For About and By Caregivers

Subscribe to our bi-monthly publication Today's Caregiver magazine

  + Larger Font | - Smaller Font

Share This Article

Positive Aspects of Caregiving

By Priscilla Fritter Peterson, Ruth Brinn, Marcia S. Marx, PhD
& Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD

(Page 2 of 3)

To give the live-in caregiver time off to be with her family, I usually spent at least two days a week with my mother. I made it my personal challenge to do whatever I could to engage my mother, ease her misery, and make her situation as cheerful as possible. Each day, my goal was to treat her as I would want to be treated in that predicament. During the earlier stages, when my mother would have trouble remembering words, I was cautious about completing her sentences or correcting her, as I did not want to make her more painfully aware of her new shortcomings. Eventually, my mother lost the ability to say anything other than an occasional yes or no; the most I could hope for was a change of expression to tell me whether something had registered with her. It was a good day if I could get her to smile or laugh, and a great day if I could elicit a verbal response.

I found that the most important thing was to continue talking to my mother and asking questions of her as though everything was perfectly normal, because I never knew when she might suddenly say something that showed she had been paying attention despite her far-away expression. One day, when my mother had said nothing for several hours, some music we had performed hundreds of times came on the radio and I asked if she remembered it. She laughed, rolled her eyes, and said, “Well, of course I do.” I was overjoyed that she not only answered, but had not lost her sense of humor!

I found physical contact became increasingly important in maintaining a connection with my mother. When I would arrive for a visit, if I simply said “Hello” upon entering, often my mother would be staring elsewhere and not respond. But if I put my face right in front of hers, patted her cheek and said “Hi, Mother – I’m here,” she would look straight at me and beam as if a light had just been switched on. Sometimes, we would simply sit and hold hands. Her grip was enough to show me that this was just what she wanted.

Anything that involved the senses worked well in getting my mother’s attention. In addition to touching her often, I would give her a variety of things to feel, smell, or taste. She had been a good seamstress, so I gave her interesting materials to touch. When cooking, I gave her finger foods or a whiff of an herb. I brought in flowers from her garden for her to smell or hold. I also read aloud to her; familiar passages, in particular, would often get a reaction. And of course, I continued to play her favorite music until the very hour that she died.

My sister, an excellent pianist, would often play for our mother. Even if she didn’t say a word, we always knew whether our mother, a perfectionist like most professional musicians, had been favorably impressed. She would usually smile and nod her approval, but if my sister made the tiniest mistake, our mother would raise an eyebrow or give a little “Tsk, tsk.” It was her lifelong passion for music that stayed when other interests faded. No matter how unresponsive she might seem at times, listening to good music would always perk her up.

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, the sad truth is that you know it’s only going to get worse. To not be dragged down by this, I tried to make the most of each day with my mother, and to focus on the positive by noting things she did that made me feel my efforts were effective. Of course, there were times when I dissolved into tears on the ride home after a visit with my mother, grieving while she was still alive for the wonderful person we were losing. There is no denying that it is a devastating disease and depressing for all concerned.


  1 2 3

Printable Version Printable Version



Related Articles

Ten Ways to Maintain a Positive Attitude

An Interview with Lonnie Ali

Lessons Caregivers Can Learn From Private Industry


Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Youtube Follow us on Pinterest Google Plus