Jarman Center, Tuscola, Illinois

Children of Old People support group (CHOPS) Jarman Center Tuscola meeting May 16th

Guilt the silent killer

CHOPS met Thursday May 16th 6 pm at the Jarman Center dining room. We started off with a funny you tube parody video of Sara Palin trying to do a commercial for a book about Alzheimer.s. One of the goals of CHOPS is to add some humor or lightness to our days, especially when it is about aging issues. After than light hearted look at memory, Alison Cler DON from Tuscola Health Care Center gave an informative presentation about Alzheimer.s and grief.

Alison presented about the seven stages of Alzheimer.s and myths about the disease. The first 4 levels are often hidden, or just assumed to be normal aging. Problems don.t stand out until stage 4 hits. At this point, daily routine activities are difficult to manage such as paying the bills. One may see the spouse of the affected person stressed due to the additional work of helping the partner. At this point many family members will go to the doctor to find out what is going on. There may be a process of elimination to determine if it is Alzheimer.s or if there are other problems causing the dementia . or both. Often at this point medications are prescribed to try to slow the progression, but there is not clear proof that these meds help. Patient and family observation is all that the doctors have to determine if the medications are helping or not.

Later stages of Alzheimer.s one will see a lot of frustration in the person affected. Mood changes, losing the sense of time, or wandering and pacing will show up. By stage 6 one cannot care for oneself, and stage 7 is the terminal stage. Hospice is a choice for care at the later stages since Alzheimer.s is a terminal disease. Stage 7 is the final stages resulting in the passing of the loved one.

Alzheimer.s is not caused by drinking out of aluminum cans, silver dental fillings, or aspartame. It cannot be diagnosed by any MRI, blood test, or other tools. There are not any risk factors that make one person more likely to develop it as compared to another. There are other types of dementia that do result from health problems such as heart disease, alcoholism, or mental illness but Alzheimer.s will affect who it picks. It can strike as young as in the 40.s or much older. There is much more known about the various types of dementia and Alzheimer.s and still more to know.

What makes coping with Alzheimer.s a little easier? Families who can live in the moment . focusing on what makes mom or dad happy today- have the easiest time coping with this disease. It is best to no longer try to bring back the old personality or skills. That tends to cause more guilt and distress for everyone and kills the value of the time you have now. Focusing on what this person can do today, and what makes them happy today lessens the .would have-could have- should have. thoughts. Unfortunately not every family member or caregiver can easily accept the loss of the old self. Often this causes conflict in the family but it is the most realistic approach to having valuable time with the person affected. For the Alzheimer.s patient . they live in old, long term memory and the very moment they are in now.

Helping to care for someone with a chronic disease such as Alzheimer.s often opens up grief in the family. Preparatory grief is often experienced as family members grieve for the loss of what that person was, loss of the care giver.s own life and time to name a few types of grief. Many care givers experience grief as they start the care giving process. That is also when the guilt comes in too- if only I caught this sooner, if only I visited more.

Grief is like a job. It has a beginning and end. If one does not go through the process of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance (DABDA) then one will get stuck in a stage. The stages do not always go in order, and one may flux back and forth as grief processes. The timeline is different for everyone and guilt often overrides these different stages. Guilt is often called the silent killer. The would have . should have . could have thoughts eat up our mind and do not help process our grief.

Loneliness is a feeling that can surface when one has been a caregiver and now that role is gone or diminished. Finding a way to reframe the view of past responsibilities and loss of loved ones is important to process the loneliness one may feel. It is also important to allow yourself to feel sad and acknowledge what you feel. Another important tool is discovering ways to experience joy. Alison pointed out that guilt feelings often mingle in here and it kills the joy one feels from life. Finding ways to look at the situation differently, and finding whatever brings you joy is very important when dealing with loneliness. Support groups, exercise, faith, friends, and help of others are important to try as one works through grief.

Alison observed that the CHOPS group are all exceptional people. The fact that there is a group addressing these topics means we care about ourselves and others. Sharing this information, using the information and developing more topics to help other CHOPS are unique and much appreciated. CHOPS is open to all in the community. Please call at 253-2325 or visit www.jarmancenter.com to find out more.

The next meeting will be June 20th at 6 pm. If you cannot make it, we also offer SKYPE as a way of attending. Hope to see you there!