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Real Talk: Air Your Dirty Laundry Before It's Too Late

Happy New Year! 

To ring in 2018 in style, I decided to do a fun mini-series on "Real Talk" topics. These are the down and dirty things many don't want to address until it is too late. Unfortunately with aging come wrinkles, weird smells, unfiltered jokes and death.

Today's blog post is best paired with a glass of red wine (heart health!) and your most comfortable outfit, because this is an uncomfortable - but necessary - topic to discuss. 

Aging, dementia and Alzheimer's do awful things to our bodies and minds. Unfortunately that means losing control of many things -- and I'm not just referring to your bladder. As memory loss progresses it removes barriers and "filters" we all rely on to keep our conversation topics socially acceptable, our undesirable opinions to ourselves, and most importantly: prevent the family secrets from slipping.

If you don't believe me or think "that won't be a problem for me"... continue reading. Losing your filter usually goes one of three ways:

1. The "Stand Up Comedian"

My favorite story to tell from working in a memory care happened when we had some volunteers come in to help out. One of our sassier residents, I'll call her "Ethel", always vocalized her thoughts and opinions... loudly. One of the women visiting was a larger lady and, being blessed with a slender build, Ethel was quick to share her thoughts on how that woman got so big. Ethel could not be silenced ("don't shush me honey - she did the eating, not me!") even when we tried to explain that her opinion was best kept to herself. Dementia took her filter away and Ethel frequently cracked jokes at the expense of many others.


2. The "Walk Down Memory Lane"

If you're lucky, this one means sharing fun stories, sometimes embarrassing but mostly harmless. Maybe we hear that the eldest child was conceived on a Ski Vacation and the whole family has an awkward laugh, but no one gets hurt. Unfortunately, memory lane may not be a happy place for everyone. In addition to reliving memories, both good and bad, this is where the family secrets can slip. I'm talking about affairs, unrequited loves, maybe even old lies such as "who actually dented the Porsche" in the summer of 1979... it's all fair game with dementia and Alzheimer's.


3. The "Anything Goes!"

If you want more details about this one, I recommend reading about or attending a lecture on Sexuality and Dementia. All I will say is I've heard things that could make Estelle blush.


While there is no way to prevent these things from happening, there are ways of soften the blow. It's better to be honest with yourself and your family while you still have control over your faculties. Believe me when I say it is much better to have control over when and how your family learns sensitive information. 

 

8 Ways to Indulge in Guilt-Free Alone Time

Getting time away is a rare luxury when you are a caregiver. After a while, the idea of doing something alone can be foreign, if not entirely forgotten, for some caregivers. Many families I have worked with were overwhelmed by the idea of doing something for themselves.

It is completely normal to feel guilty, even selfish, for leaving your loved one with professional companion care in order to get a few hours to yourself. Let that guilt go! These precious hours are necessary to both mental and physical health. Taking a few hours alone each day will allow you to refresh and reset, enabling you to be at your best when caring for your loved one.

Getting time for yourself doesn't have to mean getting lunch with friends or catching up on your correspondence. Sometimes it is good to treat yourself and bask in the quiet alone time that is so rare. When it has been so long since your last day out, where do you even start? Recently it has been said that millennials are better at self-care than any other generation, and I want to share my favorite ways to indulge in guilt-free alone time. 


1. Browse a Favorite Store

This is my personal go-to! My love for unique and vintage clothing means that slowly combing the racks at Goodwill is my favorite way to decompress. When was the last time you were able to browse and shop, rather than conquer your list and dash? It can be hard to do more than the bare necessities when you are shopping with the loved one you care for. Taking the time to browse a favorite store, explore everything Wegmans has to offer, or wander the mall can be a great way to enjoy yourself. 


2. Take Yourself Out for Lunch

If you don't want the pressure of conversation over lunch, you can still enjoy a meal out by yourself! There is plenty of people-watching to do downtown, or you can get something to-go and eat in a park if the weather is nice. Goolricks is my favorite for solo-dining since they have a lunch counter and a big window looking out on Caroline St. 


3. Get a Library Card

It may seem out-dated, but a Library card will give you access to so many resources for your self-care time, and your loved one! Aside from books, you can get audio books and DVDs. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library also has a vast selection of eBooks and magazines on their website. My favorite reads so far this summer have been The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Paris Wife, and The Night She Won Miss America (I love anything set during the 1920s-1960s). Escaping into another life can be a great way to relax and get away for a few hours.


4. Park Yourself at a Coffee Shop

A great follow-up to getting a library card! Take your newly acquired book stash to the coffee shop, or do some people watching over a foamy cappuccino. If you love coffee then you will feel an instant weight lift when you walk in and smell those delicious roasted beans. Most coffee shops also offer teas and smoothies too. In addition to reading, a coffee shop is a great place to mull over assisted living/memory care brochures or fill out paperwork and pay bills. Keeping those documents to yourself can be important if you are handling your loved one's finances and long term planning.


5. Join a Support Group

Caregivers provide so much support every day. They need support too! There are all kinds of support groups for various types of care-giving. It may seem scary at first, but support groups are full of other caregivers just like you. They understand each others' struggles and triumphs. It's a safe place to vent and ask for help from those who have all been or will be in your shoes at some point. 


6. Pamper Yourself

Look good = feel good, right? Whether you want a manicure, pedicure, color, or a luxurious shampoo and cut... the salon can be a source of great relaxation. You can sit back and enjoy being pampered, or chat with a stranger. It's a nice treat to talk about fun topics with someone new who knows nothing about your life as a caregiver. As much as we need to talk about it, it can be equally nice NOT to talk about it for a couple hours. My favorite place to get a fresh look when I need a pick-me-up is Bella Hair.


7. Go See a Movie

Order the biggest popcorn and find yourself the best seat at a matinee. Movies are a great way to unwind. Enjoying a movie alone means you can zone in entirely, and sit through the credits if you like. You are on no one's time but your own.


8. Sweat a Little

Exercise is great for your physical and emotional health. As you age, your body feels more stress from physical strain and care-giving can be very physically straining. Yoga is both relaxing and provides a good work out. If you don't belong to a gym or the Y, walking the mall or the local trails can be a great way to get some physical activity too.


Ask us how we can help you get your much needed alone time. Aging with Grace provides flexible hours of companionship. Click below to request services!