Caregiving for Alzheimer's patients by family members can bring both physical and emotional stress.

Euri Giles | Clareifi

Alzheimer's caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress.

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According to the Alzheimer's Association, "Alzheimer's caregivers frequently report experiencing high levels of stress. It can be overwhelming to take care of a loved one with Alzheimer's or other dementia, but too much stress can be harmful to both of you."

My mom is my dad's full-time caregiver

The more time I spend with my dad who is now in the late stages of Alzheimer's the more I want to remember him differently. Please allow me to clarify.

I want to remember him the way he was. He was my hero. He was in my memories a man that I could look up to. He paid attention to me. My dad always took the time to listen and would respond with sound advice.

That was then. That was my childhood and into my early 30's. Now? Now my dad who was the smartest man I ever knew, is losing the ability to even speak.  

My dad was a writer by trade, and by heart. He was a man of letters. Today it sometimes seems as if his words are just on the other side of his skull but they are unable to make it past his lips. He's able to make out a few words and brief sentences especially if he's upset about something, like being asked to take a shower for the 15th time in one hour.

He refuses to shower. Yes, he's an elderly man with Alzheimer's but my dad was in such great physical shape all of his life that he is still strong now. If he decides that he doesn't want to do something, he's not going to do it.

I struggled with my dad both physically and later mentally.

It had been roughly one month since my mom and I were able to give my dad a sponge bath. It was the day after he had been released from the hospital due to having another seizure. He had fallen and hit his head. A large gash over his eye had to be stitched up and he was kept for three days in the hospital so the doctors could observe him.

Now one month later, and because of his resistance to bathing, he's still wearing the same dirty clothes. His pants soiled from the numerous accidents he's had recently due to incontinence.

I live less than a mile away from my parent's house so that I can get there quickly if needed in an emergency. I try to visit and help my mom who is my dad's sole caregiver at least every other day.

Today, it's a Sunday. I walk in and mom is mopping up urine from the ceramic tile on the living room floor. My dad is standing over the kitchen table trying unsuccessfully to open a package of chocolate chip cookies.

I think to myself "today's the day". Today I'm going to get him showered whether he likes it or not. Mom and I lead him down the hallway to the bathroom. He stops in place before we can get him to step in the tub.

"Mom, get ready," I say. "I'm going to pull his pants off". Mom agrees and gets the extended shower hose ready with warm water. I quickly pulled my dad's pants down. He reaches down to pull them back up. I say, "no dad"! "You need to take a shower today"!

I know he's scared. He doesn't realize that we are his family and we love him. He must feel violated. Mom and I do our best to wash him up in the middle of the bathroom, not the shower because he still won't budge to get in completely.

I wish he knew that we were doing this for his own good. We are trying our best to take care of him, to keep him at home rather than in a nursing home. Even in-home health care providers that we've had are unable to get him to do anything.

Mom and I feel a sense of accomplishment as my dad eats his eggs and toast once we have him diapered and dressed. He's all smiles now. I say "I love you, dad"!

He says, 

"Thank you"!

Caregiver Support

Currently, the Alzheimer's Association is working on gaining support in Congress for the reintroduction of the bipartisan Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act which will provide much-needed relief to our nation’s dementia caregivers through expanded training and support services. 

According to the Alzheimer's Association:

"Nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and more than half of all dementia caregivers have at least one chronic condition of their own. 

On average, each dementia caregiver today spends 20 percent more time providing care than a dementia caregiver did 10 years ago. Approximately one-quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers, meaning that they care not only for an aging parent but also for children under age 18. Many family caregivers of persons with dementia have to quit their jobs, reduce their work hours, or take time off because of caregiver responsibilities. "

Together we can make a difference for families that are caregivers for individuals with Alzheimer's and other dementias.

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Euri Giles covers lifestyle content and news in Texas ranging from parenting, and food to politics.

El Paso, TX
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