A Tough Kind of Love

(Caregiving Hardships & Driving)

Personally watching a loved one dissolve in front of your eyes is one of the hardest undertakings a caregiver must endure.

After being at my father’s side, observing the disheartening deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s, I can honestly say I knew my father better than he knew himself.

Early on, convincing Dad to get a medical opinion about his memory-loss was one of the most difficult challenges. Thus began my role of primary caregiver. Having patients diagnosed is really the first step of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. No one wants to hear they have acquired a fatal mind-robbing disease—especially from a family member. Even coming from a doctor, such a diagnosis strikes like lightning. Of course, my dad claimed the doctor was out of his cotton pickin’ mind. “Who cares if I can’t find my pencil?” I wouldn’t want to count the times I heard that one.

But having a diagnosis will benefit you and the patient in several ways. The first that comes to mind is when you have to stop your loved one from driving. This is a chore that never goes smoothly, but now you can say “the doctor” advised the motor vehicle department and his or her license has been revoked. This will require constantly drilling this fact into the patient’s head, but it must be done. The day will come when he or she no longer remembers how to get home or, heaven forbid, someone might get seriously hurt. Be prepared. The first thing a car-less patient will do to you is suddenly have 101 places to go everyday. There’s no question that at this stage, depression will begin to become overwhelming.

Also, you’ll need a diagnosis in order to receive any kind of home care, and that includes help from Hospice later down the road. You’ll need help. Take it! You will go through stages when you feel strong and you are. It requires a special individual to be caregiver to a mind-impaired patient. Anticipate that you will get worn down. That burn out stage does absolutely nothing but cause harm for everybody. So put your pride aside and let others help. This is a job that can’t be done alone. I knew when that level of feebleness was about to drag me into the dirt and I was guilty as sin of ignoring any forewarning signs. I should have practiced what I preach, especially on this subject.

One problem with the burn out stage is that you never really get a chance to recuperate. What’s even worse is when you get sick with such illnesses as the flu, cold, headache or a migraine. It’s so hard not to lose your patience while caregiving when you’re feeling ill.

This is where you must have an alternative plan. Have someone you can call who will cover for you in case of emergencies. When you find that extraordinary person, let them slowly become part of the patient’s routine lifestyle. This way they will get used to the way the household is run and you won’t push the patient into an anxiety attack by leaving them with a stranger. Plan ahead before disaster strikes.

Alzheimer’s patients will go through a period when the frustration just crushes them. This is an enduring part of the Alzheimer’s evolution, but trust me, it will ease up, hopefully for a good long run.

Hang tough. It’s important that the patient knows they can always count on you. As hard as it seems, you have to bear with them.