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Alzheimer's Caregiver Diary: Tips from the Trenches (Part 2)

Monday, June 15, 2015

At Hill Country Care Providers, often we are brought into the lives of a family when a spouse or other family member has done all he or she can, has reached a breaking point and needs 24/7 professional home care. We offer tips and resources to these families, but we ourselves also learn from the many experiences these families bring to us. We are amazed and inspired by the family caregivers who have themselves battled in the trenches for years.

We continue this blog series, sharing some of the insights from a former client. Mr. Curtis Grove was a 24/7 caregiver of his wife, Martha, his friend and life partner for more than 50 years. The experiences he shares offer numerous insights, sometimes sad, sometimes funny and always practical. Altogether, Mr. Grove’s Alzheimer’s Caregiver Diary tells a story of love, compassion, patience and an ongoing change in the relationship between caregiver and patient. We’d like to share these incredible tips and insights through a series of blogs, and we hope you’ll share these with friends and family.

(Read Part 1 and Part 3 of this blog series for more background and more caregiver tips.)

Meals

Martha has not prepared a meal, even for herself, in six or eight years. Fortunately, I like to cook and have not yet poisoned either of us. As her tastes change, there are occasional surprises, as when she spits out a a bite of beef, perhaps in a stew. Ah, but grilled hamburger steak remains popular. Only once in recent memory has she said, "That was good!" Otherwise, I often ask if she liked something we have eaten, usually with "I don't know" in reply.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Meals can be frustrating

  • Tastes may change
  • Can't express likes/dislikes
  • Frequent, daily stress

Be Patient, Be Flexible

  • Stick with foods that work
  • If it's all gone, it's good
  • Don't expect praise

 

Wandering

For a time after our move here, she could still take herself on short walks around the neighborhood - until I got a call from a policeman that she was lost and he was taking care of her until I arrived. I have learned that nighttime wandering is quite typical of dementia. We sleep in adjacent bedrooms, and I previously might sleep through such adventures. Now, I have a small motion detector that sounds an alarm when she steps out her door. Hopefully, her purpose is no more than to seek help with a trip to the toilet. In the past, she might be driven by an undefined need to find things. With new and better meds, such trips are now infrequent. I'm still working on false alarms from the cat and how to be alerted when her wandering is confined to reorganizing her closet or taking her bed apart, all without leaving her bedroom.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Wandering

  • Is typical, especially at night
  • Tries to find things
  • Rearranges things

Be Prepared, Be Patient

  • Wander-proof fragile or valuable items
  • May simply need help to toilet
  • Motion detectors can alert you

 

No Recriminations

An old joke about Alzheimer's is that you can make new friends every day. Less funny is the reminder that Martha may have no memory of something she said or that happened even two or three minutes ago. Thus, if she did something improper last night, fuggeaboudit. That is, it does no good, and probably some harm, even lightly to 'punish' her or attempt to correct her behavior which is now a blank in her memory.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Reality of Dementia

  • No memory of something
  • Therefore, no guilt or remorse
  • Discussion adds confusion

Don't Punish, Move On

  • 'Fuggedaboudit'
  • Discussion may do more harm than good
  • Make a new friend each day

 

Positive Reinforcement

It would be difficult to overemphasize the value of positive reinforcement. Completion of each task gets "excellent!" or "perfect!" or "good job!" or "good girl!" The other side of that coin is not to criticize a little failure, but to offer, "Let's try that again" or "Can I help?"

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Easy to criticize, to scold

  • There will be many mistakes
  • There will be many reminders
  • Criticism doesn't help

Never Negative, Always Positive

  • 'Excellent! or 'Good job!'
  • 'Let's try that again'
  • 'Can I help?'

 

Look for more insights from a family caregiver over the next few months in our series: Alzheimer's Caregiver Diary: Tips from the Trenches.

For more tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers, try these 30 simple activities that can be done in 30 seconds.

Areas We Serve

Based on where we have caregivers, we serve the following areas. 

Here they are sorted by name: Anderson Mill, Austin, Barton Creek, Bee Cave, Briarcliff, Buda, Garfield, Hudson Bend, Jollyville, Jonestown, Lago Vista, Lakeway, Lost Creek, Oak Hill, Onion Creek, Pflugerville, Point Venture, Rollingwood, Round Rock, San Leanna, Shady Hollow, Sun City (Georgetown), The Hills, Volente, Webberville, West Lake Hills

Here they are sorted by zip code: 78610, 78613, 78641, 78652, 78664, 78681, 78701, 78702, 78703, 78704, 78705, 78712, 78717, 78721, 78722, 78723, 78726, 78727, 78728, 78729, 78730, 78731, 78732, 78733, 78734, 78735, 78736, 78737, 78738, 78739, 78741, 78742, 78744, 78745, 78746, 78747, 78748, 78749, 78750, 78751, 78752, 78753, 78754, 78756, 78757, 78758, 78759.