Caregiver Corner: Get by with a little help from friends

Article originally published in the Winter 2018 Alzheimer’s Update

We sent our daughter off to college in August, and I’ve been reflecting on her schooling to date.  When she was in middle school she would go on outings. For each journey, she had a “buddy,” a peer, for whom she was responsible. If a buddy got upset, hurt or lost, her peer would notify the teacher. Their outings were complex. They took the city bus, tramped in woodlands, swam in the ocean. The risk for getting upset, hurt or lost was high. Yet they all made it through middle school and to this day, my daughter, unlike many of us, talks about how she loved middle school.

I think the “buddy system” can work for families living with dementia as well. As family members walk the difficult path of caring for a person with dementia, they too are at risk for getting upset, hurt or lost. Family members who care for those with dementia may find a sense of meaning, opportunity and power in their evolving role, but they may also find the experience burdensome, leading to depression, anxiety and grief.

With this in mind, I think it’s important that every care partner have a peer buddy to turn to when they trip up or lose their way (as we all do). In my case it was my sister; for others, it may be a neighbor or friend in a support group. The best way to find someone who can team up with you is to call a local organization. In Portland, the Multnomah County Family Caregiver Support Program offers help and support, 503-988-3646. The Alzheimer’s Association can also be a great source of support, 800-272-3900.

As our kids learned early in life, don’t go on a journey alone; find a buddy to make the way easier as you go.

Follow me, and other caregivers, on Twitter @AllisonLindauer.

allison lindauerAllison Lindauer, Ph.D., N.P. is Assistant professor and director of outreach, recruitment and education for the Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center.