On September 20th, I will be mom’s caregiver for a whole year. That’s a big one for me. We have bad days and good days but how I handle it, that’s a whole new ball of wax. I made a list of the top 10 things I have learned about Alzheimer’s Disease and being a caregiver.
- Be attentive to the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. My mother had been showing signs for years but we just didn’t recognize them.
- Understand the lengths at which a person will go to hide their symptom, which makes being attentive to the signs even harder! My mother tried to hide her symptoms from me at times.
- Know how hard it is to diagnose Alzheimer’s. We’d been to 2 primary care doctors and a Neurologist. My mom had a physical, family history, MRI, clock test, and several other tests but there was no clear cut diagnosis. Though all agree that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, there is no single test that will diagnose it.
- Be patient and understanding. If you try to talk to an ALZ patient the way you would talk to anyone else they are not going to get it. Speak loudly but don’t scream, slow your words down and use as few words as possible to get your point across. Spend more time listening to them than talking to them.
- Make a routine! Routine and schedules cannot be stressed enough as it makes life go so much smoother. When mom gets up and does the same thing everyday, she isn’t afraid as much of what’s coming next. Instinctively she knows. Keep important things for morning time because as the day goes by so does their mental function.
- Have a Power of Attorney. This is a must for any family caregiver to have. As their mental function decreases so does the ability to make important health and financial decisions. If you wait too long, their mental capacity deficit may mean it is too late to sign one. At this point, you would have to hire a lawyer, go to court, and request guardianship.
- Keep track of everything and stay organized. I have several calenders and write everything down as well as file things in a filing cabinet to keep track of doctors appointments and medications.
- As Alzheimer’s progresses you have to understand the fear of abandonment that goes along with it. If I am out of mom’s sight for very long she will come and hunt me down. She’s not being nosy she is just afraid of losing me. It can get frustrating but if you look at your loved ones face and see the look of happiness when they find you it makes all those frustrations dissolve.
- Conceal your own feelings and emotions. This is one of the hardest as a caregiver, you will go through so many emotions: sadness, frustration, anger and guilt to name a few. If you are agitated and frustrated, they will be too. Likewise, if you stay calm and keep a cheerful tone in your voice, they will mimic that too and life will be so much smoother.
- You are not alone! Lean on family and friends when needed, delegate what you can, use social media. There are also great organizations both local and online that can be a huge help. This is not a “one person” job – ask for help when you need it. Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy and deal with the rest.
Rena McDaniel is the founder of The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver and also The Million Mile Blog. She is an Alzheimer caregiver, RA patient, Writer, Wife, Mother, and Grandmother. She now lives in sunny South Carolina with her husband and mother. You can find The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver at alzcaregiver@rm29303, facebook.com/thediaryofanalzheimercaregiver , pinterest.com/rm29303 , plus/google.com/Rena McDaniel
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