Caregiver

GOOFING OFF — A CAREGIVERS RESOLUTION

AN ALZHEIMER’S CAREGIVER’S RESOLUTION

Cat hiding under a blanket

A playful game of peek-a-boo with Gouda the cat helped me make a spring resolution to schedule time for “goofing off” and taking better care of me.

 

April 26, 2013 — I haven’t made New Year’s resolutions for many years, but I have decided to make a resolution this spring: to take better care of me.  As a caregiver that is often the most difficult of all tasks.  Being the first assistant to Ben and Crizaldo in caring for my Alzheimer’s husband Ken I do manage to visit friends, meet people for lunch and see some of the latest movies, but the one area which I have neglected terribly is taking care of the physical me.

 GYM TIME

 When Ken was well, especially after he retired and before AD we went to the gym and actually worked out three times a week.  Plus, he (some days coaxing me to go along) walked the dogs along the bay. Last year I managed to get to the gym all of a dozen times, if that many, although it was and is on my Monday, Wednesday and Friday to-do list.  Even though it remains at the top of my TDL the gym does manage to slip by the wayside when the list gets too long.

 At one time I also did a half-hour workout on my living room floor, but even that has been dropped from my Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday routine.  Nor have I been walking.  All of these activities have fallen into an “I don’t want to and I don’t care” bad-attitude phase.  I have asked me many times the “Why” question, but haven’t found a good answer.

 I JUST DON’T CARE

Having lunch one day with my friend Madalyn I mentioned that I really didn’t care that my car needed some TLC, even though I felt a little embarrassed about picking her up with so much grime on the outside of my reliable vehicle. 

“I just don’t care,” I apologized, and then repeated the IJDC about a few other things on the list.

“Do you know that not caring can be a sign of depression and stress,” she said.

I have always thought I had a good handle on the depression demon and actually don’t feel too stressed.  However, I must admit that I have been hampered about getting things done because I have fallen into the habit of not caring.  Thinking I would start to care again once the warm weather arrived, the days grew longer and our skies were clear and blue, it was easy to procastinate.  I was certain I would snap right back into wanting to get the car washed – and caring – but it wasn’t happening.  Perhaps Madalyn was right.  Could I kick the “I just don’t care” attitude, feel better and less stressed if I could get beyond this rebelliousness?  Possibly, but how? 

A HAPPY VISIT 

Kristina dropped by for a quick visit and to give Ken his monthly vitamin B shot.  She is a very “up” person and right now she lives her life with her secondary goal as having fun.  That doesn’t mean to say she doesn’t earn a living.  She does and enjoys her work as a caregiver for disabled people, and has been wonderful, at times, helping with her Alzheimer’s grandfather.  Right now, though, she and her boyfriend are pretty much into amusement when they aren’t working, and she mentioned looking forward to the weekend so she could goof off.

“Hummmm,” I hummed, how long has it been since I goofed off wondering if I still knew how.  Ken, before AD, knew how to goof off and was an expert.  Watching sports on TV was goofing off and visiting with the neighbors instead of cutting the lawn were two of his favorite goof off non-activities.  I’m not sure if wives were as good at this talent as are their husbands, especially if life dishes them a full plate of Alzheimer’s complete with accessorized ramifications. there lives would perk alone like the early morning brew — bubbly and strong.   I’ll have to think about resurrecting this goof-off idea.

 SILLINESS IS GOOD

Gouda the cat and I have a continuing contest over “Whose bed (chair) is this anyway?”  She either occupies my computer chair or the bed after I get up.  So far it’s a standoff.  Going in the other day to make up the bed I pulled at the covers which immediately awakened the ball-of-fur feline.  Instead of leaving her comfort zone she attacked the moving blankets.  I pulled and she dove into the exchange. “Fun,” her action declared.

My arm went under several layers of blankets for protection from her sharp, needle-point claws which were in full flight as I snaked my hand in every which direction across the bottom sheet.  She was doing what cat’s do best — chasing  a moving object.  I reacted with full participation – always guarding against Gouda’s prowess skills and weapons which now included teeth and her back feet.  Bounding here and there she was all over the “map.” My armored arm, hand and fingers became her prey as she challenged them from on top of the swathed surface.  After several minutes I said to myself, “Good grief, I’m playing with the cat.”  Do you suppose that could be considered goofing off?  Playing?  Wasting time?  Indulging in nonsense?  If that’s what it’s called – then this could be the start of something big.  I’ll put that on my to-do list: schedule goof-off time — ten minutes to play with the cat — well, maybe at least five.

Originally posted 2013-04-27 12:08:07.

AN ALZHEIMER’S LOVE STORY – AND BEYOND

Man and woman in a canoe.

Borrowed from a Facebook post. Love the quote attached to it.

March 15, 2013 — Every so often we run across a story that touches our heart in many ways.  I have a lot of friends on Facebook; that social media thing which could command much of our time if allowed, but today I am pleased to have skimmed through and found my cousin Sara had added an Alzheimer’s video to my page, a story about an older male  caregiver, responsible  for his sweet wife.  I stopped and watched “Bill and Glad: a love story.” Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-03-16 21:44:11.

TONS OF TATTOOS AND ALZHEIMER’S

January 18, 2013 — Disclaimer up front:  Tattoos have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s.  However, Ken does have both.  Not tons of tattoos, but more than the average sailor from WWII.  He also continues his journey into the dense fog of dementia’s number one disease.

tattoo on shoulder

After just one tattoo Ken’s mom made him promise, “no more.”  16 tattoos later he obeyed.

A few evenings ago as I sat on the couch next to Ken’s bed watching Wheel of Fortune while my husband, having completed another day in his battle with AD, settled in for a good night’s sleep.  He turned a little, raised one arm high into the air, pulled at his sleeve until it fell past the elbow, and then scratched where it itched.  I glanced over to make sure he didn’t need anything more for his comfort.  In doing so, my eyes drifted to the array of pictures covering the  aging skin of his arm, and I thought of our third meeting (not a date) at my company picnic.

Ken didn’t work there, but our mutual friend Jim did and invited him to come along.  The men, already relaxed after a few beers in the sun, were tossing around a football on a nearby lawn.  Off to the side a pile of sports shirts grew as the players threw off their superfluous clothing in favor of either bare chests or white tees with a crew neck.  Good grief, I thought to myself, both of Ken’s arms are covered with tattoos. I did not know about his tattoos before the picnic and the discovery reminded me that I hated the ugly markings with  an unbelievable passion. Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-01-19 08:02:18.

Alzheimer’s At The Church Christmas Social

THE ANNUAL CHURCH CHRISTMAS SUPPER

Boy at Christmas dinner with a menu of cookies

This little guy chose his own dinner at the Christmas party, typical of kids his age and okay at this once a year event.

December 14, 2012 — We were always there whether they served ham, turkey or roast beef — all with mashed potatoes, gravy, lots of salads and the customary green bean casserole. It was almost tradition that early or mid-month in December we read the announcement, complete with a sign-up sheet requesting side dishes and desserts for the annual Christmas dinner to be held in the rec hall – a real gymnasium with basketball hoops at either end — but more formerly referred to as the church cultural hall. During those early years when Ken and I were young, with five little ones, our family took up nearly a whole table. Then as our nest emptied and we dwindled back to just the two of us we still attended most of these pre-Christmas celebrations at our church sitting with friends who had also become empty-nesters. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-12-17 05:07:45.

ALZHEIMER’S AND THE OTHER WOMAN

 

Affairs, rather real or imagined wreck havoc with the pysche of an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

 October 19, 2012 — I have read that it isn’t unusual for older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s in the earlier stages to forget their spouse – especially if they live in a care facility with a lot of new people with whom they become acquainted. The Alzheimer’s affair can be tragic to the well spouse, or it can be a source of happiness for someone with Alzheimer’s searching for love and companionship in a confusing world.

 “He met someone,” a broken-hearted healthy wife will say to a friend.  In this case she has lost her husband twice: to Alzheimer’s and then to another woman. The Alzheimer’s World is not our world even though we have one foot in the door nearly all of the time.  Our loved ones can become strangers to us, and us to them as they embrace their new life in an institution.  Their world with us can vanish and what remains for them is what is readily available which might be the man or woman in the next room.  

When her husband with Alzheimer’s became involved with a woman he met in the facility where he resided,  former Associate Justice, Sandra Day O’Conner, following a painful period of adjustment, responded she was relieved because her husband had found some happiness.

At that point in time there is really nothing for the wife or husband and family to do than allow what has happened to just continue.  Changing the mind of an AD patient is next to impossible.  The connecting link to the well spouse is gone. Besides, the happiness of the AD spouse is what is paramount.  Furthermore, living and caring in an Alzheimer’s world is often surreal and often feels like make-believe and roll playing. What happens to not only the patient, but for the spouse as well can seem like a dream — or worse — a nightmare.  Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-10-20 15:38:00.

ALZHEIMER’S AND ROSIE’S DENTAL DILEMA

September 21, 2012 — My mother-in-law, Rose, was one of the fortunate ones when it came to teeth: strong, straight

dentist working on woman

Despite strong healthy teeth and frequent dental exams, some people with Azheimer’s end up with dentures, another problem for caregivers to deal with.

and cavity free.  As my dentist Dr. T. had explained she was blessed with the good saliva that worked to keep the bacteria from making inroads — cavities — in her teeth.  However, as she neared 50 all of her teeth were extracted due to gum disease – like my dad who I wrote about previously.

LEARNING DENTAL HYGIENE

Ken’s father, Nick, managed to keep all of his pearly whites with only one missing when he died.  That was quite an accomplishment for someone born in 1892.  As a poor immigrant boy of 14 who came to America during the 1906 immigrant rush Nick was unfamiliar with the word, use or sight of a toothbrush.  Joining the U. S. Marines ten years later the Corps soon taught their new recruit the meaning of hygiene in all aspects.  So for Nick, even in his later years of Alzheimer’s, lucked out in the dental department. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-09-22 07:03:26.

HELPING IN THE ALZHEIMER’S FAMILY

August 24, 2012 – In my recent writing I referenced the Alzheimer’s family and its involvement with the patient and the caregiver.  According to the

pile of loving hands

Good family communication is essential to the welfare of both the caregiver and the loved one with Alzheimer’s.

findings of a study by Steven Zarit, professor and Department Head of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State, family member communication skills about their Alzheimer’s loved one were either poor or non-existent.

DEAL WITH WHAT?

My thought about this particular study regarding communication with a family following their loved ones diagnosis was similar to an experience I recall when I was asked, after being briefed on an abstract subject, if I had any questions.  My answer was, “How can I have questions when I am yet to fully understand the subject?  Later on I will have questions.”  It’s the same situation when presenting the family with this gigantic challenge where there has been little or no experience, education or personal knowledge about Alzheimer’s, and then asking, “Let’s talk about this and how are you are going to deal with it.”  The family response is undoubtedly, “Deal with what?” Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-08-24 20:02:29.

THE ALZHEIMER’S BURDEN? AND WHO’S IN CONTROL

By Ann Romick

old woman carrying a burden

A major concern for many people with Alzheimer’s is not being a burden.

August 17, 2012 — When abilities began to fade most healthy older people realize that changes are ahead.  “We don’t want to be a burden to you,” said my mother as the two of us talked about the realities of growing old — when she and my father would become less able. Certainly not an original quote, but one probably spoken by all aging parents to their children when faced with old age or their life is threatened by some sinister disease such as any under the Dementia Umbrella.  For me and my husband Ken three out of four parents developed Alzheimer’s  in their last years. Ken makes number four.

BURDEN?

So what defines a burden?  “Well!” snipped one of my sisters from out of state, “If you felt that caring for our parents was such a burden you shouldn’t have done it.”  I wanted to ask, “Who else?”  Sometimes being snippy in return is just a way with some siblings, especially after years of caring for our parents. Instead I zipped my lip. Lip zipping would have pleased mom and dad.

Definitions include a heavy weight, load, or encumbrance of sorts, possibly a drain on finances, and definitely one on emotions and physical strengths.  Does it mean additional work for the selected caregiver?  Absolutely!  A change in routine, lifestyle, conceivably a strain on family relationships – even strains on a marriage, and yet some people ask, “Is it a burden?”  Of course it’s a burden – a very heavy load – but one accepted with grace and love for any of our loved ones who have carried burdens for us from time to time – or not.  It’s love that lightens the load. So tempered with that love, a good attitude and lots of prayers, for those who are so inclined, most caregivers get through – often struggling – but we do get through. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-08-17 23:40:37.

LIVING IN THEIR COMFORT ZONE

Romick Family 68

The Romick family, long before anyone thought of Alzheimer’s.

August 11, 2012 — So much has been written about family participation in helping with an Alzheimer’s patient.  From what I have read the percentage of those willing to help and those willing to watch is way out of balance.  I don’t have the statistics; furthermore I doubt there are any truly accurate stats because involvement in caregiving is such a personal family issue.  However, I would venture to say that the numbers of those willing to watch are far greater than those willing to help.

FAMILY PARTICIPATION

Perhaps, the approach is all wrong from the beginning.  One article I read was a synopsis of a study done by Steven Zarit, a professor and head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State.  The study’s main focus was communication between the family and the person with dementia.  This, I imagine, would be done soon after diagnosis and when the victim was able to communicate his or her wishes.  The study group’s consensus was that communication is either poor or non-existent between family members and the relative suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; the problem mainly resulting from a difference in understanding the core values held by everyone, including the victim, about giving and receiving care:  The core values being autonomy, burden, control, family and safety. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-08-11 20:14:32.

SHOWERS: SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

 

Man in Shower 2

Showers can be difficult for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

SHOWER:  I CAN DO IT MYSELF

July 27, 2012 — Today was a good day with Ken even though Alzheimer’s has taken him very deep into self.  I have often wondered about the deep dark pit of self and what parts of personality might be fragmented in this lonely place.  I wonder if it’s terribly crowded there because every so often a glimmer of self slips out and pays us a brief visit.  Identifiable only that it was Ken.  Not the Ken of pre-Alzheimer’s, but Ken nonetheless.   He spoke to me and Ben in sentences, disconnected sentences, but sentences, with a few questions intermingled.  I doubt he was interested in the answers, but I was thrilled when he asked who I was. I gave him my name rather than tell him that I was his wife.  Years ago, as he faded deeply into AD, he denied being married so I felt it best to leave it that way.  My name didn’t register and that was all right too.  The best part is when he is communicating with us he is calm and very cooperative during that time period, which makes it special, and easier, because today was shower day. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-07-28 00:00:00.

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