Jun 14, 2011

Alzheimer's Caregiver Bridget

We do have our "dull" moments and I feel quilty that I can't fill every minute with activity, because I know she would be happier.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Our reader Bridget wrote:

Alzheimer's Caregiver Bridget | Alzheimer's Reading Room

I am at a loss somedays for what to do, my mother-in-law, a very strong willed woman before ALZ, helped run my husbands business for almost 20 years.

Over the last four years I have started working in the business taking over her duties. She is 85 and we bring her to work every day, but as technology changes and the disease progesses there is less that she can do and more for me to do.

We try jigsaw puzzles, adding up utility bills, sorting items to be filed, it all keeps her busy for a moment but involves a lot of my direction, at some pont, I really have to work and can't keep her entertained.

That leads to napping, endless questions, and irritation on both our parts. People suggest taking her to daycare (I hate calling it that) but I'm afraid of her reaction and that she will be scared and upset when I leave her. There are suggestions of giving her a coloring book, but she's not a child, and I don't want to insult her. So, we do have our "dull" moments and I feel quilty that I can't fill every minute with activity, because I know she would be happier. But I will keep trying and see a "Harvey" in our future.

Bridget, I read your words several times. It is clear to me that your heart is in the right place. I understand how difficult it can be to make any decision "for" a person suffering from Alzheimer's. It is always best to keep it simple.

If you can afford adult day care at a well run facility I would strongly suggest you take that step.

In my experience, almost all Alzheimer's patients say they DON'T want to go. They say NO when asked. Most go kicking and screaming until they finally get set into a pattern of going. Waiting for this pattern to take hold can often takes great patience. It can make your heart hurt for a while.

I can also say that every single caregiver I know that uses day care advocates adult day care for persons suffering from Alzheimer's. Most patients come home happier and "more there".

Look for a facility that has plenty of bright light or that takes the patients into bright light. In my opinion there is no substitute for bright light and it works wonders in some cases.

If you were a friend of mine, I would be handing you a coloring book and the crayons or markers right now. The proof is in the pudding. If your mother in law enjoys the activity it is worthwhile. Don't make the mistake of allowing your own feelings or biases get in the way of trying anything that works. Let her entertain herself if she is capable of doing so. Go for the "more there".

Much of the success I had with my mother stemmed from a simple decision. To start her day the same way it had started for over 20 years. Coffee and the newspaper in the morning. We had gotten away from it. A mistake. My mother still reads to me from the paper. She still does the crossword puzzle. New people are always surprised at my mother's ability to speak sentences and read. If not for our morning regimen, I doubt she would be. My mother is in the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer's.

I believe with great resolve, understanding, and a conviction that continues to strengthen that there is more to every Alzheimer's patient that WE can ever imagine. It is our unwillingness to discover the "more there" that gets in the way of accomplishment and contentment.

My soon to be 95 year old mother is playing Bingo as I write this. She can still get most of the numbers, maybe all of them. She no longer has a clue when she has bingo when they play any game that is different from a straight line bingo. This is not a deterrent. Her friends will lend her their brain when necessary. BINGO.

If my mother wins at Bingo tonight she will be delighted. But no one will be happier than me.

You need to make a couple of decisions. Don't be reluctant or afraid. I'm willing to bet that you will end up happier, and so will she.

I should mention that my mother was and is a very strong willed women. She fended for herself for 12 years after the death of my father. She did it without a glitch. As a result, she believes to this day that she doesn't need anyone, any help, and that she is capable of doing everything and anything. I once thought that was a bad thing. However, I finally realized I could use that determination to an advantage, and we have.

Readers are invited to comment.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room