caregiving

Profile of a nurse pushing a man in a wheel chair.

A profile of a good caregiver has many aspects.

A CALLING AND A CHOICE

March 18, 2016 – There really isn’t a profile of the perfect Alzheimer’s caregiver. Instead it seems to be a calling that someone steps up to and takes. Someone just like you or just like me. The profile shows many, but not all, caregivers are often a child of the person who is in need of caring services. Gender stats also show that the caregiver is usually a woman. Not to imply that men are not capable of looking after mom and dad, it’s just unusual. That’s understandable as women are quickly associated to “mothering” or “nurturing” as part of their natural-born talents that appear to be inherent to their sex. That summation is not meant, in any way, to be biased against men. Just as there are “Stay-at-home dads.” men who take care of the home and children, usually with the career wife’s blessings, these same dads will often be tomorrow’s caregivers when their parents are in need of a role-reversal.

LOVE IS ALWAYS PART OF THE PROFILE

One of the men who helped me care for my husband Ken, Crizaldo, believed that caregiving is a “calling.” He was a relief for Ben and later David, who was with Ken six days of the week. Crizaldo’s full-time job was working in a care facility where he was responsible for several of the residents. There were times when he and I talked about caregiving. Crizaldo mentioned that some people just should never be caregivers. In a profile description he found that to be good at what you do, you have to love people. Dedication went beyond just a job. At work good caregivers needed to be sure their patients remained as comfortable and as happy as possible; treating them as you would one of your own loved family members. Crizaldo mentioned that he noticed that some of the employees were obvious in their lack of dedication in what they did. They put in their time and that was it.

BASIC EXPECTATIONS THAT ARE PART OF THE PROFILE

My husband’s caregivers were always in the former profile. For a long while I was their assistant, the backup person helping with showers, dressing, and all the other duties that belong to the “calling.” Fortunately, the men were responsible for shaving, hair combing, keeping him clean while eating, changing dressings if there were wounds to care for and changing diapers when necessary. When he was calm and in a good mood I managed to cut his hair as I had done since he retired. Ken’s wardrobe was kept simple for the caregiver’s convenience and for Ken’s comfort. Sweat pants and sweat shirts were always the order of the day unless there was a hot spell. During those times adjustments were made.

Caregivers were also available to help Ken into a wheelchair and into the car for doctor’s appointments or any excursions, which were limited especially as the disease progressed. These men also included simple cooking for the patient and light housekeeping.

HOW DO YOU FIND A GOOD CAREGIVER?

Finding someone to fit this profile and do it with the attitude of love and service I was looking for, was not an easy task. Our first caregivers came from an agency and were a disaster, though I know that has worked for others. We then went through an employment service that was part of our church. It’s always important to contact former employers  familiar with their work. Eventually they even recommended each other. The main focus in caring for patients, especially patients with some sort of dementia, is to remember that they can’t help themselves, but we can help them, remembering always that this is a labor of love. As a family we grew to love these good men and all they contributed to easing our burden of care. Their profile of love and service set a high standard of caregiving that would be difficult to duplicate. 

Originally posted 2016-03-19 19:59:51.

BLESSINGS FOR THE CAREGIVER

This gallery contains 1 photo.

BLESSINGS FOR BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY

blessings

Caregivers who go beyond the call of duty deserve extra blessings.

February 5, 2015 – In caring for anyone with a long term illness including Alzheimer’s, I believe extra blessings are in order for those caregivers who go beyond the routine and expected. They turn a tedious and tiresome duty into something filled with love and service.  Their attitude changes the degree of comfort into something special felt by all involved with the patient.  As the main caregiver for my husband Ken who passed on in October of 2014  I will always be appreciative of these special caregivers.

There is a vast store of helpful information out there for caregivers to rely on, no matter what the disease. Within the same publication I listed previously, I found Beatitudes for Care written by Pat Warner, RN, MSN, Roseburg, OR: Oregon Alzheimer’s Support Group. I enjoyed reading her thoughts. However, I find that her thoughts are not my thoughts, so I have borrowed her idea and will write my own blessings or beatitudes from my own perspective and experience. In all probability I won’t have as many as she has listed, but in my heart there may be more than listed. Continue reading

Originally posted 2016-02-07 00:40:30.

TEN A’S FOR ALZHEIMERS CARE

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Various capital 'A' letters.

These simple tips for Alzheimers Care will help you in your caregiving  tasks.

January 29, 2016 – Alzheimers Care as a whole is difficult. Caregivers have a lot on their plate. Furthermore, there is no due date on this mission of mercy. There are times when it appears to be endless as the months turn into years, and no one has an answer. According to studies on Alzheimer’s disease it can last 20 years or more. Unlike measles or mumps there is no time limit, nor will there be a scheduled time when the disease will be over.

Meanwhile, caregivers endure as best they can. Suggestions and help to me were always welcome. Though this may seem succinct, these brief descriptions offer a lot of important advice. From a booklet I have read published by the Alzheimer’s Aid Society of Northern California, “A Practical Guide For the Alzheimer Caregivers, complied by John and Bea Gorman, they have introduced ten A’s for Alzheimer’s Care. http://www.alzaid.org/BlueBook/Blue_Book_2013Complete.pdf Check it over and put to use whatever you may find helpful in your daily battle against this or any disastrous disease.

TEN “A’S” FOR ALZHEIMERS CARE

ARGUMENTS – Useless

ALLOW – as much freedom as possible.

ACTIONS – help when verbal communications fail.

ASSUME – the patient can understand you.

APPRECIATE – good moments and good days.

APPROPRIATE– activities help pass time, reduce agitation & boredom

AGITATION – can be alleviated if you stay calm, reassuring and respectful.

ADULTS – Mental level is not always equal to social level.

ADAPT – the task to fit the ability. Break tasks into steps.

ASSESSMENT – Ongoing. What is safe and works now, may not later

on. Keep watching, evaluating and be open to changes.

Originally posted 2016-01-30 18:32:32.

CLEARING THE CONFUSION: ALZHEIMERS OR DEMENTIA

DEMENTIA – A STARTING POINT

Questions marks illustrate there is a difference between dementia and Alzheimer's.

Knowing the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, helps people understand the disease.

August 24, 2014 – What is dementia and how does it relate to Alzheimer’s? Years ago they said that he/she is getting senile, or he/she is entering into their second childhood. If a loved one became cross or cantankerous one might say, “He/she is having a moment of senile agitation.” Then an observer could quickly cut to the chase with “He/she is downright crazy.”

Over the years descriptive words and terms do change. It wasn’t political correctness that brought about the change from yesteryear, it was a more conclusive definition that brought the word dementia into use as the more descriptive and popular term to describe loss of cognitive reasoning. The explanation from one dictionary is “a condition of deteriorated mentality.” Continue reading

Originally posted 2014-08-24 16:54:42.

LOVE LETTERS AND ALZHEIMER’S

 

love letters

Love letters from the past bring thoughts of old times to this Alzheimer’s caregiver.

March 1, 2013 — Spending an evening with granddaughter Liz we ran across a decorative box filled with letters. 

Out of college she has traveled the world and was stopping by for a few weeks to visit with me and Ken before deciding what might be next on her youthful bucket list.  Memorable as our young beauty is her Alzheimer’s grandfather has shown no signs of recognition, viewing her with suspicion whenever she coos him a hello while passing his chair or chats with him for a minute or two.

OLD LETTERS

Holding the box and peering inside her big blue eyes opened wide as if she had found “pay dirt.”

“Yes,” I told her, “those are letters from me and your grandfather written before we married.  He was working for the railroad in central California and I lived and worked in San Francisco.  The two of us kept in touch by writing letters to one another.”

Love letters,” she asked?  “I suppose you could call them love letters,” I answered.  It was before we became engaged, during and right up until we got married.” Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-03-02 03:52:26.

ALZHEIMER’S AND THE ART OF DOWNSIZING

DOWNSIZING: TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Holding back full closet

Whether you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or not, downsizing is easier to do sooner than later.

February 1, 2013 – As we continue with life’s journey along its often bumpy highway there comes a time to think about, if not begin, downsizing; a polite way of saying “get rid of some of that stuff.”  Whether the husband or wife has Alzheimer’s, or any other kind of debilitating or terminal illness, isn’t necessarily part of this decision. Possessions – stuff – have a tendency to reproduce and accumulate; well perhaps not reproduce, it just feels that way.  However, stuff does seem to constantly collect jamming drawers, crowding closets and overwhelming the garage while the inhabitants continue searching for additional storage.

(Special Note: This blog has been nominated for  The Best Seniorhomes.com Senior Living Award, Personal Blog. Please give it a vote by clicking on the certificate to the left. Thanks!) Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-02-02 19:41:24.

ALZHEIMER’S, PAIN AND THANKSGIVING

PAIN AND ALZHEIMER’S

 A woman cries in pain

Pain comes in many forms to different people.

November 16, 2012 – Pain:  Something we all experience in many forms yet it remains undecribed and unmeasured because there is no scale or other device to record those calculations.  The severity of the pain may be determined really bad as medics watch a patient’s blood pressure skyrocket under many kinds of duress, or the doctor will summarize it with, “She/he is in a lot of pain.”

A friend might say, “I feel your pain.”  Perhaps.  But to what degree?  So the remark should be graciously accepted for what it is: concern, sympathy, comfort, recognition or even empathy for where you are in life’s battle at that moment, and for what discomfort you are feeling – either mentally, emotionally, physically or all of the above. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-11-17 21:48:36.

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.

ALZHEIMER’S: JUDGING, ADVICE AND MOTHERS

April 28, 2012 — “I don’t give advice and I don’t judge,”said my friend Clement.

woman handing a nickel

Advice, even for Alzheimer's caregivers, isn't worth it unless you pay something for it.

A MENTOR

Clem’s mother had been a mentor for me.  She didn’t know it nor did I.  It wasn’t until she was gone that I recognized the impact she had on my life. Nearer my mother’s age, but a little younger where the generation gap hadn’t felt as vast, or as a teen perhaps I wasn’t doing the distancing thing from Hertha as I was with my mom.  Nevertheless, this mature woman was someone I could sit with hour upon end and bask in her wise and witty wisdom.

A stay-at-home mom with four rambunctious boys and one fragile girl, her prior career was that of a registered nurse turned stewardess, as flight attendants were called when Hertha flew the blue and friendly sky; the medical part being a requirement during the early days of national and international flights on many of the major airlines.  I always wondered if “Personality Plus” was also a requirement because if anything Hertha could have been “Miss Congeniality” anywhere she went.

Hertha’s last years were not spent as a dementia victim which had been the fate of  my own mother so I was a bit surprised recently when Clem winced a little recalling “being there for her” during her later widowed years.  That’s when he said, “I don’t give advice and I don’t judge,”   even though advice from experience was there if he wanted to share. He added how his mother had eventually moved to another state to be close to her sister and another son, Kyle.  “After mom died Kyle wrote me a letter of apology and appreciation for my before years,” Clem chuckled. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-04-28 02:55:27.

KEN AND THE MOVIES: “WATCH OUT BEHIND YOU”

B movie Poster

The theatrics of a 'B' movie can be likened to Alzheimer's patients.

Ken and I are from the era of double features, short subjects, news reels and cartoons: the old Hollywood when studios had the last say about which mega star was contracted for the lead role in the latest “Big” movie.  Other hopefuls were sent down to the “B” studios.   Those were the days of block-buster pictures with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, or John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, and the low budgets with – who remembers.

Not only were the unknown actors soon forgotten (unless they became STARS), but so were the “B” movies.  However, a few of the ploys in the plot, seen time and time again, were snickeringly remembered.   Actually, a few have become legendary. The one I recall most vividly, used by the good guys as well as the bad guys, was a scene where a captured person stood with his hands high above his head facing in the direction of a door – opened or closed – it didn’t matter.  The guy holding the gun was in charge, and could either shoot his captive (bad guy), or handcuff him and cart him off to jail (good guy) depending on the script.

Sometimes, though, just as the final chip was down the captive would say something like, “Look out behind you!”  and the gun holder would glance behind him – just long enough for the captive to reach forward grab the gun and take charge.  Or, there was someone actually there to relieve the gun from the gun holder. The scene was used so often in “B” movies it became laughable.  That must be the part Ken remembers.

Dear Ben is so faithful in his caregiving duties, and Ken is usually so unappreciative. “Ben is your friend,” I croon as the three of us head for the shower.  “Him? He doesn’t know anything,” Ken replies.  “And you, you don’t know anything either.”

Before long Ken will slip into the imagined scene.  He looks at Ben and threatens, “You’ll get yours.  Just wait till my friends get here.”  Then he calls out through the open door.  “Get him guys,” or, looking at Ben, “Watch out behind you.”  I can’t help but giggle a little, telling Ken that people don’t fall for that line any more, but I know in his limited mind it makes sense to him. He can also take on a military roll: standing near attention he glowers at Ben and says, “You are dismissed.”  Never an officer I ask myself, “Where’s that coming from?” Probably some old movie he had seen before he met me.  Other times he’ll look directly at me, nod his head toward Ben and say, “Call the police.”

Or he can be very angry with me wondering who I am and why I keep bouncing in and out of his mind, he’ll request, “Hand me that ax, I’m going to whack off her foot.”  “Ouch!” I tell him.  “That’s not very nice of you to say things like that.”  Puzzled he responds, “What did I say?”  Like pushing the wrong button on my hand-held calculator all kinds of jumbled and incorrect numbers appear on the screen.  His mind seems to break down information and then scrambles it, sending thoughts and words in every which direction.

Ken’s Alzheimer’s is now very advanced, but I can sometimes read him through his eyes or changes in his facial expressions.  He can also be very cunning – liked a frightened, trapped animal.  So he doesn’t hurt any of us during clean up and shower time, his hands are temporarily restrained, but it is amazing how quickly he can “throw” an elbow into Ben’s or my ribs, get a knee high enough to make a definite impression in someone’s groin area, or bring up a foot for a well-placed kick.  Whether it’s a calculated plan or an instinctive defense I’ll probably never know.  “Whaaaaattttt?” he questions when caught in the act, followed by “I didn’t do anything.”  “You punched Ben with your elbow,” I tell him.  “I didn’t do that,” he insists, his eyes looking innocent.

Yet, there are times when Ben is helping him and he’ll take on a new roll and say, “I appreciate everything you do for me.  Thank you.”  That could be from any of Jimmy Stewart’s movies. Ben responds with a smile and says, “You are welcome, Sir.”  Good manners don’t last long.  Other times when Ben turns his back Ken will scrunch up his nose and stick out his tongue.  I’m surprised he doesn’t give him a loud, spit-filled raspberry to go with it.  Instead he’ll look over at me and wink as if he knew exactly what he was doing.  With Ken’s threats coming from the “B” movies, the niceties spoken by STARS such as Cary Grant, and  those naughty mannerisms are probably coming from his watching too many “Our Gang” comedies when he was a kid.  That favorite was later adapted to TV and became a beloved half hour for our kids after being edited and relabeled as “The Little Rascals.”

Of course we don’t know how much memory Alzheimer’s is covering when we observe parts and pieces of the past sneaking out through the tangles and plaques covering his brain.  It’s all such a puzzle with impossible pieces to fit together, but moments like this can make an interesting and funny happening.  That’s why we take comfort in learning to laugh at some of Alzheimer’s silly situations — so much better to laugh than cry.

Originally posted 2011-10-15 03:30:16.

Sign-up For Our Newsletter

Sign-up for our free newsletter and receive expert tips from Ann Romick, a woman who has cared for 4 different family members with Alzheimer's over a span of 30 years. Be the first to get notification of her forthcoming book, Journey Into the Fog, based on her experiences.

We respect your email privacy

Email Marketing by AWeber