It was something I was not prepared for or expecting. Shortly after my parent’s retirement, Dad began showing signs of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. He would misplace his keys, rely more on his pocket notebook for reminders, and share the same stories. As a result, I became his co-caregiver and provided help and support for him, when and where I could.
The job of dementia caregiving – or any caregiving, in fact – is not always easy. Caregivers can be stretched physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. My challenges were many and specifically included the following:
Answering the Same Questions:
Replying to Dad’s repeated questions proved to be trying at times; however, I learned to exercise patience, understand, and avoid arguing with him (you’ll never win a disagreement with someone with dementia and trying to constantly correct him/her can lead to frustration and resentment for both parties).
Balancing my time:
Caring for a dementia patient can be all consuming. You may need to juggle caregiving with your own career, family, and life. Sharing the workload with my sisters, trusting others to help, and practicing self-care all proved to be effective means of managing for me.
Several moves – including further downsizing - became necessary for my father including to a secured facility. When I helped to move Dad into this facility, I cried as I knew that this would be his final home.
Occupying Dad during visits:
I was initially puzzled about what I could do to entertain Dad when I visited him in his long-term care facility. There were answers, however – all stemming back to his own previous interests. I sat with him in the facility’s backyard on warm summer days, walked with him throughout the neighborhood (taking his arm for support, watching the path ahead for hazards, and walking on the curb side of the sidewalk closer to the street to reduce the chance of Dad stumbling and falling), and read to him.
Watching Dad decline:
As Dad’s memories were stolen from him, I could only watch (to date, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease). Knowing that I was losing Dad and could not do anything to heal him was very distressing. All I could do was continue to keep him as comfortable and safe as possible – eventually becoming his Joint Guardian and Alternate Trustee.
While caregiving has its undeniable challenges, it is also important to note that the job brings many joys. During my time helping Dad, I better understood his character, bonded with my two sisters, became more organized, realized my own potential of what I could do, and laughed.
Contributed by: Rick Lauber – Author of The Successful Caregiver’s Guide and Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians
Rick Lauber is a published book author and established freelance writer. Lauber has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (Self-Counsel Press) as valuable resources for prospective, new and current caregivers. He is also very pleased to have been twice-selected as a contributor in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas! as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat. www.ricklauber.com