Lisa’s* mother has it. So does Stephanie's* mother, as well as my father-in-law. It is a disquieting and painful thing to see a loved one suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. I don't know, perhaps it is just me, but I don't remember hearing or seeing much about the disease in the past. Now, it seems there are so many people affected by it.
I was talking to my dental hygienist last week. Between her flossing my teeth and my gurgling, she told me about her aunt who has Alzheimers. She said how it seems like her aunt has reverted to childhood. It's sad. Alzheimer’s can be a debilitating disease. It can deteriorate a person's abilities, personality, and moods very quickly.
My in-laws live about 2 hours away. Well, it can actually be about 1 1/2 if I'm driving, but don't tell. They used to live about 10 minutes away, but they moved a few years ago. On our last visit to my in-laws home, I noticed my father-in-law seemed less talkative and easily became disoriented. Fortunately, they live in a mobile home park filled mainly with seniors. It has a swimming pool, pool table, and small library. My father-in-law would always want to go and play pool with his son when we visited. However, I had to help my father-in-law find his bedroom on our last visit. My mother-in-law said one night he slept in his chair in the den all night because he couldn't remember how to get to the bedroom.
My friend Lisa said her mother one afternoon was sitting in a chair on the porch. Then, her mother on her own, without telling anyone, decided to walk up the hill to a friend’s house and apparently got lost. Fortunately, the friend didn't live far. Some of the neighborhood kids walked her mother back home.
When faced with the challenge of a loved one having Alzheimer’s, it is important to recognize, the disease will affect each person differently. However, a person with the disease can make the most of their ability to function in daily life with drug treatments and adjustments to daily schedules.
For the care givers, because the Alzheimer's can cause a person to display unusual and unpredictable behavior, it is important to realize the person is not acting this way on purpose. It is understandable if the behavioral changes lead to frustration and tension on both the part of the person with the Alzheimer's and the caregiver.
Caring for a person with Alzheimer's can be stressful. As a caregiver, you need to look out for your physical, emotional, and mental health. Learn to talk about your feelings and accept help from others. Seek out assistance and respite care for your loved ones if needed. Eat right and get plenty of rest and exercise.
It's hard to cope with the fact your loved one is becoming a person who is becoming less and less familiar to you. Try your best to look at the positive in any given situation, instead of the negative. My brother-in-law did so in one situation with my father-in-law. My father-in-law looked at a flower and was overcome with the beauty of this flower. He kept repeating over and over how the flower was so beautiful. This was a softer, gentler side of his dad my brother-in-law had rarely seen. My brother-in-law appreciated seeing and hearing these expressions by his father. What a great way to look at this situation.
A wonderful lesson can be learned from this. If you are overwhelmed about the changes in your loved one because of this disease or any other health problem or concern, take time to appreciate the beauty of a flower. Try to look for the positive and keep the negative thoughts, which can lead to depression, far away. Beauty and positive lessons can be found most things, if you look hard enough.
*names have been changed
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June 25, 2003
Copyright 2003 Paula Lonergan.
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