My wife, Cheryl and I had
growing concerns over her mother, who began
exhibiting Alzheimer's symptoms probably 6-7 years
ago, but lived alone, still drove, but didn't
recognize that she was having problems herself.
"You know how you forget things as you get older",
she said with a laugh.
Knowing that her dementia was
getting worse, we started helping her with small
things, which she didn't recognize as help for her
condition. Shopping, buying food, etc. The problem
was, that as a widow living alone, she wouldn't take
her Aricept, vitamins or eat properly. So just took
over even more routine chores for her.
The last couple years, we
noticed the dogs weren't fed as we thought they
should, she wasn't as clean and neat as she had
been, and her house wasn't getting cleaned at all.
We didn't want to take away her independence until
it became a possible threat to her own safety. That
became evident when she would go to pick up her
grandchildren from school and not show up. Then,
forget she was to go pick them up at all. After 2
times across several weeks, we took her car away.
She fought, cussed (out of
character), but didn't win. In a few weeks to a
month, it was if she always didn't have a car, and
she walked to the store.
To "help" her, we stopped by and
checked on her and her dogs several times a week.
We called every day, picked her up for dinner twice
a week, which we had done for years anyways, and
made sure she had food for herself and the dogs. We
just started doing these things, which became part
of her routine and an increasing part of ours.
Soon, we realized that she wasn't remembering what
we told her to do daily.
We noticed things getting even
worse, like getting lost on her walks to the store.
We'd get calls from letter carriers and stores she'd
go into and ask for directions. We found out later
that latter carriers in the area watched out for
her, as they knew who she was and that she'd get
lost and they'd drive her back. They just didn't
know how bad she became. She had and still has ways
of excusing her behavior, and unless you know her
condition, she can talk her way through issues.
After the last time she got lost
on a walk, we interviewed several facilities and had
her admitted to one within a few weeks. That was
January 2007. It's been a year, and within the
first few months, we noticed even more of a decline
in her memory. We have her on Namenda and Aricept,
and hope they will keep her decline slowed more than
she was not on them.
We still help her a lot. We
pick her up for dinner and lunch a couple times a
week, and have her help us around the house with
simple chores to keep her connected. We find that
as time passes, she gets confused and "lost" sooner
after picking her up from the facility. We know
that our picking her up might not last too much
longer or the time away will be an hour or less
rather than a few hours.
We've now decided that since she
likes games, we will visit her and play games in her
recreation area of the facility. They are very
caring, loving caregivers and have wonderful
programs at all levels, even for the higher memory
issue residents. Our goal is to help her stay
connected with her memories, friends and family
members as long as possible, even though we see a
decline monthly now.
As a baby boomer who is also
part of the Sandwich Generation, it can be difficult
to make sure your elder relatives are properly cared
for. I have found that moving into my Mom's house
was the best decision for me and my daughter, not to
mention my Mom. Our family knows there is someone
there on a daily basis to make sure everything is
okay. I also found that my Mom has just blossomed
since we invaded her home. She has a reason for
being, a reason to cook, and a reason to do so many
things that she wouldn't be doing if me and my
daughter weren't there.
We think about what we can do
to help our loved ones, but perhaps the best thing
we can do is give up a few years of our lives to
give back to those who cared for us for most of
their lives. The experience really isn't that bad.
I know the frustrations of
parenting my cousin rather than partnering with
her. Bathing has been a very challenging area for
her since she even refused to change her clothes for
days. Feeling like I had little choice, I had to
"trick" her into taking a bath. after giving her a
nice lunch, I guided her on the back porch. there
several family members proceeded to bathe her while
she was fully clothed. We even washed her hair
several times because it was extremely dirty. I
don't even want to tell you what the color of the
water was. Anyway, although she was quite reluctant
to be cleansed, she soon calmed down after we got
her to participate in the process by washing her
private areas. my motto---JUST ONE DAY AT A TIME !