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Alzheimer's Caregiver Diary: Tips from the Trenches (Part 5)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hill Country Care Providers is 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. We continue Part 5 of 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 1Part 2Part 3 or Part 4 of this blog series for more background and more caregiver tips.)

Potty Training

Talk about TMI! I should explain that for 52 years the toilet and its functions have been private for each of us. Now, there is no more false modesty, and I'm still learning things. One problem is that Martha thinks she needs help to locate and use the toilet except, say, in the middle of the night when she often manages alone. Go figure. We have learned always to ask before leaving home whether she needs to go to the toilet. Otherwise, there is danger of a sudden emergency at the grocery or Target. Regrettably, I am getting to be a regular in the Ladies room at the grocery - after I check that the coast is clear. So far, we have had two bona fide Angels intercede to assist, one whose mother had Alzheimer's, she told me with a soft and knowing smile.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Embarrassment, Modesty

  • No more bathroom privacy
  • No more false modesty
  • Public emergencies are tricky

Be Patient, Be Strong

  • You are earning Angel's wings
  • Always ask before trips to store
  • Angels do exist!


No Compounds

Avoid two-part instructions, for example, "Go in your closet and get a sweater." It may be hard enough to process the closet part, and much harder to remember it while trying to hang on to the second part. It's much better to break it into two parts and say, "Let's go in your closet," and when there, "Which sweater would you like to wear?"

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Confusion from complex questions

  • Two-part instructions confuse
  • Simple questions require effort
  • Continually gets worse

Be Patient, Simplify

  • Break apart instructions
  • Make two-part questions easier
  • Be patient!


Days, Dates and Time

One of our sons was just here for a short visit. After he left I told her that he would be back in a week - and got an uncomprehending, confused stare. Such referrals to relative time no longer have meaning. "This morning" and "yesterday" won't be useful for her much longer. The approach of "the fourth of July" is a non-starter, both as to when and what it is. Today I said I would be back "in a minute," a figure of speech that only confused things. Often when boredom gets particularly frustrating, she will say she wants "to go to Dallas" where we lived 30 years ago, assuming it's no farther than, say, the local grocery. The explanation that it's a four-hour drive taking all day does not register.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Temporal Confusion

  • No sense of relative time
  • Days and dates are meaningless
  • Travel distance also confusing

Be Patient, Be Prepared

  • Don't sweat it - confusion passes
  • Enjoy the moment
  • "Be Right Back" might work



We always followed the rule, "Never wake a sleeping baby," and the same goes for Martha. When she rouses herself in the morning, I can tell in two seconds whether she should stay up by the expression on her face. Often, there is a suggestion to visit the toilet, then I tuck her in to resume what was interrupted. If she's had "enough" sleep, she has a smile and is very pleasant - and vice versa. Some extended sleep in the morning is welcome as the only time I can read without her feeling neglected. Also, she naps - a lot, perhaps induced partly by her current regiment of meds.

Caregiver Challenge

Caregiver Tip / Insight

Disrupted sleep 

  • Wakes up confused
  • Wakes up unrested
  • Needs to visit toilet

Learn what works for you

  • Never wake a sleeper
  • Face expression tells the story
  • Sleep is peace for both of you


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.