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Alzheimer's Caregiver Diary: Tips from the Trenches (Part 4)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

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. Our next installment of this blog series shows another glimpse into the life of an Alzheimer's Caregiver. 

This is Part 4, 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 1Part 2 or Part 3 of this blog series for more background and more caregiver tips.)

Paranoid Pronouns

He, she, they, them, etc., are often the cause of problems, some benign and others not. When "they" are coming to kill Roy, the cat, and I ask who "they" are, she says, "I don't know" with a blank look. Otherwise, all I seem able to do is commiserate with her, giving assurances that I will protect Roy from "them."

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Paranoia

  • Pronouns may indicate confusion
  • Can't answer question 'who?'
  • Boredom may contribute

Be Patient, Show Concern

  • Listen
  • Commiserate
  • Assure

 

Familiarity Can Be Contemptible

With one patient and one caregiver, alone and together all day, every day, there is certainly some potential for their not always getting along. I suspect that this can be one contributor to mood swings. Personally, I at times struggle with remaining objective and "forgiving" of her petty comments and criticisms. And I assume that Martha also struggles with unpleasant behavior, particularly during periods of extreme boredom. As the caregiver, all I feel I can do is try to stay on an even keel and forgive momentary unpleasantness. When one or two of our kids are here for a visit, and after she gets some idea of who they are, her mood and behavior are the best she's capable of - no outbursts or other unpleasantness (of course, we have great kids!).

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Caregiver/Patient Frustration

  • All day together creates friction
  • Being objective is difficult
  • Boredom may contribute

Be Patient, Be Forgiving

  • Stay objective
  • Don't take it personally
  • Children can bring out the best

 

Moods

Two or three years ago, there appeared sudden and major mood swings, with no observable cause or trigger. I have learned to label some dark moods as "combative," and what I refer to as "Exorcist moods." Her voice can drop an octave, get raspy and release a string of invective. I become a "jerk," occasionally with "I want to kill you!" Amazingly, in minutes it can swing back to "You are very nice. I love you." For now, adjustment of her meds has mostly quieted such outbursts. A frequent but more benign mood has her asking about our parents, all of whom died many years ago. When I try to explain that, it can cause tearing or even sobbing.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Extreme moods

  • May be mean, even violent
  • May change minutes later
  • Unknown triggers

Be Prepared, Adjust Meds

  • Be prepared
  • Don't take it personally
  • Adjusting meds may help

 

Pets

For some time, hospitals and nursing homes have demonstrated the therapeutic value of friendly pets. We have always been cat people. The current cat is very sociable and adores Martha, which is nicely reciprocated. If anything happens to that cat, I'm leaving home.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

No challenge - pets are helpful

  • Companionship
  • Patience, Loyalty
  • Interaction

Enjoy this positive relationship

  • Interact with the pet
  • Talk about the pet
  • Pray for a long pet life!

 

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. Also, refer to our tips and resources for families needing professional home care.

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.