How living with Alzheimer’s disease can change in summer
Caregivers may have more support while their loved ones have longer days
I hope you’re enjoying all that the summer months have to offer. In my case and possibly in yours, caregiving days for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias continued even when the kids were out of school.
But even though you’re still busy with laundry, meals, and all that accompanies caring for your loved one, this season’s pace probably feels more relaxed. Perhaps it’s having more people at home during the day, feeling a summer breeze wafting through an open window, or hearing the background noise of the air conditioner, but summer feels different.
Caregivers should take the wins of summer
I was a member of the “sandwich generation,” caring for children and an elderly parent simultaneously. That was more relaxed during the summer months because the kids had less on their plates. They earned a break from their studies and the carpool line, and so did I.
Mornings were still busy with caregiving, but they were less active than earlier in the year. That’s not to say that the challenges of caregiving lessened from winter, or that its emotional component melted away, but it’s good to learn to embrace the little things and take the wins.
Summer slips away quickly. There’s a lot of living to get done while the sun shines longer — which, by the way, may positively affect your loved one. I noticed that as daylight waned to darkness, my mother would often become more confused, which is what happens with sundowners. Since the sun drops from the sky later in summertime, perhaps your loved one will hold on to clarity for a bit longer each day. That’s another win.
Summer solstice is an opportunity
This year, the summer solstice occurs on June 21. Each year, the Alzheimer’s Association celebrates the day with most light by spreading awareness about the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease and raising funds to help find a cure for it. You can join the fight and needn’t leave home to be involved.
Getting involved in anything that took me away from the house and my mother during my caregiving years was nearly impossible. From a caregiver’s perspective, not having to leave home is the genius of The Longest Day campaign.
While you can participate in person, you can also join the fight online and engage in an activity at home to raise funds and awareness. The Alzheimer’s Association’s website has fundraising ideas, including virtual activities, if you have trouble developing your own plan for this year’s Longest Day event.
Scheduling health appointments
It’s easy to ignore your health while caregiving, but summer months are a great time to catch up with your healthcare provider. The people surrounding you are taking vacations and may have more time to help you with your loved one.
Extended family may take vacation time to visit the person you care for. Take their visit as a chance to slip away to see your healthcare provider. Request that they sit with their loved one while you go to the doctor, and don’t forget to take some time for personal mental health. Hopefully, it’s an easy sell and won’t take much persuasion.
It might not be the visitors you have to persuade, however.
For a time, we were primary caregivers to my mother-in-law, whom we called Grandma and who’d had a stroke. My husband and I made plans to take a short trip when his brother and sister-in-law came for a visit from out of town. They’d stay with my mother-in-law for the weekend.
We’re very close, and we would’ve spent most of our time visiting with them if we weren’t occupied with caregiving. However, we had trouble getting away once Grandma joined us for a few years, making it beautiful when they were willing to let us get out and about with our kids. Grandma? She wasn’t so happy, understandably.
My mother-in-law had difficulty grasping that we’d leave home while they were visiting. In her mind, her son and daughter-in-law were visiting us all, not just her. In days past, our families would’ve spent time together enjoying each other. It appeared rude that we’d pick them up and leave the house during their visit, and perhaps under normal circumstances, it would’ve been.
Caregiving changes family visits
Sadly, caregiving transforms our circumstances, and families must roll with it. We spent time with our visitors over a meal, but stood our ground and left home for the weekend. It was hard to do, but necessary for us, and I’m grateful for an extended family who viewed it as meaningful, too.
As it turns out, Grandma had a great visit with them, and honestly, it was probably good for her to get time away from us, too.
It’s summertime, and unlike the American composer George Gershwin’s similarly titled piece from the musical “Porgy and Bess,” the livin’ isn’t easy for caregivers. But there are those occasional wins. Embrace them.
How can you embrace a win this summer? Please let me know in the comments below.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.