As you are booming along, enjoying the freedom that comes with watching your children grow up and leave the nest you may find yourself in a brand new role…care giver. More than four and a half million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Most of those afflicted are parents of baby boomers. Do you have any idea what you can do if you find yourself looking out for a parent with dementia?
First Things First
If you notice a parent behaving in a way that is out of character take notice. Everybody loses their train of thought or forgets where they have parked the car on a crowded parking lot. If, however they cannot remember what kind of a car they were driving or they seem more irritable and confused than usual perhaps they should be seen by their doctor. There are several health issues which can cause a person to “not be themselves". A Dr. can rule out blood sugar fluctuations, depression, stress (although each of these can be present along with Alzheimer’s Disease. ) A good check up is the place to begin. If the Dr. agrees that something is amiss he will probably recommend a Neurologist follow-up. It is essential that symptoms of Alzheimer’s not be dismissed.
After The Diagnosis If your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease you will need to educate yourself about the disease. Read, read, read. If you have access to a computer get online and find Alzheimer’s forums. Once in a forum you will find yourself in the company of other boomers who are helping their loved one make it through the mist. Ask them what works and what doesn’t. Ask them about behaviors if things are escalating. The Alzheimer’s Association, your hospitals local Social Services Department and online forums like Ask Dutchy will equip you with information and a sense of direction.
Can You Do It Alone? If you are going to be the primary care giver for someone you will need help. Without help you will find yourself suffering from exhaustion, frayed nerves, isolation and sleep deprivation. It is certainly possible to care for an Alzheimer’s sufferer in your home but there will be times when you need a time out. You will need time away from the house to shop, do your banking, take a walk, be with friends, etc. As the disease takes more of your loved ones independence they will come to depend upon you for their safety, hygiene, food, grooming and protection. You will need to build a team.
Where Do I Find A Team? Your team can include your parent’s friends and neighbors who can provide much needed social contact. If you have siblings ask them to join you for a family meeting. Do this before things become a crisis. Your team can include an Adult Daycare setting in your community where your loved one can enjoy activities while you enjoy some free time. Get creative when planning your team.
Know Your Limits If you are reaching a point where you feel as if you have no life you may have reached your limit to care for your loved one. Are you experiencing stress, sleeplessness, do you startle easily and find it hard to concentrate? These may be signs of care giver burnout. If you can no longer keep up with the demand and the illness has escalated to a point where your loved one needs 24 hour a day care it is time to look for an alternative. Assisted Living communities and nursing homes are possible alternatives. If you do decide to find a placement for your parent please do the homework. Learn everything there is to know about the facility. Don’t go on blind faith.
Deborah Uetz Author of Into the Mist B. S. Education, online support monitor, E-Zine expert
Author of Into the Mist
B. S. Education, online support moderator, E-Zine expert website http://www.intothemist.us