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Caregiver Contest Finalist Jenny: Five Tips for Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
04/03/18  9:24 AM PST
Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's

Jenny B. is from Colorado, and was one of forty finalists chosen out of the over 1,000 entries to our “What Advice Would You Give to a Fellow Caregiver?” Contest. You can find our grand prize and runner up winners here.

What advice would you give a fellow caregiver?

I am proud to have been my mom’s caregiver for seven years. I would like to share some of the things I learned along the way.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LIE, as long as you don’t lie to yourself. Some very helpful advice that I received was to not fool myself into believing that mom would get better, as Alzheimer’s just doesn’t work that way. But that is advice for the caregiver, not the patient. One of the most frustrating things for my mom was that she was aware of her loss of cognition. She would often point to her temples and say, “I’m a dumb, dumb dummy.” One day:
Me: Oh, honey, you’re getting a lot better.
Her: (excited and wide-eyed) I am?
Me: Of course. You’ve just been exhausted since you fell and broke your hip. You were in
the hospital and rehab, but now you’re getting better every day.
I don’t know how to describe the look of relief on her face. I do know that she was truly, honestly better and more aware for a number of days after that. Hope is everything! We would have many similar conversations in the days and months to come.

LET HER PLAY YOU A LITTLE. Both at home and in rehab, I know my mom felt that she had lost control of her own life. This woman who had always been “”the pole that held up the tent”” was suddenly being told what to do and when to do it, and her decisions were being made for her, often by strangers. She would sometimes do things like suddenly “feel sick” when it was time for me to leave. Whoa! I’m glad I let her “get by” with getting me to stay that way. The memory of the twinkle in her eye is worth more than any lottery ticket could ever pay!

HANG IN THERE, the bad spells may not last. There is no denying that it can be terrifying when an Alzheimer’s patient seems to be living in their world of decades ago. I don’t know about others, but in my mom’s case it wasn’t unusual for her to be back to relative normalcy the next day, after some rest. I hope it is the same for you!

FORGIVE HER, FORGIVE YOURSELF. We rarely fought, but when we did I had to learn that with her condition, there could be no such thing as a fair fight. Her knowledge of her growing limitations damaged her confidence and seemed to make her feel that anything that went wrong must be her fault. No, mom, it’s my fault, not yours.Hugs are a wonderful replacement for arguments! It just doesn’t matter who is “right.”

TRY TO KEEP SMILING. When I have surfed the web for articles on bereavement, there has been one phrase, “also a relief,” that has appeared consistently. It has been four months since I lost my mom, and “relief” has not been the case for me. There is mainly pain, and although heartbroken, I also feel like the luckiest person in the world. During our journey together, it always felt like a privilege, never a burden, to be her caregiver, and my life was enriched beyond description. I treasure every moment that I had with her. I love you, mom!

Click here to return to the contest home page and read more advice.

Finalists were selected by the Marketing Team at Shield HealthCare. Those finalists were submitted to a panel of independent judges who picked three grand prize winners and five runners up. The judges included: Sandra Mitchell, Award-winning KCAL 9 news anchor and breast cancer survivor, and the Landers family: actor and comedian David Landers (“Laverne & Shirley”) who is living with MS, his wife Kathy and his daughter Natalie (“The Middle”). Click here to learn more.


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