August 18, 2019 BY JAS 🍦
“Oh, I suppose I will have to be a caregiver, but I don’t want to do it.” The young lady sitting across from me was responding to my explanation of how my life had been for the last seven years. We had just met in the lineup getting our coffees and were now sitting in a booth at the coffee shop.
Although I couldn’t stay long, she had asked me to sit with her as we finished our discussion. My new acquaintance seemed to want to talk to someone about dementia…or maybe she wanted to talk about not wanting to face it, I wasn’t quite sure.
“My husband should get tested, but I have not pushed for it. I stay away from telling him what to do; I let him oversee his health,” she continued in her defense, or was it guilt?
“He definitely has memory problems. His brother has memory problems and has been tested. And, yes, he has Alzheimer’s disease. ‘Early stages,’ they told us.” She knew something about it at least.
But she seemed to be resisting, or in denial, or…she was young, so I couldn’t really tell.
“I don’t know what I will do if my husband is diagnosed with dementia. I don’t want to spend all my time with him.”
I was surprised at her honesty. She obviously knew being a caregiver would require her time and commitment. Maybe her husband’s family’s experience had made her uneasy. I could tell she was struggling to tell me she just did not want to…what was it?…to give up her own life?…to have to think of her husband with an illness instead of happier moments?…to have to learn about a new phase of life she was unprepared for? I could not tell. I felt she wanted to talk, but… Was it fear I was hearing?
“We have gone to the Alzheimer Society for almost six years now,” I just kept talking, hoping for her to see there was somewhere to get information. “After My Love was diagnosed, we were in a First Class together where we both learned what Alzheimer’s would mean, on a very beginner level. They have many classes, discussion cafés and support type groups you can attend that might help once you know for sure that your husband, in fact, has memory loss.”
How was I going to suggest she go to the Alzheimer Society, or any dementia focused group that might help her with caregiving, if she only suspected her husband had Alzheimer’s disease. How could I best help this person I had just met?
“You might contact the Society and they can give you recommendations if you want to start like that. No classes, just a short meeting. Information gathering is a good way to get something to think about. They won’t pressure you. But they can give you suggestions. It would be up to you if you want to follow up or not.”
I stopped. I felt I had already said way too much to this almost stranger. But I had seen this before. Spouses who didn’t know what to do, but who felt their loved one might be in the early stages of dementia. Spouses who, for their own reasons, didn’t feel up to the task ahead. But this wife did not know for sure. I thought her soul was wrestling with her future. From my ‘just met you’ position, I could only put the path before her, but she had to take the first steps.
Since becoming a caregiver almost seven years earlier, I had seen many spouses doing their best, exhausted from the unexpected tasks they had been tackling every day. I, too, had been uneasy about my future when we first learned of My Love’s vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. I knew the rocky road most of us experienced. I hoped what I had learned could somehow be beneficial to others.
I had reached a point where I wanted to help others who might be feeling like I had, alone and afraid. I had no family with memory loss. I had no family close by to help me. I was truly unfamiliar with what was ahead, the education I would need, the support I would beg for, the lifelines I didn’t know existed. I recognized others might not want to become caregivers because they didn’t know what to expect; they still had to discover what made it a privilege.
And then, my appointment walked into the shop. I waved. After a short introduction to this new maybe-caregiver, I left and joined my friend at another table for our meeting.
Those discussions with future caregivers would happen again and again, as I continued to slip into discussions with strangers. The more I realized they needed encouragement and at the very least, initial direction, the more I knew I had to help where I could.
Obviously, I could not be support for each person I met, but I might be able to help a greater number of new caregivers help themselves by reassuring them there was a way to be in a support group.
And that is how it happened!
This unintended meeting with my young coffee shop friend was the catalyst for the concept that later became the Accepting the Gift of Caregiving Support Group, a self-created support group suggested for readers of the “Is There Any Ice Cream?” book.
You can read more on website
Book website DISCOVER SUPPORT:
Welcome to Accepting the Gift of Caregiving Support Group.
…Put on the coffee; pour the tea
…Set out the nibbles or crunchies
…Bring your caregiver friends together
…Join each one on their caregiving journey
How you organize, where you meet, when you meet,
how long you talk, is up to the readers, the members of each AGC Support Group.
Each day do something to make others smile and your heart sing! ~jas
Please add the book "Is There Any Ice Cream?" by Judith Allen Shone to your library's online 'Request A Book' formso they will order it and then others can read it. Thank you.
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“Inspired by a Stranger” © 2019 Judith Allen Shone
“Is There Any Ice Cream?” encourages support groups, and as a result offers FREE Questions for Discovery for use in support groups. The topics follow the topics in the book. There is not requirement to have read the book. It would be good if there were a support group to use them. see Discover Support.