I am sitting here thinking about the beginning when it first became apparent that my mother was suffering from dementia. I still remember how completely overwhelmed I felt.
Alzheimer's Reading Room
Every 69 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. On average, over 1200 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer's each day. They say 80 percent of all Alzheimer's sufferers are cared for at home.
This means, on average, about 1,000 new Alzheimer's caregivers are born each day. Imagine.
When Alzheimer's strikes it sends your life into a tailspin that is hard to describe. It is just overwhelming. What to do? How to do it? And, what is going to happen?
What is going to happen to the person suffering from Alzheimer's disease; and, what is going to happen to the Alzheimer's caregiver?
After all, we the caregivers are the survivors. There are survivors of Alzheimer's disease. You decide.
I made one big mistake very early on in my caregiving career. I took the lottery away from my mother. I started buying all the lottery tickets for her. Guess what happened?
Before I knew it, she forgot how to buy the lottery tickets.
When I first realized this I was heart broken. I was heart broken because I assumed that any minute now she was going to forget everything. This everything included me.
That was six years ago.
Here is what I learned, I now know and understand this -- you cannot restore the abilities of a person with Alzheimer's once they lose an ability.
While lamenting my sad sack life to our wonderful personal care doctor, I received one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received as an Alzheimer's caregiver.
He explained to me that if I continued to do everything for my mother, soon she wouldn't be able to do anything. He explained to me how she wouldn't be able to relearn how to do things.
He then told me that I was the only one that knew what she could do, so it was up to me to let her do it.
I took his advice.
There are people that think I went overboard. Not so much because she has Alzheimer's, because she is old. 94 years old.
Here is a not so secret, secret. My mother wants to do all these things.
For example, she doesn't want to be put on a walker. So, I assist her and we walk together -- very slowly.
I don't know how many times someone has told me that I should get her a walker. Hundreds for sure.
What is more important? What they want? Or, what my mother, Dotty, wants?
Here is something else I learned. I learned how to make one of the most delicious spaghetti sauces and meatballs you ever tasted.
Who taught me? Dotty. She taught me long after her diagnosis.
At first, I was her assistant. I helped her. Did big things -- like opened up the can of tomatoes.
Later on, about half way through making the sauce, she would get to tired to do it. So, I pulled up a chair near the stove and she told me what to do.
Of course, I learned how to do this as her assistant over a couple of years.Put in more water you can't hurt it. Put in more cheese. Bobby put in some oregano. Put in more water you can't hurt it.
You might enjoy this little fact. I am the only person in the world that knows how to make Dotty's fabulous sauce. She never taught anyone. In fact, she wouldn't teach anyone even if they asked. She might write something down on a card for you. Value, worthless.
Dotty can no longer make the spaghetti sauce and meatballs.
However, she can still eat it. She can still twirl the spaghetti on the fork. Yeah, she uses her fingers to assist at times.
Your are the One.
Just let them Do it.
Don't forget, a person living with Alzheimer's disease is still full of feelings and emotions.
You are no longer the assistant.
You are now the chief cook and bottle washer.
Note: I wrote this In February, 2011.
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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room