Apr 22, 2009

Alzheimer's Advice: Just Let em Do it, You are the One

I'll start with a little background. I'm Bob the caregiver for my mother, Dorothy. Dorothy will be 93 in two months. She suffers from Alzheimer's disease and was diagnosed about five years ago.
Near the end of the first year of caring for my mother, I received some excellent advice from our new found doctor.

"Bob DeMarco"

Here is the background. My mother who had been buying lottery tickets and scratch-off tickets for 20 years could no longer do it. She didn't know how to do it anymore. If I took her in the store, she would literally ask me what to do.

I wish I could describe in words how disconcerting this was to me. I can't. It was horrible. A real feeling of despair.

When we went to see our doctor, I told him what had happened. He looked at me and asked if I had been buying the tickets for her? I said yes. He then explained to me what was happening. He then told me something that has benefited me ever since. He said,
Bob, you are with her all the time. You know what she can and can't do. If you think she can do something--let her do it.

Don't do everything for her.

He went on to explain that it was likely that I would get criticized by people for letting my mother do certain kinds of things that "They" felt was inappropriate. He told me, not to let that deter me.

He looked me right in the eye and said the magic words -- You are the one.
You are the one. Many of you know what that really means. Occasionally someone looks me in the eye and says to me--You are the one. They know.

Over the years, I have taken all kinds of criticism from people that don't know me and have never seen either of us before. These people like to sticks their nose in it. I often feel like telling them to mind their own business. But, I have learned how to smile and at the same time deter them. Don't get me wrong, what I really want to do is tell them--mind your own business.

Over the next week or so, I am going to spend some time explaining how I let my mother do things even as I was getting criticized and how ignoring the criticism made our life better.

For now, I'll close by saying this. If you don't let them do it, they will soon forget how to do it. Once they forget, they cannot relearn how to do it.

Lift up your expectations. My mother does all kinds of things that you would never expect.

Learn to trust yourself and your good instincts. After all, You are the one.

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Originally published in the Alzheimer's Reading Room, April, 2009