"I promised mom I would always take care of her. I would not put her away in a "home." A few months ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I want to bring her home to live with me.!"
Those of us who have experienced the challenges that this disease can bring cringe when we hear someone make this statement. While is is a noble and honorable thing to do it may not be the best situation for either the mother or the daughter.
The beginning stages of Alzheimer's are often pretty mild. "What's the big deal?" a daughter may cry. I can make sure she has good food to eat and a comfortable place to sleep. I will put an alarm on the door so she doesn't wander away and get lost. I can help her get dressed and showered. We can play games together. Mom took care of me when I was young, now it's my turn.
But it is a big deal
Caring for someone you love with Alzheimer's Disease is way different than caring for a child. For one, the person you love will steadily decline. This decline may happen slowly over years or it could happen seemingly overnight. While Alzheimer's disease is usually a slow progression you may not notice some of the changes. If you are living with someone day in and day out it may be harder to notice how much they have declined.
It is important to step back
Just like a painter steps away from his masterpiece to get a different perspective so too must you step away. When you take a break from the situation you are able to really see what is going on.
Are you prepared for the long haul?
My neighbor, Barbara, brought her mother home to live with her. She figured that Mom probably had only a couple of years left. 14 years later Barbara is still caring for her 92 year old mom. She is 69 and having her own health problems. Her mom needs care 24/7 . She is unable to feed, dress, bathe, or do anything on her own. She is bound to her bed and wheelchair. It is exhausting to say the least. On top of her own health problems she is also concerned about her husband who is having health challenges as well.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's takes a village
If you decide to bring you aging parent home to live with you I have a few suggestions for you.
Volunteer for a month at an Alzheimer's facility. Don't just offer to do the fun stuff. Change diapers, help feed, bathe and help with all activities of daily living. Go every single day. That's right 7 days a week. Stay at least 4 hours at a time. Now imagine doing that for the next 10 + years but 24 hours a day.
Join a caregiver support group. Just be a fly on the wall. Listen, gather information and learn what you need to know.
Create a support team. This may comprise of family members or paid help. Who will be able to help you long term? Get commitments.
Have a physical. Your health must be in tip top shape for this marathon you are about to embark upon.
Join a gym, yoga class or other exercise group. Make sure you have support so you can continue to keep your health in good shape.
Accept what you can and cannot do
Promises that were made when you were younger may be unrealistic now. Caring for someone means making the best choices possible for their care. It doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself. Allowing someone else to take over the duties you are no longer able to do will allow you to be the daughter or son again.
At Light Heart Memory Care our family becomes an extension of your family. You are always welcome. Let us to the difficult work and you enjoy being with and providing comfort to mom or dad. That is what being a good son or daughter really means.