When you take care of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia you have to live in the moment. You have to learn that the way you once thought about things is no longer relevant. It doesn’t do any good to constantly remind someone what it is that they are forgetting. They can’t comprehend it and it just leads to more confusion, frustration and hurt feelings.
Imagine if someone was constantly criticizing you about what you were doing. You would get pretty upset. They are not forgetting. The problem is that their brain never registered the information in the first place. It would be like posting a blank article and then being asked what it was about. Could you do that? Of course not, and neither can a person who has Alzheimer’s remember that they have just eaten 15 minutes ago. The part of the brain that registers new information and decides where it should be stored no longer works so it has nowhere to go. Literally, in one ear and out the other.
Alzheimer’s starts with the most important part of the brain, the hippocampus, and completely wipes it out. From there it slowly and meticulously begins to erase every single part of the brain. This continues until the brain can no longer tell the heart to beat or the lungs to breath That is a scary thought, isn’t it? You could compare it to a virus on the computer, it slowly erases every document every picture then moves on to programs and finally the hard drive.
It is a scary diagnosis not only for the patient but for the whole family. If you are like me and are in the position of caregiver it is especially hard. You have been the child all of your life and suddenly you are thrust into the role of parent. It can become confusing for both of you. It’s a hard line to cross and when your parent doesn’t realize that they are having problems (even that is from the AD) it can make it even harder. Not only are you struggling with parenting your parent, they struggle with feeling like a child.
The best way to combat this, I am slowly finding out, is to just take things day by day. Some days are full on chaos and others are a slow gentle slide. I never talk to mom as if she were a child. I always treat her with respect she deserves. I get frustrated and angry just like every other caregiver in the world but the trick is not to show it. I have become a great actress over the last few years. The most important thing of all is to ALWAYS show her love.
We let her needs drive our schedule and that is okay with us. I am lucky that I get to do this job. I know that sounds crazy right!? I could not stand for a stranger to be taking care of my mom not while I am able to do it. Things may change in later stages, although I hope not as I will continue to take care of her as long as I am able to keep her healthy and safe.