November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Caregiver Month.
Here in the US there are more than 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. I would guess that most of these caregivers are loving family members. I know it is true for my family. My Mom has Alzheimer’s and can no longer live alone. The kids who lived nearby attempted to provide care, food and support. Eventually it became clear our help would not be enough. My sister made the decision to became part of the 15 million. Janice moved from SC to MD. She moved in with Mom to help provide daily care. In the first years Mom needed less attention, but now Mom is dependent on Janice’s loving care and daily involvement.
Our family goal is to keep Mom out of a care facility for as long as we are able. Is it easy? No, but is it extraordinary? No. It is what we do. Janice bears most of the burden, but we try to surround her with some breaks and a little freedom. She works 2 days a week as a teacher, which brings her much joy!
I have noticed others are sometimes uncomfortable around Mom. She isn’t as engaged in a crowd. She gets confused and messes up words. She has trouble with some simple tasks and can get disoriented. Those things do not bother us. We still love her and treat her as our Mom and Grandmom! Mom delights in seeing people. She loves music. She still watches the Orioles baseball games. She can sing a few favorite songs–just start singing ‘Jingle Bells’ around her and she will light up!! Here she is with Janice at a fun Fall Harvest party last week.
Here are a few tips for talking with Alzheimer’s friends, especially my Mom
- Look her in the eyes. Get on her level.
- Use her name.
- Take her hand.
- Don’t ask if she remembers you.
- Don’t ask too many questions…she may not understand.
- If you bring a gift – get something colorful and large.
- When she speaks, nod and engage with her. Especially if you think it doesn’t make sense!
- Sometimes just sit by her side and talk to her, sharing a story about you.
- Read a book or look through a magazine with her.
- Give her a hug when you leave.
So this month, when an elderly person appears disoriented, forgetful or insecure, remember that someday you may be there also. Smile. Open the door. Thank a caregiver. Love the matriarchs and patriarchs in your family!
For more information, to find out how to get involved in a cure or to find ways to care for a caregiver. www.alz.org