Most caregivers are not experienced. They are not born as caregivers. They become caregivers after a family emergency or in my case a wake-up call. I had no idea what Alzheimer’s Disease really was. Like most people, I just assumed that she was just forgetting things no big deal. At first it was just forgetting things like conversational items. She wouldn’t remember that she had called me earlier in the day and would call me several times. She would forget that we had plans to come over or to go shopping.
She had her own apartment and had several friends in the complex that she would walk with. She didn’t have a car anymore. We had used moving from KY to SC as an excuse to get rid of her older, high mileage car. She had driven in Ky but only about a 2-mile radius in town. I was coming to pick her up once a week way back then to drive her to a bigger town to grocery shop. She was having issues then and was slowly giving it up. Of course, hindsight being what it is, I guess she was having problems with getting lost. I knew that she was beginning to have problems at that time. I assumed she would be moving in with me but way off in the distant future. It wasn’t until the “distant future” caught up to smack me across the face!
For two years, she maintained her own apartment and seemed to be doing really well. I would come over a couple of times a week and my brother lived in the same complex. I actually was dumb enough to believe she was getting better. Of course, it didn’t last. One time in particular, we were going back to KY to visit. It was a well-scheduled trip, one that we had been looking forward to for a while. We went to pick her up and I had repeatedly asked her if she had remembered the things she needed, to the point that she was getting exasperated. We hit the road Friday evening and got about an hour and a half into our trip when mom made the comment that she had forgotten her medicine. Needless to say, I was ready to explode but turned around to get the meds instead. Of course, now I know that by scheduling our trip for the evening hours we were setting ourselves up for failure.
Sundowning is the term that is used for what evening does to an Alzheimer’s patient. Most AD patients become dull and lifeless as the sun goes down. They are more forgetful or refuse to interact with anyone. In our house, we use bright lights. I will start turning on a different lamp or light about every half hour to make it brighter indoors. We also try to get in the sun off and on throughout the day.
I was starting to notice things more and more and after having a conversation with her friend and neighbor I decided to make an unscheduled stop one afternoon to check things out. When I arrived at her house I knocked on the door. It took a half hour and three phone calls to get her to the door. She was in dirty clothes which is something my mother would not be caught dead in. I came in and started chatting while looking around. I walked into the kitchen to find all of the evidence I ever needed to convince myself that the time was right now.
In little piles all over the kitchen were pills. I would guess about 5 or 6 of them. Upon closer inspection, I could figure out that she had not taken her medication on all of these days. She takes meds for her stomach, her high blood pressure and Namenda which is routinely prescribed to dementia/Alzheimer’s patients. She had gotten them out but had forgotten to take them. I knew her lease was set to be renewed the following month so I brought mom home with me for a couple of days and had a serious talk with my husband and brother.
Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy, and deal with the rest.
I love you momma!
This is part 1 in my Caregiver Series “HOW WE GOT HERE”.