Caregivers and Alzheimer’s Disease

I I just saw an old friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease. My friend had just placed her mother in an assisted living facility and was feeling, relieved, guilty and exhausted. Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is one of the toughest challenges life offers. It brought back memories of my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s and the toll it took on my mother and my aunt who were her main caregivers.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that progresses from mild forgetfulness to widespread loss of mental abilities often accompanied by changes in personality and behavior. When the sufferer is in the advanced stage, she is dependent on others for every aspect of their lives. The time course is from 5 to 20 years. Watching a loved one slip away like this elicits grief, anger, and depression. The need for constant care is physically and emotionally exhausting.

Caregivers should try to spread the care among several family members and should use what local resources there are. Going to a support group can be very helpful and if there are none in your area, there are several on the Internet. Family or individual counseling may also help.

Remember, there are also rewards. Many caregivers value the fact that they are able to give back to someone who has given them so much. Caregivers also feel proud that they are stronger than they ever thought they could be.

Caregivers should never feel that they can go it alone. If they try, they themselves may become ill. They also need to realize that at some point they may have to place their loved one in a care facility. In the meantime some of the following may be of great help:

-Meals on Wheels
-Homemaker services
-Personal care services
-Respite care

Many communities have day care for people with Alzheimer’s and many provide in home care through agencies like In Home Social Services. You don’t have to and should not, go it alone. You can find out about local resources by calling Eldercare Locator at 800 677 1116. Another source of information is the Alzheimer’s Association at 800 272 3900.

I lived hundreds of miles from where my aunt and my mother were caring for my grandmother but I tried to spell them when I could. But my mother, who was retired finally became exhausted, angry, and depressed and entered counseling. It was decided that my grandmother would be placed in the local care facility. Unfortunately, she became a behavior problem and was kicked out. They were in a rural area and this was the only facility or program available. My mother solved the problem by going back to work and hiring a very compassionate and competent woman to care for my grandmother during the day. The nights were shared between my mother and my aunt. Thus, there would be days when one or the other did not have the care of my grandmother at all and this worked out very well until the day my grandmother died.

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