Very often the initial symptoms appearing in a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease are remembered in hindsight, a little like viewing an accident in the rearview mirror. At first, his difficulty in recalling words may seem like nothing, perhaps no more than a lack of sleep or a “senior moment.” Then she may begin repeating herself, asking the same questions over and over again. It usually becomes more obvious when he becomes increasingly forgetful, sometimes not remembering why he has gone to the store or how to drive home on streets he has known for years. By now, even a spouse or adult child in some state of denial, will realize this is not a case of normal aging.
In addition to losing their cognitive faculties, victims of Alzheimer’s often demonstrate personality and behavior changes. They may become more contentious and demanding. And, as terrible as Alzheimer’s becomes, it is often the family member who serves as the primary caregiver who bears the largest burden.
Few families have been left untouched by this insidious disease. Alzheimer’s, after all, is a disease that does not discriminate. It affects people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic status, and education. What many families fail to focus on, however, is not just the person with the disease, but the caregiver.
Many caregivers experience such symptoms as denial, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and irritability. In short, caring for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s often leads to burnout.
Since Alzheimer’s is not a disease like cancer or diabetes that is necessarily visual, other members of the family may not know what the caregiver goes through. Even in the later stages of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients can manage to cover up so well that even adult children or siblings may see a totally different side when they visit or call. Yet, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be an all-consuming 24-hour-a-day, seven-day a week grind.
What can caregivers do to reduce the burden? The Alzheimer’s Association and other experts offer the following recommendations:
Alzheimer’s disease destroys lives – and that can include the life of the caregiver as well. The adult children for one client, who called us about sending them a companion to help their mother care for their father, said they made the call after reaching the conclusion “we have already lost dad, we can’t lose mom too.” With a dedicated person taking some of the responsibility off her shoulders, their mother was able to leave the house for several hours every day. She could take long weekends to visit her children and grandchildren. It allowed her to slowly get back to being herself again.
Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. Visit our website here.