The mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol of the universe used in Hinduism and Buddhism. Its design represents “balance” in all of life. Some religious traditions use mandalas as aids to meditation.
I became fascinated with this symbol when I had an opportunity a few years ago to witness a group of Buddhist monks painstakingly design a mandala out of colored sands. This ritual took place at an event held at Wat Buddharangsi of Miami, a Buddhist Temple.
Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst who lived at the turn of the last century, used mandalas in his treatment of patients. To him the mandala signified “…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, page 196.) His patients would color in mandalas as a way of helping them to focus and allow their subconscious to let go and regain balance.
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their life and yours as a caregiver changes. At times, things may seem out of balance and even overwhelming for both of you. As the disease progresses, change and more change is inevitable. Their confusion and memory loss will likely get worse over time, and your loved one will need more in the way of care.
Developing a workable plan of action for you and your loved one can help restore a sense of balance. Seeking support and asking for help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. It means you, as a caregiver, are a wise person who knows your limits. You have the courage to ask for help before life becomes unmanageable and totally out of balance.
In a previous blog, I wrote about joining a support group early on in your caregiving role. In this blog, I briefly discuss the benefits of seeking help from a professional care manager. Shortly after my mother was diagnosed with dementia, I arranged for her and Dad to meet with a geriatric care manager. I sat in on the sessions with them. The care manager reviewed their financial resources and discussed housing options available. We found her services extremely helpful. I think we met only twice, but it was enough to help us plan for Mom’s future needs.
Professional care managers assist in a variety of ways. Their guidance can lead families to take action and make decisions that better ensure quality care and an optimal life for you and your loved one. If you are a long-distance caregiver, their services can be vital to provide and help maintain daily support for the person with dementia. An assessment of needs, available resources, and a workable plan to address caregiving challenges, can help family members assume control of the situation.
Here is a description of basic care management services from the website of Aging Life Care Professionals:
- Housing – helping families evaluate and select appropriate level of housing or residential options.
- Home care services – determining types of services that are right for a client and assisting the family to engage and monitor those services.
- Medical management – attending doctor appointments, facilitating communication between doctor, client, and family, and if appropriate, monitoring client’s adherence to medical orders and instructions.
- Communication – keeping family members and professionals; informed as to the well-being and changing needs of the client.
- Social activities – providing opportunity for client to engage in social, recreational, or cultural activities that enrich the quality of life.
- Legal – referring to or consulting with an elder law attorney; providing expert opinion for courts in determining level of care.
- Financial – may include reviewing or overseeing bill paying or consulting with accountant or client’s Power of Attorney.
- Entitlements – providing information on Federal and state entitlements; connecting families to local programs.
- Safety and security – monitoring the client at home; recommending technologies to add to security or safety; observing changes and potential risks of exploitation or abuse.
- Local, cost-effective resources are identified and engaged as needed.
Once a comprehensive assessment is performed, a care manager will tailor a care plan based upon each individual’s and family’s circumstances. This plan may be modified, in consultation with the client and family, as the circumstances change.
According to a recent AARP survey, an initial consultation typically costs $175. At the time of this writing, Medicare does not pay for geriatric care management services. However, the care manager is knowledgeable about costs, quality, and availability of local resources. For some families, meeting one or two times is enough to formulate a plan of supportive services.
Two other options are to contact your local Alzheimer’s Association and ask to speak to a social worker. Your Area Agency on Aging may also provide a referral worker you can speak with who has knowledge of local resources. In Florida where I live, our State Area Agencies on Aging administer the “Community Care for the Elderly Program” which may provide financial assistance for care management and home and personal care services.
Having a care plan of action can help you focus your energies on priorities, and free you from needless worry. I wish you peace, patience, and joy in your caregiving today and every day!
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If you would like to release some stress and tension while being creative, please request two mandalas to color in by hand. Just send me a quick e-mail (Vicki@caregiverfamilies.com) with the words, “Free Mandalas” in the title and the address where to send these. I can either send them by e-mail or mail, whichever you prefer.
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For more information and to find a certified professional, call the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at 1-520-881-8008, or visit its website at: www.caremanager.org.
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The Alzheimer’s Association has a handy three-page document, “Geriatric Care Management – Questions and Answers.” To read it, go to http://www.alz.org/stl/documents/GCM_Tips.pdf.
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Here is an easy-to-use guide from the National Institute on Aging regarding getting help with caregiving: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/when-you-need-help/getting-help-caregiving