I don’t often post from outside sources, but I wanted to highlight this from the Dear Abby column. It stresses the importance for caregivers to accept that they sometimes need help when a loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease. It is sometimes the only option to keep a loved one safe. And to keep a caregiver from being overwhelmed to the point of creating illness in themselves. There is support out there for those caring for elderly dementia patients. If you are unsure of where to go in your community, please contact www.alz.org.
DEAR ABBY: My mother’s Alzheimer’s became apparent after she was in a car accident. I should have noticed the signs earlier, but I didn’t. Her body recovered, her mind did not.
I built a new house with a separate suite for her. My wife and I tried to care for her for a year, but I’m disabled and Mom was afraid of my wife. There was never a moment’s peace. Fearing for our collective health, I finally placed Mom into an assisted living facility. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.
My children criticized me but offered no alternatives. I visited her as often as possible. Because I could no longer drive, I sent someone with gifts and treats for her. Mom died in 2007 after 10 years in the facility. The last few years she didn’t know me from a doorknob. Her disease left my wife and me drained emotionally and financially. I still feel guilty for not doing more. The look of fear on her face haunts me still. Is this normal for someone in my circumstances? — ONLY CHILD IN FLORIDA
DEAR ONLY CHILD: Yes, it’s very common. I’m sorry for your mother’s passing and the difficult years you and your family experienced because of her illness.
Given the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s, it can be extremely taxing and affect the physical, mental and financial health not only of the person with the disease, but also his or her caregivers. When caregivers attempt to shoulder these responsibilities alone, they put their own health at risk. Moving your mother into a residential facility was a way to ensure she got the care she needed and take care of yourself at the same time.
Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as a “marathon, not a sprint.” That’s why it’s important for caregivers to get help — whether it’s a residential facility, professional in-home help or family and friends. If they don’t, the results can be disastrous.
It’s common for caregivers to feel guilty and wish they could have done more, but it’s important that you let these feelings go. You did everything you could to ensure your mother received the best care possible. If you need to talk to someone about your feelings, call the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900, or visit alz.org online to find a local chapter or support group.