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brainhealth riskfactors research lifestyle Alzheimer's management

Heather Oglesby

“Address your mind first. Make a mental determination that you are a priority and you will not allow the caregiving role to destroy you.”

Heather Oglesby is 44 years old and full-time caregiver for her mother.

On May 31, 2015 my husband and I made the 700 mile trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to pick up my mother from a homeless shelter. After living by herself for 20 years, my mom’s cognitive function declined and her short-term memory was shattered. I would get calls on holidays wishing me a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Merry Christmas” several times during the day. But never did I think that my 60 year-old mother had Alzheimer’s.

I will always remember that day when I got the call from one of my mom’s friends, saying that my mom had been evicted and was living in her car. Eventually, someone took her to a homeless shelter. That call, that day, would change my husband’s and my life forever. At age 42, I became a full-time advocate and caregiver for my mother and now at age 44, I have truly discovered how precious life is and how to tap into the resilience that lies within each of us. Below are some tips we would like to share that assisted us along the way:

1. Mental: Address your mind first. Make a mental determination that you are a priority and you will not allow the caregiving role to destroy you. Caregiving for someone with dementia is a mental battle everyday and keeping yourself centered and not lost in the roles and responsibilities requires mental strength. Join a support group, whether online or in-person.

2. Nutrition & Health: The neglect of the caregiver’s health is a common challenge. We are so busy caring for our loved ones that before we know it, it’s been a year since we have seen a doctor and we forget what a dentist actually does. Stress can do a number on our bodies. I’ve found that an anti-inflammatory, heart healthy and brain healthy diet has supported my immune system while under great stress.

3. Physical Exercise: Get moving! It does not matter how you do this. Just move. I was so fed up with my fatigue and ongoing weight gain due to stress, that I literally got up one day, drove to the local Walmart and bought a bike. That was one year ago and I am now biking 70 miles a week. Do what works for you.

For more from Heather, read her blog.

 

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