Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Challenge
Posted on February 18, 2014 by Katy Miller
We recognize that the commitment to care for a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is one of the greatest sacrifices a caregiver can make. You’re challenged not only to adopt a new role with your mom or dad, but also to commit to tasks that challenge traditional parent/child social boundaries. Providing this sort of care often calls for tremendous emotional and physical strength.
From an emotional standpoint, you are tasked with caring for your parent or family member, who, in most cases, cared for you through a good portion of your formative years. Making the shift to being their operative parent is difficult, at best, particularly when they suffer from a progressive memory impairment that requires a nimble caregiving approach.
For example, the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease may not seem like they warrant a second thought – difficulties with short-term memory, losing track of items around the house, forgetting to fill prescriptions or buy groceries, and getting lost in familiar places. However, those symptoms can progress quickly and require a more attentive approach. People suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease may become irritable or withdrawn and may appear depressed at times. Certainly, when the disease has progressed to this point, a higher level of care is required.
Furthermore, as Alzheimer’s disease advances to moderate and severe stages, providing care at home becomes highly challenging. Your parent’s sleep-wake cycle may alter, for instance, causing them to wander in the middle of the night. Impulsive behaviors such as inappropriate comments in public may occur. Hostile or even violent behaviors, often directed toward caregivers, can occur. Impulsive behaviors may lead to falls and debilitating injuries. Other symptoms of advanced dementia include urinary and fecal incontinence. Intensive assistance is required for basic daily activities such as using the toilet, bathing, and even eating. As the symptoms of dementia progress, so does the burden on the caregiver.
Even with the most dedicated of caregivers and maximal support from the community, many people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will often thrive better in an assisted living community. Caregivers frequently feel guilty for moving their family member to a community, particularly when they have cared for that person for a length of time; however, the burden of caring for a family member is often simply too much for any one person to handle.
Many memory care communities provide extensive support and comprehensive care to an extent that is difficult for many families to provide at home. These communities allow you, as the caregiver, to focus on what’s important for your parent, which is your emotional support.