The Senior Care Society has provided a series of articles on how to prepare for a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and the coping skills to manage stress when you are a caregiver for a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. This article was written to assist you further with your coping skills in a way you may not have thought of, using your imagination.
When it comes to Alzheimer’s, the Senior Care Society (SCS) would advise you not to let your imagination wander when it comes to what the future holds when you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. More often than not our imaginations run wild in a negative manner rather than positive when we imagine what life with an Alzheimer’s patient means. Typically the SCS advise first in getting an accurate diagnosis, then secondly on educating yourself fully on the disease, and thirdly to reign in thoughts of despair, keeping your imagination in check.
Imagining the Best But Being Prepared for the Worst
However, when it comes to stress management and coping with an Alzheimer’s patient, this is one instance we tell you to let your imagination run wild! When it comes to utilizing sensory tools to alleviate care giving stress the power of your imagination is another powerful tool that can help you to cope with very difficult and stress filled situations, this is called visualization. Visualization can get you through tough situations when the sensory tools are out of reach or not practical to be used at the moment. This tool encompasses learning to vividly imagine or recall calming, happy or energizing images in your mind and the sensations they provide.
Mind Over Matter
It may seem hard to believe, but it is possible to train your mind to imagine calming sensations and images that can produce the same stress reducing effects as if you were actually touching or holding a calming sensory tool such as a photo, keepsake or some other tactile sensory stimulus.
When you don’t have the actual tool to put in your hand, in example a fragrant flower to smell, recall in your mind how and what that smell felt like or the picture of a loved one, simply close your eyes and see the face in your mind. It is suggested that you recall a strong sensation such as the memory of your child’s face or of an equally emotionally pleasing memory. You can draw upon the memories of your life for happy or calming scenes to fill your mind’s eye with, but be specific.
When you use visualization as your stress reducing tool, you will never be caught in a stress situation without a coping mechanism tool at your disposal that is essential for fast acting stress relief. Using a variety of sources to supply calming or joyful sensations is a great addition to your caregiver’s stress reducing toolbox. Below are some suggestions for sources used in the visualization technique:
- During quiet time, physically touch photos , memorabilia or other sensory stimuli and linger on the thoughts and feelings these items produce in you, then practice recalling them in your mind (without touching, tasting or smelling them) repeat this exercise until you can easily conjure the images and sensations in your mind. Once you have mastered the visualization technique try practicing it in varying degrees of stressful situations, such as stuck in traffic, waiting in an unusually slow moving line, any situation that tries your patience. Experiment with various memories to determine which ones are the easiest to produce the feelings of calm or happiness you are seeking.
- Network with others: ask other people you know what they use to remain calm and focused in stressful situations, they may have a visualization you hadn’t thought of, and sharing with others is always beneficial even if only for the sense of support.
- Plan Ahead: If you have a situation that you know is usually stressful, in example; your Alzheimer’s patient has a doctors appointment and the visit there always brings on bad behavior in your loved one, bring a tactile tool such as a photo of a loved one, a silky smooth scarf or smooth piece of suede to put in your pocket that you can manipulate undetected to assist in your stress/visualization exercises. Being as prepared as possible is a great stress management tool. (Bringing a sensory stress reducer for the patient is always advisable)
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