This is an illustration from my new book Sometimes Grandmama Doesn’t Know Me!
But the illustration makes the point for caregivers. No matter what your age, if you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) or Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) or one of the other forms of dementia, you need a special friend to talk to who will listen carefully and be there for you. That special “pinky-finger friend” may not know exactly what you are experiencing, but it is someone you can bear your heart to and know that he/she will listen and empathize with your situation.
Caregivers deal with so much stress on a daily basis and that is not only true for adults, but children as well. Many families forget or decide not to include children in conversations or visits to grandparents who have some form of dementia. Of course, age and maturity come into play here. For FTD families, it may be the children’s parent, at age 40 – 50, who has been diagnosed with some variant of FTD. Children of parents or grandparents with a diagnosis are well aware of the stress within the household.
Your “pinky-finger friend” may be a sibbling, an adult child, a close friend or your pastor. It may also be someone in a support group in your area or the facilitator of that support group. Caregivers, no matter what the medical issue may be, can learn so much from others who are experiencing similar medical situations. Support groups provide listening ears, education, a chance to share your circumstances and an opportunity to “let off steam” when you need to vent. And most importantly, those in the support group can identify with what you are going through.
Who is your “pinky-finger friend?” If you have one, please rely on that person when you need to talk or get away for a short time. If you don’t have one, try to identify who that special friend might me. The dementia journey is not one that a caregiver can take on his/her own. A support team or “pinky-finger friend” is a must in order to deal with the day-to-day and year-to-year experiences and challenges that happen within the family structure.