Сaring for people with Alzheimer’s
Maxx is back! Maxx comes from a family of generous caregivers, and he truly understands how important it is: Hello again, my name is Maxx, and I have another family caregiving story. This story is about my grandmother, my fantastic role model, and hero. She is the most caring and inspirational person I have ever known. I want to honor her and what she’s taught me about caregiving. I will keep that knowledge sacred for the rest of my life. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s, and I got this message from her just before she began writing her story: “Good Morning. Joe (my grandfather) woke up at 4:30 AM, turned on the light and was looking for Jamie (his adult daughter) under the dresser. “She is hurt.” He was walking out of the room, wide awake. I asked him to get back in bed, that he was dreaming, and Jamie was fine and at home. Now that he is asleep, and I am awake, I can start writing my story.”MY CAREGIVING STORYHello, my name is Elaine, and I am a caretaker for my husband, Joe. I have been a therapist most of my life and have had a lot of experience in caregiving. I hope my caregiving story provides you support and hope for the best life possible during this time of life with your loved ones. Our story began in 1980 when Joe and I met. In 1982 we married at our friend’s ranch. Joe was an avid rancher and cowboy lifestyle enthusiast. His primary vocation was working in commercial real estate; however, he was initially a gentleman avocado rancher, and most significantly a cowboy. He belonged to 3 different horse-riding clubs: Los Rancheros, Catalina Riders, and The Portola – and thoroughly enjoyed roping as a hobby.About 2013, I began to realize that our bills were not being paid. All of our bills were being sent to Joe’s office, and we went to his office to collect all the mail and separated them into “throw away,” and “pay.” The “pay” pile kept getting higher, and he was getting more confused and frustrated. I had no choice but to take over. Our house was nearing foreclosure, and I decided to put it on the market. When it sold in 2014, we moved to a retirement community where we currently live. Shortly after we moved, Joe had to undergo a hip replacement. I believe that this surgery exacerbated his condition. When we visited his primary care doctor, she diagnosed Joe with Dementia and referred us to see a neurologist. The neurologist went through several other tests including a psychological test which resulted in a new diagnosis of mild cognitive therapy impairment. His driver’s license was rescinded. (Insert photo)Things were becoming more difficult for us, but we were determined to stay positive and figure out the essential steps that we were going to have to take. We decided to enter a clinical study for Alzheimer’s. The MRI showed Amyloid Protein, an indication of Alzheimer’s. The medical bills started coming in; so, I stopped the research and returned back to work to support us during this next stage of our life together. I started working again as a marriage and family therapist. His Alzheimer’s symptoms have gotten more pronounced. His frequent and unfortunate episodes include waking up in the middle of the night, getting dressed and trying to leave the house, hallucinating, arguing with the tv over politics using socially inappropriate behavior, falling and calling 911. These symptoms are ongoing, but we will never give up working through the difficult times. We fill Joe’s weeks with activities and ways to make Joe feel like an active adult, maintaining his health, and making sure he is always feeling loved and supported! He is still able to go to the bathroom, shower, shave and brush his teeth by himself. Sometimes he prepares his own breakfast and lunch, which always puts a big smile on my face. Our neighbor, Susan, is gracious and close by to help out when we are in need. Two days a week, he is picked up by bus and taken to an adult day care where he gets to interact with other people, use the gym, and argue about politics! Joe’s son, Jason, visits every 2-3 weeks and takes him out to lunch, which gets Joe very excited about. His grown daughter Jamie lives in England. She calls him every Sunday morning to talk about his week. I think that his phone calls with his daughter are beneficial because she asks him questions about the things that he did all week, which helps him remember his week. He also has 2 buddies from years ago who call and occasionally take him to lunch! On his recent 80th birthday, his son took him to Los Angeles on the train to a dinner party comprised of his cowboy friends. (Insert photo). He is always surrounded by family and friends who fill his life with love and support. I feel it is essential to prioritize the exceptional events in life such as family involvement, companionship, and hope. Joe’s days at home are spent watching tv. He wakes up smiling and happy and often talks about how and when he gets better, he will get his driver’s license back, get a job, and make a million dollars! Joe and I have learned that staying positive creates an atmosphere of hope, which is a great benefit, regardless of the outcome. I am blessed to have my faith and attend church every Sunday. Sometimes Joe even comes with me. I love my job and have amazing clients. I am so grateful to have a family that is supportive and loving. They give me the support, strength and hope that I need to keep going every day. My advice to fellow caregivers, as a family caregiver and a therapist, is to take care of yourself first. As the flight attendants instruct, put the mask on yourself first so you can help others. I read a study stating that caregivers often die first, and I lost my friend a year ago due to a massive stroke we believed was caused by stress caring for her husband. My foundation for mental and physical health is diet, exercise, and mindfulness meditation practiced daily. It is essential for caregivers to make sure that their overall health is maintained so that our focus can remain on our loved ones. Life is good and some days are better than others! I wish you all love. You are doing a fantastic service to the people you love, and hopefully, that will stay in uppermost in your minds and create enjoyable experiences for you and your care-recipient which will last forever.