Between Autism and Alzheimer’s

Will she forget who we are? Will she forget who she is? These were just some of the existential questions my youngest son was asking about his great aunt while we helped her move from assisted living to a facility with a memory care unit. I remember as a child how my aunt would help take care of me. She also helped to take care of my children. And for the past few years, it has been our turn to take care of the former caregiver.


As an adult, you may find yourself taking care of both children and older adults simultaneously. Providing care for those who once took care of you, while caring for younger family members, can require the elusive patience of a saint and the supernatural strength of an angel. If the child has special needs like autism, or the older adult has special needs like Alzheimer’s, you will need your own special care as a caregiver.


Respite care is like spiritual R & R for caregivers. My analogy of the battery might help to explain. Imagine that someone is always helping to jump start those in need. If that same person never takes time to personally recharge, then that person will have less and less charge to share with others – and that same person will eventually drain their own charge down to zero.


Very often the best way to help others is to make sure that you are also taking care of yourself. The Air Force Core Value of service before self must be properly balanced so that you do not become a liability to the mission. Your self-aid helps ensure your ability to render buddy care to those in need.


Sometimes we forget who we are. Sometimes we forget who we are called to be. We are airmen with the core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Let us also call to memory that nothing changes who God is, and nothing changes who God calls you to be.



Ch O


Chaplain, (Maj.) John O’Brien

115th Fighter Wing Chaplain Corps

Truax Field, Madison, WI

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