“I love my mother, but I don’t like her very much”. This is a phrase I often hear from long term caregiver. The reason is because with Alzheimer’s there comes a point at which your parent no longer recognizes you, and you start to question why you are going through so much anguish when your own mother or father don’t even recognize you. It may only happen occasionally but when this starts happening with greater frequency, you may start to feel taken for granted.
But it can get worse. Because the way the brain is affected, you may also experience vicious criticism, you may get cursed at, or be the target of paranoid accusations, even violence may occur. Coupled with irrational behavior, refusal to bathe or change clothing, demands to drive the car, or “sundowning” (agitated behavior often in early evening),and your parent may become someone who you would normally not tolerate. But many of us continue do it because its “family”. Consequently, you may love them, but not like them.
Like a Science Fiction movie, when an alien possesses the body of a human. You find yourself living with someone who looks like the person you most love in the world, but they have now become like strangers to you
If you are feeling this way, it may be time to pause and reassess the situation. Chances are a few years have passed since you first decided that you would be the primary caregiver for your mom or dad. But stop and ask yourself these important questions:
• Does your parent need more help than before? Bathing? Dressing? Grooming? Toileting?
• Do you find that as time has passed you are doing EVERYTHING for them?
• Do feel like you no longer have your own life?
• Have you noticed that your own health is worsening?
If you said yes to two of these questions, then YOU are the one that needs help, now. Consider that there are many programs and agencies that can take care of your loved one. But how many are out there that can help you? What happens to you if you get seriously ill and can no longer take care of your mom or dad? Statistically, adults that are under chronic stress are at a much higher risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, even colds, flu and pneumonia. Not to mention that chronic stress suppresses your immune system, opening you up to a long list of very serious conditions.
It’s called “caregiver burnout” or “compassion fatigue” and it’s time to start “Caring for the Caregiver”. Regardless of your original decision to take care of your parent or spouse, you did your best but now it’s time get help! Fortunately, there is a growing awareness if the needs of caregivers.
A good place to start is http://dementiacaresecrets.com. Or call your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and let them know about your situation. You are not alone, and there are many people who have paved the way for you. But you have to decide for yourself to follow that path. Even at this advanced state, dementia can still take 5 – 10 more years to run its course. It’s not going to get easier, why not start now?