NOVEMBER 14, 2019 BY JAS 🍦
Caregiving can be difficult, whether you
- are a caregiver,
- know a caregiver,
- have a caregiver in your family,
- work with a caregiver, or
- in some unique service, provide care or support to a caregiver…
…you probably recognize that caregiving can be a confusing, and stressful position to be in.
Often, energy seems to evaporate, and, in my case, I just feel ‘used up.’
My loved one’s memory loss has been moving along the ‘disease spectrum.’ His words are now confused, and hallucinations appear more often and last longer. Medication keeps him from becoming aggressive at this point. He really is not sure who I am without prompting, something I have known for several years now.
His memory loss impacts every other aspect of his life, including how I can communicate with him about his diseases. In fact, memory loss, driven by the brain, rules everything.
Among his diseases is a diagnosis of anxiety.
It is a diagnosis of a condition I witness and my loved one feels repeatedly, in the same spot each time, but an event no medical person has seen. We are told it is ‘common’ presentation of anxiety. Yet, I could not find a YouTube video showing anything remotely like his behavior. And I have not been able to make it look right in a video to show anyone.
Alzheimer’s disease is always somehow part of the equation. He does not usually recall, but he has had these attacks for the last few years, growing from once a week to now two to three times a day. His chest becomes tight. He tells me he feels he cannot breathe, as he taps on the center spot between his lungs in his upper body. He tells me it is tightening up on him, that something is blocking his airway as he tucks into himself, as if to create an air pocket in the middle of his torso.
Pointing to his chest, he assures me something seems to be blocking his swallowing. He has a harrumphing sound, I think he is clearing his throat, although there is never any evidence of anything there. Various doctors have run numerous tests and have found nothing that would direct them in any specific direction.
So, we accept anxiety.
Some in the ‘memory loss circles’ have suggested it might be considered sundowning, because of the associated Alzheimer’s connection. His GP, his geriatrician, and his memory doctor have not yet determined that. Although it happens routinely now at nine in the morning and between four and seven in the evening, I am reluctant to call it sundowning because the symptoms do not match.
I try to find ways to help him reduce the pain. Originally, some doctors thought the blockage represented ‘caught mucous.’ I offered him his Aerobika, a device that vibrates with breathing, created to loosen mucous in those with COPD, although he never has had much mucous. We use it, instead, to get oxygen to his brain.
Over the years, the Aerobika has become a placebo in my toolbox, with the purpose to increase his oxygen intake by just encouraging him to breathe. While using it, he reluctantly closes his eyes and breathes steadily in and out, with no time limit set. Sometimes he won’t need his pill if he breathes with his device, and gets ‘through’ to the other side. It is not a given and he breathes with the device until he puts it down…finished.
Originally, before his anxiety was so intense, before we had the little green pills, this device was all he had. And he used it for hours before he felt relief. When I told his doctor, he had used it seven hours one night while I slept, the doctor suggested we try the little green pills. And we have used both the breathing device and little green pills ever since.
There are times when he does not know whether to breathe in or out first.
There are times it hurts too much to use it for long. There are times the added oxygen seems all he needs, and he shifts back to his normal self. Typically, if in thirty minutes he feels no relief, we switch to medication.
This is important to doctors because the little green pill is not the most desirable for an eighty year old man to take everyday. We are alert to the side effects, drowsiness, dizziness, incoordination, weakness, headache or stomach upset, although I have not seen anything like them yet. I just do not like pills if there is an alternative. We are trying a substitute and hope it will work. If so, I can report it.
Right now, we are seeing ongoing memory loss. It is going to happen. And it appears that his anxiety might be here to stay since we don’t know the trigger.
Stress and fear take a toll on our bodies. Tanja Jovanovic, Ph.D. says, “Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event.” It seems to manifest in a variety of ways. I have a feeling many caregivers feel this dread called anxiety. But My Love unconsciously feels it as well.
Having outstanding medical help, great caregiver support and understanding friends makes all the difference to my caregiver days. I am ever grateful.
But I admit…sometimes I am the one with anxiety…over his anxiety!
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Who are the caregivers who might be near depression? Those you can support simply by sending them this blog address to help them realize they are not in this alone?
The link is: www.AcceptingTheGiftOfCaregiving.com
Consider visiting Anxiety Canada online where you can find resources related to anxiety.
Each day do something to make others smile and your heart sing! ~jas
Please add the books "Is There Any Ice Cream?" and "Did You Hide the Cookies?" by Judith Allen Shone to your library's online 'Request A Book' form so they will order it and then others can read it. Thank you.
“Anxiety Over Anxiety” © 2019 Judith Allen Shone