May 23, 2011

I Felt Like I Was Being Electrocuted

I'm sitting here reading and I am reminded of the worst day I ever had as an Alzheimer's caregiver. It is difficult for me to describe what I felt during those moments. I felt like I was being electrocuted.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I Felt Like I Was Being Electrocuted
At the time, I was filled with an enormous anxiety. I felt like my body had been thrown into the air and I was cartwheeling out of control through space. I felt the electricity.

I took several deep breaths and let the air out slowly. I was trying to get my feet back on the ground. I suppose I might have been on the edge of depression. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff once I got my feet back on the ground.

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I tried to think and I tried to feel. It was difficult to do it.

The scenario was simple. I took my mother into the store to buy lottery tickets. My mother had been buying lottery tickets daily for over 15 years. Lottery tickets were her passion. I handed my mother the envelop with the lottery cards with the money inside and said, "go buy the lottery tickets". She didn't know what to do. She was clueless. I was shocked and filled with anxiety. It was later that day, a few hours later, that I was electrocuted by Alzheimer's.

My thoughts were dark. I envisioned the day when my mother would no longer know me. The day when she would be unable to get out of bed. The thoughts were horrific.

This episode took place six years ago.

I was fortunate that time around. A few days later, I revisited the episode with our wonderful personal care physician, Dr. Carlos Chiriboga. I'll never forget what happened that day.

Dr. Chiriboga pulled up a chair and sat down right in front of me. Our knees were about six inches apart. He looked me right in the eye and told me you are the only ONE that knows what Dotty can do.

You should let her do everything she can do.

If you continue doing everything for her, she will forget how to do it. Once she forgets, it is not likely that she will remember.

He told me. You are the ONE. He said, you might get criticized from time to time (I did), but don't let that deter you. You are the one that knows best.

Our life changed.

It is amazing how a little support, a little direction, and how some positive reinforcement can change your outlook and the ability to care effectively.

It wasn't long after that I came to the most important of all decisions -- that Dotty and I would start living our life again. Living the way we had before the diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

I still feel the electric. It is this new found positive electricity that super charges me and keeps me going.

You might be surprised to learn that most every time we make a video, I am shocked and surprised when I look at it. Dotty surprises me every time. She says more and acts different when the video camera is on.

Six years ago, Dotty looked and acted like a zombie. She didn't talk much except to complain. She didn't smile or laugh for over two years.

We were lost and we had to find our way. It wasn't easy. It was a worthwhile effort.

I am surprised, energized, and filled with joy every time Dotty laughs. She sometimes says something that tickles me pink.

Alzheimer's caregiving changes the way you think and feel. The smallest thing can make you feel happy.

I never thought it could be like this.

After all, Alzheimer's almost electrocuted me.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,680 articles with more than 512,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room