Although we all realize our parents will eventually need our help, we never really know when or how quickly they may need us to intervene. And, while we notice changes occurring, it’s hard to know when to get additional help if the changes we’re seeing are slight and passing in nature. Most often the daily living assistance required is gradual. But in my experience, the progression of my mom’s disease caught up with me and I found myself overwhelmed and underprepared for the challenges that began to unfold.
In fact, by the time I realized she needed more regular help,
I needed help myself.
Within a matter of weeks I was dealing with a multitude of problems. My mom called to ask for my help with her bank account as she was unable to figure out why she couldn’t withdraw any additional funds. She didn’t know that she had overdrawn her account by nearly $5,000, which included astronomical insufficient funds charges. Even before the entire bank issue was resolved, she missed a regular appointment with her primary care physician. I waited for her in the parking lot, but she never showed. She called me and indicated she was lost and trying to get home. As these incidences and others began to surface more regularly, I knew I needed to do something, but what? I decided to contact a neurologist and have my mom evaluated. Unfortunately, my fear that my mom had dementia was confirmed. With little understanding of the disease’s progression, I was unaware of all of the problems that can result. When she started to experience episodes of falling, I knew I must get help. I needed to bring in another set of eyes and get the opinion of specialists to figure out how to manage my mom’s issues.
I called Residential Home Health and, based on my mom’s recent diagnosis and fall history, they established an in-home plan of care with her physician. Residential immediately began occupational and physical therapy to help her regain her strength and balance, and cognitive therapy to help with her dementia. One afternoon I was extremely upset and poured my heart out to Carrie, one of the occupational therapists from Residential. She could see I was overwhelmed and drowning in all of the issues that needed to be addressed. She suggested a book that would help with challenges caregivers face when assisting a loved one with dementia. The book is called The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss by Nancy L. Mace, M.A., and Peter V. Rabins, M.A., M.P.H.
I can attest that the book is a tremendous resource for anyone caring for a loved one coping with dementia and memory loss. One insight the book provides deals with the expectations I put on myself to keep my mom functioning at a high level. For example, she refuses to take a shower or wash her hair and continues to wear the same clothes for an entire week. This behavior is very upsetting to me as it would not be any behavior she would normally exhibit. The 36-Hour Day helped me put my expectations in perspective and helped me refocus on the things that are real needs. For example, does she need her hair washed every other day? The answer is: probably not. The book helped me prioritize the challenges and discussions we needed to have about the behavior. I especially benefited from the following suggestion regarding showering. The book advises that when you're going to give your loved one a shower, make something positive happen at the end of the activity. I've since changed my approach to discussing shower time with her. For instance, I might say, "Mom, as soon as we're done with your shower and I get your hair washed and curled, let's go to lunch!" This worked! And, that simple suggestion made what was a previous battle into a better experience for the both of us.
Personal hygiene is a small portion of the overall content of The 36-Hour Day. It really provides insight on how to not only take care of your parent, but ensure that you’re caring for yourself. I’m very thankful for the resource recommendation from Residential Home Health’s staff and certainly appreciate the care they extended to my mother and me. Pick up The 36-Hour Day and leave a comment if you’ve had any success with the various strategies discussed in the book. I’d love to get your thoughts on areas of the book you’ve found useful!
About the Author
Gale Adams is the primary caregiver for her mother, father and mother-in-law. As a working dental hygienist, she struggles to juggle her schedule with the daily living needs and constant stream of doctor visits required by each of her parents. With one parent living in her home, one in an assisted living facility, and one struggling to maintain her independence in her own apartment, Gale has a unique perspective on the challenges of caregiving. Gale hopes that by sharing certain resources, experiences and solutions, she can help others through various obstacles they may face as caregivers.
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