The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that family caregivers spend an average of 22 hours per week providing care. Caring for a parent may seem easy at first. As the disease progresses, it starts to feel like you’re caring for a child and then a toddler. Agitation, refusal, and biting/hitting may appear when your parent is upset or frustrated.
One thing you’ll hear over and over is to make sure you have help. People tell you all the time to make sure you have help. What does that mean and how do you find it?
Areas Where Caregiving Can Become Too Much
As you provide care to a parent with Alzheimer’s, your emotions are going to take a beating. That first time your mom or dad doesn’t recognize you and insists you’re an unwanted stranger, it’s brutal. When your mom becomes so angry with you for not “taking her home” when she is home, you’ll want to cry. When your dad tells you, he hates you and never wants to see you again, it’s just as heartbreaking.
You may also take some physical abuse. In a moment of sheer frustration, your dad shoves you out of the way and you fall. Your mom slaps you because you tried to get her to wear her new shirt. You get bitten while trying to help your dad put on his pants.
As the disease progresses, you’ll be helping your parent clean up after going to the bathroom. There may be adult continence briefs to change, extra laundry to do, and showers to help with. Your parent may start fighting you when it comes to showering. Days pass and your mom or dad still insists they just took a shower even though they haven’t had one in almost a week.
There are meals to prepare. Your parent will often refuse meals if they’re not sweet. Tastes change a lot and many Alzheimer’s patients crave sugary treats and never want to eat their meats or veggies.
If you live with your parent, you’ll need alarms when wandering becomes an issue. You’ll find it hard to sleep as your parent’s sleep cycles may not be normal. You could wind up staying up with a parent until 2 a.m. on and having to be up early to see your kids off to school.
How Do You Find Help?
You need help with all of those situations. You need support, so start by checking with the local Alzheimer’s Association to find out when area support groups meet. If you can’t find one, look online.
Talk to your parent’s memory care doctors to find out if there are groups that meet. If the office has a social worker who specializes in Alzheimer’s care, schedule appointments with that social worker.
Finally, call a home care agency. You need help from caregivers who can take over while you take a break. Caregivers become your greatest ally when you’re providing Alzheimer’s care.