Mar 31, 2011

I Am Still the ONE

This month is four years since Great Grams passed away. What I’ve come to realize is that once you are the ONE to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you will always be the ONE....
By Max Wallack
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Max Wallack
In my family, there really were a group of ONE’s.

We all pitched in together to take care of Great Grams, and she was capable of tiring out all of the ONE’s. I can’t imagine how just a single ONE could do it all by themself. Actually, I can’t even see how it would be possible. Great Grams needed supervision 24/7. She could even “plan” her mischief and escapes for when she knew she would be less supervised!

I think I read recently that about 2/3 of all Alzheimer’s patients outlive their caregivers! It is essential to find respite care somehow, somewhere. More of us caregivers should be available to help other caregivers. There needs to be for reciprocal caregiving like groups of moms that exist for reciprocal babysitting. After all, who could handle an Alzheimer’s patient better than another caregiver?

Also, caregivers who are no longer the ONE need to step up. They know what they have gone through. They know the joys and fulfillment, but also the burden and the toll. They know how important a few hours can be to an Alzheimer’s caregiver. It can make all the difference. Why not step in for just a few hours a week and help an Alzheimer’s caregiver?

Great Grams went to daycare, at one point, about an hour from our home. She stayed there only for about 3-4 hours at a time. My grandmother had to transport her there and back. People asked her if it was worth it – driving 2 hours to get her there and go home, then 2 hours to pick her up and go home. My grandmother responded it was very relaxing because she felt that driving alone in the car gave her time to actually think! Sometimes, Alzheimer’s caregivers don’t even have time to think.

I know, four years later, I am still the ONE. I still live every day remembering. I still live every day trying to do something to make the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers a little bit easier. Recently, someone told me that I am young and that I might still change my mind about my future career as a Geriatric Psychiatrist. That person probably did not understand what it really means to be the ONE. This is something I cannot change, a goal I cannot abandon.

I am still the ONE.

Max Wallack is a student at Boston University Academy. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

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Original content Max Wallack, the Alzheimer's Reading Room