As I reflect back on the past when I was taking care of my parents, whom were both diagnosed at the same time with Alzheimer’s, I often found that it was very easy due to the stress of caring for them to neglect my own needs. I encourage every caregiver to take time for yourself, to maintain your own health and to avoid becoming over-stressed and vulnerable to other problems.

By taking care of yourself, you are also making sure that you will be able to continue caring for your loved one.

Here are a few basic ways you can do this:

Get the food and rest you need.
• Make yourself sit down and eat three meals a day; it is easy to forget when you are busy and under stress.
• If giving care disturbs your sleep at night, take a nap during the day while your loved one rests.

Take time for yourself.
• Get out for a breath of fresh air or a change of scenery – even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood.
• Relax in a warm bath.
• Read a book or listen to music.
• Let yourself be alone for a short time to clear your head. Ask a relative or friend to step in and give you a much needed break.

Let others take part in the work of caregiving.
• Allow and encourage friends and family members to participate. They won’t feel so powerless when they feel included by doing something – anything – to help.
• Let people bring meals, run errands, sit with your loved one.
• Allow yourself to tell people what they can do to help.

Seek and accept support for yourself.
• Talk to family and friends about your feelings.
• Find ways to care for your spiritual self. Whether or not you are affiliated with a particular religion, seeking guidance from someone who shares your spiritual outlook can help.

God Bless You,
Deborah Tornillo
Author, “36 Days Apart”

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Deborah Tornillo

Deborah Tornillo was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas by her loving and nurturing parents. She attended the University of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she studied Art. After marrying, raising two daughters and enjoying life with her family, Deborah joined a higher calling by committing to be the primary caregiver for her parents, both of whom were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in February 2006. In her new collection of memoirs, 36 Days Apart: A memoir of a daughter, her parents and the Beast named – Alzheimer’s: A story of Life, Love and Death, Deborah chronicles the time spent taking care of her mother and father. 36 Days Apart recounts this painful, enlightening journey, and Tornillo writes candidly about the struggles and fears she faced as her parents’ caregiver. As their disease progressed, Tornillo was faced with the difficult task of learning how to be a parent to her own parents. Through the year and a half of caring for them she extensively researched Alzheimer’s in order to provide the best care possible, all the while knowing that the disease would eventually win in the end. 36 Days Apart gives an honest, unflinching look at the realities of caring for and losing loved ones to Alzheimer’s. Tornillo gives the reader an inside look into the day-to-day life she faced during her heartbreaking, difficult time.

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