Sep 16, 2012

A Good Daughter Knows

I was feeling so alone and really believed I was the only person in the world dealing with dementia, but I did the best I could.

By Olga Brunner
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Late summer,  I arrived in Florida when I found that I could no longer care for mom from a distance.

Her dementia and diabetes were out of control and she needed a daughter .

Now, caregiving is not meant for everyone and as we all know, there are some very god sons out there as well. Be that as it may, I began my indoctrination into the world of memory loss, repetitiveness, medications management, and doctor appointments.

Although I had approximately 20 years of health care experience under my belt, I knew very little about the world of dementia.

Reluctantly I left behind the sunny skies, fair winds, and sailing the waters of San Diego and headed for the heat and hurricanes of South Florida. Once here I was committed to helping mom as best as I could.

Because of her diabetes, she needed regular fasting lab tests and doctor visits so I was getting her to the medical office by 8:00 am for lab draws, endless waiting for the doctor to arrive (he was always late), a drive to Denny’s for breakfast, then over to her day center before heading for work.

I was already feeling so alone and really believed I was the only person in the world dealing with dementia and diabetes but I did the best I could. I continued advocating as best I could but the doctor kept telling me it was just “old age”.

This morning I couldn’t take it anymore and yelled “look I am the one living with her. I want you to refer her to a neurologist!”

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Leaving his office with my referral, I drove mom to Denny’s and mistakenly made a right turn on the red; soon the 2 blue and white police cars were blaring their lights behind me as if I were a criminal. All I wanted was to feed mom some breakfast – geeze!

I made light of it since I did not want to upset mom, took my ticket, and got breakfast at Denny’s making sure she had nourishment. Soon we were out and headed for the adult day center.

On my arrival the receptionist remarked, “Nice to see you Olga, it’s been a long time”, and I broke down, crying for 3 hours at least. It just wouldn’t stop.

I felt as if the pressure that had been building inside me just burst open and the dam just flooded. Soon it was to the social worker’s office where a call was made to my employer stating they shouldn’t expect me today. But I got the help I needed that day and I learned I was not alone.

There were support groups, counselors, respite care, and relief so that I could get out to a movie once in a while or visit a neighbor for a glass of wine.

If you are feeling trapped, there is plenty of help available. Seek some help.

Support groups are wonderful – they help you sort out feelings and point you in the direction of receiving good medical care for your loved one. You don’t need to feel as alone as I did back then.

In the U.S. today, we are experiencing the opening of Memory Cafés in many communities. They provide an opportunity for individuals with early memory loss and their care partners to come together with others in their peer group for coffee, treats, and enjoyable activities at no charge.

Geriatric Care Managers are a valuable source of information as well. Even if you don’t hire one, call one and find out how you can begin to get help. Help is available.

Mom passed in 2003 and I became a geriatric care manager. Our agency is soon going to open a Memory Café in Boca Raton. I have finally come full circle.

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Olga Brunner, MS, CMC, Healthcare Administration, and Gerontology. Dedicated to her client's concerns, Ms. Brunner's has 20 years of experience in health care administration and eight years of professional geriatric care management experience. Ms. Brunner helps children with elderly parents in southeast Florida care for the their parents from a distance. Olga owns A Good Daughter Elder Care Management, and was recognized for demonstrated dedication, leadership and excellence in geriatric care management by Cambridge Who's Who. Ms. Brunner resides in Boca Raton, Florida.

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