Jolene Brackey feels it is vital for caregivers to take care of themselves while providing care to those living with Alzheimer’s. The nationally recognized speaker and author delivered a keynote presentation during “The Longest Day: A Celebration of Caregivers” at Murray’s on Main in Tomah June 5.
“I think we put the focus on getting them better and on fixing them, which causes the caregiver a lot of stress, instead of focusing on how I can make this moment a little bit better by doing something that’s simple. Fixing it is not a simple thing,” said the Montana resident and author of the book, Creating Moments of Joy.
Brackey suggested caregivers should look to create moments of joy, which can be difficult when caring for a family member or loved one with Alzheimer’s.
“Slow down and breathe, because I think often we’re always trying to do something for them (family members) because that is a measure of how good we’re giving care, when, in reality, being with them helps them to relax with you,” Brackey said. “Whether watching your favorite TV show, take a nap, drink water, whatever it is that easies it for you, that’s what will make it easier for everybody. It really has to come into you first and go, ‘what will make this easier for me right now’, and do that,” she explained. “Even if you change one thing that you’re doing differently, even just one percent, you’ve changed the whole direction of where you’re headed.”
Together with the Dementia Friendly Monroe County Coalition, Tomah Memorial Hospital coordinated the event to fulfill a recent Monroe County community health assessment that showed area caregivers do not have enough resources and support.
“Caregivers are an under served population with responsibility for difficult care of a loved one 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and many times caregivers end up neglecting their own health because all their time if spent caring for their loved one,” said TMH community outreach health educator Julie Anderson, RN, who coordinated details for the day.
Anderson said the mini conference provided a number of opportunities for caregivers to pick up information and resources thanks in part to Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System and the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Monroe County.
“Last year, we held this event for the first time in Sparta, so this year we wanted to bring the event to Tomah,” she said.
“Our goal is to hold this event annually along with the Alzheimer’s Association’s focus on the longest day of the year,” Anderson said.
More than 60 people attended the event, which Brackey said allows caregivers to validate their journey.
“It’s the storytelling and the ability to see that you’re not by yourself because it happened to other people before you. So often, we think we’re the only one that this has happened to,” Brackey said. “If you can meet someone else who has gone through the journey, you’ve met your teacher.”