Jun 30, 2010

What is it Like Being An Alzheimer’s Caregiver? In Sickness and In Health

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, so we try to live each day to its fullest. It’s so important to keep looking beyond ourselves to the bigger picture.

By Carol Trickett

What is it Like Being An Alzheimer’s Caregiver?

“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

This is the commitment I made to my husband 18 years ago. Although there was 28 years between us, we were very much in love and decided to be married.

In August of 2008 at age 68 my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Bob’s mother, brother and aunt had all died from Alzheimer’s so his diagnosis really was no surprise. Although we both suspected this, the news still hit like a ton of bricks.

At first, he did not want to tell anyone. Then after a week or so we decided we should tell the family.

Little by little Bob shared the news with friends and complete strangers. He seemed to adjust to the idea before I did. For months my emotions were extremely unpredictable. Certain music particularly triggered great tidal waves of grief. Early on I attended an information series facilitated by the Alzheimer’s Society.

I saw spouses and family members overwhelmed by their care giving responsibilities. The hopelessness of one particular gentleman drove me to realize that I had a great task ahead of me and I needed to pull myself together to be there for my husband.

From this point I began to realize that I was now a caregiver.

I didn’t really choose the position but I also would not consider shirking it. Honestly, the one resource that has helped me the most is the Alzheimer’s Reading Room.

 The articles that Bob DeMarco and others have written and the comments that readers have made, have been like a lifeline for me. I’ve learned so much.

I want to know more to be the best caregiver I can be.

I am not a nurse and there are many things I feel I cannot do at this time, but we take this journey one day at a time. I remember two occasions following diagnoses when I got up in the night, came downstairs praying and crying out to God. I felt so inadequate for the task ahead of me. Great peace came upon me when I read this scripture from 2 Corinthians 12:9,
“My grace is sufficient for you”.
My faith in Christ is not just religion. I am blessed to walk with God daily and to trust him for grace to face each day. His strength is being revealed in my weakness.

We were fortunate in the sense that Bob was diagnosed in the early stage. With the assistance of Aricept there really has not been a huge change in his condition in two years. Yes, I definitely see the disease progressing but he is still able to do most daily activities independently.

Seven months before my husband’s diagnosis, I decided to work from home full-time. The timing of this was a blessing in disguise. My stained glass business had grown to the point that I felt confident about it providing for our financial needs. 

Working from my home studio allows me to be flexible with my scheduling and enables me to be available for Bob as needed. I can pour myself into my creative work (which I find very therapeutic) when time permits, or I can pull back and scale down as required.

We count each day as a gift.

I encourage Bob to do all that he can such as mowing on the lawn tractor, gardening to a limited extent, taking out the garbage, napping as necessary, playing fetch with the dog, enjoying a drive in the car (although he still has his license, I drive).

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, so we try to live each day to its fullest. It’s so important to keep looking beyond ourselves to the bigger picture. We truly do have much to be thankful for.

Carol Trickett is the wife and caregiver of her husband Bob. Together they live in Thorndale, Ontario, Canada. Carol is also the owner of Trickett Glass and works from her home studio where she offers custom designed window panels, giftware, repairs, and classes. You may view her stained glass work at www.trickettglass.ca.

  The Alzheimer's Action Plan
  300 Tips for Making Life Easier

Original content Carol Trickett, the Alzheimer's Reading Room