembered to breathe, believe and receive.

"Breathe: Start by taking 10 purposeful breaths; breathing in sheer certainty that you are doing your best. Breathe out all the negativity that weighs heavy in your head and on your heart. This can change your physical and emotional state, slowing down your heart rate, aiding your digestion and reducing your stress so you can cope with the very challenging journey you are walking.

" ... I think there is a way of looking at things that makes a difference. Your frame, the lens through which you create your world, affects everything. No matter where you go, there you are: You, with your approach, your temperament, your expectation. This is where those glass-half-full kinds of people have the advantage.

"Believe: Now is the time to be an optimist. Optimists really do fare better in warding off everything from the common cold to gastrointestinal problems and sleeplessness. Know that you can do it — and that your efforts will be enough. Believe that you can get empowered by others who have achieved this before you. Get strength from them, and know that what you learn on your journey will also lift those who come next.

"Receive: Everyone has limits, and there will be days when you feel that you just can't do it anymore. That's why it is so important to be surrounded by an encouraging community and explore the resources around you. Sometimes, you need to stop achieving and start receiving. Know that real strength comes from knowing your limits and asking for help ... "

"Caregivers — make sure you don't do this alone."
- Laura Bush

To see video from the special and the full article from Leeza Gibbons go to: www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2011/larryking/

May 03, 2011