Caring for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s is hard. Trust me, I know. What many don’t know is what Alzheimer’s is. To understand the struggle of Alzheimer’s, you need to know about the disease itself. Once your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their brain cells and the connections between them begin to degenerate and die. This causes Alzheimer’s to progressively damage memory and other mental functions. There is no current cure for Alzheimer’s but some medications can temporarily improve some symptoms. Continue reading to learn about care for a senior with Alzheimer’s.
To help give a better understanding of my story, you’ll need to know my family background. My immediate family consisted of myself, my, my mother and father, my uncle, and my grandmother and grandfather. When I was a young child probably around the age of 5, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My grandfather was my mother’s and uncle’s father. Both had a very strong, positive relationship with both my grandparents. So, my mother and uncle had stepped up to help take care of my grandfather when he was diagnosed. However, my grandmother had to take on the most responsibility serving as his primary caregiver.
The Situation at Hand
When they say Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, they mean it. My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his early 60s, but it took a few years to truly see any signs of memory loss or confusion. I remember going on vacations with my grandparents when he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and he seemed perfectly fine. I remember we allowed him to drive for a while but eventually took the keys away from him as a safety precaution. Even though we took the keys from him, his memory still seemed fine because he could remember things from thirty years ago. However, obvious signs began to appear when I was about 10 years old. My grandfather started to become more confused and his memory was fading. More responsibility fell on other family members as my grandfather’s condition got worse.
My grandmother was actively involved in church and other activities so she wasn’t able to constantly care for my grandfather. Work kept my mother busy throughout the day and on some evenings. My uncle lived and worked in Pittsburgh almost an hour away from my grandfather. So, my brother, father, and I had to step up and take some responsibility. Our job wasn’t necessarily hard but it was sad to see at such a young age. I was responsible primarily for watching my grandfather a couple evenings every week. Also, reminding him where things were was a major task when watching him. I mainly had to remind him where the bathroom was and walk him to it. However, our family does have a cat and he always loved to know where it was too. This went on for about a year or two.
The Rest of Our Story with Alzheimer’s
Unfortunately, my grandfather kept getting worse and the responsibilities were growing. So, my family had decided it was time to reach out to a nursing home. It was a hard decision for my family to make but it helped lessen the burden, especially for my grandmother and mother. Once we put my grandfather into a nursing home, I didn’t see much of him because of the location of it and the rough winter we had. So, I wasn’t able to see him late in his life. However, this was probably for the better because I didn’t have to see the toll that the disease would take on him. He was in the nursing home for a month or two until he eventually passed away.
His passing was unfortunate, yet it brought relief knowing that he no longer had to deal with such a horrible disease. I still have many fond memories of my grandfather and he had impacted my family’s life in a positive way. I like to remember him for his sense of humor and work ethic, rather than when he was sick. However, this experienced helped my family and I to learn and grow. Our situation taught us many valuable lessons.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer to someone in a similar situation is to have patience. Patience is truly the key when dealing with Alzheimer’s. Your loved one isn’t at fault for not knowing something or forgetting. You need to be understanding that they can’t help it. They may ask you the same thing a million times, but you can’t become upset because that won’t help your loved one. In fact, it makes the situation more difficult. If you’re patient and always listen it will make your job so much easier.
You also have to stay positive. I know that sounds hard, but it’s not impossible. Instead of dreading the inevitable, try to get your loved one to talk about things from the past or things you enjoy. Talk about your favorite memories with them. Try to engage in conversation with your loved, it makes it easier for you to care for them when you’re talking. After all, you never know what they might have to say if you don’t talk to them. You should enjoy every moment you have with them. Whether the moment is good or bad, you’re with them and get to spend time with them. You never know when the disease will fully kick in so you should make the most out every second.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. My family knew when it was time to reach out and ask for outside help. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to help you. It’s a large challenge to deal with and the more help you have, the easier it will be.