It’s natural that your first response with your loved one having Alzheimer’s disease would be to try to fix him and/or the disease. But Alzheimer’s is an illness that cannot be fixed, and we feel helpless and uncomfortable that it is uncontrollable, and fearful and sad that we can’t fix our loved ones in their distress and uneasiness.
A fixer is typically a person who is compassionate and kind and always wants to help, so your loved one is fortunate to have you as a caregiver. And, the fixer often feels he or she can prevent other people from experiencing pain or discomfort. But, in the long run, the fixer cannot do anything to change the situation, and this could end in you, the fixer, suffering from emotional distress, guilt and possibly resentment toward your loved one.
Plus, you could spend so much time trying to fix this disease and striving to make your loved one “better” that you become mentally and physically exhausted, which is detrimental to your health and well-being and your ability to continue being a caregiver. Healthy caregivers take care of themselves first so they have the energy to be there for others.
As your loved one’s disease progresses, your fixer mode goes into overdrive, so to speak. You can have overwhelming feelings of obligation, that your loved one cannot function without you and only you. The fear of losing control to the disease and the fear of losing your loved one becomes very stressful for you, so you can succumb to all kinds of false realities.
For fixers, there is freedom in finally acknowledging that they cannot fix the disease or their loves ones. They can, however, be compassionate, helpful, dependable, supportive and empathetic without becoming excessive or compulsive in the caregiving role.
They also let go and be willing to embrace their loved one just as they are, to see the person behind the disease instead of what the disease is doing to that person. Caregivers can meet their loved ones in the present, loving the affected individual for who and where they are and being comfortable in knowing that they cannot control what happens in the future.
Caregiver fixers often feel a call to help others in some way; to be a companion in the healing process. This is not the same thing as fixing. And healing can come in many forms other than a cure as Alzheimer’s disease has no cure. For instance, when a caregiver helps the affected individual find some measure of peace and joy amid the difficult challenges from the disease, a form of healing takes place for both of them.
Helping your loved one live with meaning and purpose and enhancing his or her quality of life will bring about wonderful opportunities of growth and knowledge for you, the caregiver, but more importantly, will also ensue the kind of acceptance and adaptation needed to curb or eliminate your need or feelings to fix everything.