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Alzheimer's Caregiver Diary: Tips from the Trenches (Part 3)

Friday, August 14, 2015

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

This is Part 3 of a blog series, in which we share 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 2 of this blog series for more background and more caregiver tips.)

Loneliness

Strangely, being so constantly familiar with each other can result in mutual loneliness. We no longer have any social life, even though a few well-meaning friends try to help. Restaurants are out - too confusing and nothing on the menu is understood or appealing. We used to enjoy theater movies complete with popcorn and Coke. As I awaited my turn to be served, Martha would get straws and napkins for us. I recall one instance perhaps six or seven years ago, when I realized that she no longer knew how to get them, much less where to find them. Moreover, I fear a sudden mood swing and outburst could make us unwelcome at the movie. In the past, Martha was a terrific cook. We enjoyed entertaining, preferring a moderately formal dinner at home for six or eight to going out. No longer.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Little to no social life

  • Mutual loneliness
  • Few public activities
  • Few friend activities

Be Prepared, Be Patient

  • Expect gradual loss
  • Embrace time together
  • Talk about good times

 

Low self-esteem

"I don't know anything. I can't do anything. I haven't any money," is a frequent lament that may be triggered by boredom. I usually give her a hug with reassurance that she can, in fact, do things. Or, "You know me, you know Roy (our cat), and you know I love you," and "How much money would you like to have."

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Boredom, low self-value

  • "I don't know anything"
  • "I can't do anything"
  • "I don't have any money"

Be encouraging, Be Positive

  • "But you know me!"
  • "You help me with dinner!"
  • "How much money would you like?"

 

Empathy

With her dementia, Martha has developed an exaggerated degree of empathy, for people real or imagined. For example, she can no longer watch "Walker, Texas Ranger," formally her favorite on TV - because even bad people get hurt with the routine closing exhibition of martial arts. "I Love Lucy" and "Andy Griffith" are still mostly okay. Assurance that it's "only television" or "not real" is soon forgotten.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Sadness over TV shows or movies

  • Mild drama triggers sadness
  • Mild violence is harder to watch
  • Can't remember it's not real

Be flexible, Try new things

  • Try new TV shows
  • I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith are still good
  • Be patient

 

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.