If you have met one person with Alzheimer’s disease… you have met one person with Alzheimer’s disease. No two cases are ever truly alike.
With each and every Alzheimer’s diagnosis comes a unique experience in terms of personality, symptoms and needs. Like no two fingerprints can ever be alike, no two cases of Alzheimer’s disease progress in the exact same way. The patient maintains individuality even in illness. While there are certain symptoms that are predictable (such as memory loss), the way the individual interprets the changes in brain function will always prove to be a unique experience.
With so many variations of Alzheimer’s disease, how does the caregiver know what to expect? How should he or she prepare without getting overwhelmed?
There are currently over 15 million caregivers nationwide. You are not the only one suffering from heightened emotions such as fear, concern or even the guilty feeling you refuse to admit – how this is going to affect ME.
A support system is valuable for many reasons. It can better equip the caregiver to care if he or she knows there is someone out there that understands. If someone offers to help, let them. Don’t let pride or loyalty or a sense of personal duty keep you from accepting help. Nor is it a bad representation of caregivers when they reach the point of needing to place the loved one in an assisted living or skilled nursing community.
How does the caregiver handle unsolicited advice or chatter?
For example, an out of town family member may “help” by offering opinions to the caregiver who is dealing with the dementia patient on a daily basis. We as caregivers think, “How dare she come into my home and tell me how to care for our mother? I’m the one who does everything every day to care for Mom. I know what she needs and prefers because I’M the lucky one that gets to experience everything – the good and the bad. Who does she think she is?”
All caregivers have been in a situation similar to this. I like to ask myself where this advice is coming from. Are family members truly trying to be helpful or judging your ability to handle the situation? Is the advice given perhaps to cover feelings of inadequacy or inability to do it themselves?
We all want to feel valued. But, if we decide the “help” family members offer is unnecessary and unwanted, simply let them know you value their input and will take it under consideration. You have thought about it, and now you discard it and continue to care for your loved one as you feel is best.
Remember, you are not alone! Reach out to professionals for help handling your own stress. Join a caregiver support group and network with others in your situation. The Lamar County Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group meets on the last Thursday of the month at 2:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Purvis. We encourage caregivers to join us as we strengthen one another in love and support.