It just seemed to happen. One day everyone in the family was doing their own thing, independent and functioning fine. A friend of my mother’s alerted us to the fact that she seemed to be confused a lot, you know “forgetful”. We became very objective after her comment and paid a lot more attention to what she said, did, and even more importantly what she forgot to do. This exercise brought us alarm. She was forgetting a lot of the basic things she always prided herself in accomplishing. We packed up the family and went to see the family doctor. After some testing he said she appeared she had the early stages of dementia. He said she will need help from now on. We walked into his office her children, and walked out her caregiver, all within a half hour.
When we became a family caregiver we had no idea what to expect.
After all, very few adults are prepared for the role reversal we suddenly faced with a parent suffering from what was diagnosed as dementia. The strain this memory loss disorder placed on my relationship with my parent overwhelmed me. Not because my new role suddenly became my burden alone, because it wasn’t. All of my family got involved early on. Taking the responsibility for her well being and being the only child living close by, my life steadily changed, as did my mother’s. My daily decisions started to revolve around her needs. Control over my own life diminished right along with her independence.
Taking on my new role deeply concerned me. For I was positive her independence was all that was currently keeping her alive. Both of my parents spoke frequently about no longer wanting to live when they became unable to “do for themselves”. Wanting to maintain a purpose to her life, my wife and I made it our mission to find ways to prolong her independence as long a possible.
We searched the world for simple tools that could help us and found very few.
The ones that could provide some help were either to expensive or encroached too deeply into her private life. After all, she was in the early stages of dementia and all she really needed from us was a lot of reminders; a whole lot of reminders! Her brain still functioned. Once she was reminded about something, she could reason and act on it just fine. We just needed a way to help walk her through her daily routine.
My wife found a simple solution. We bought a few “dry boards”, wrote reminders on them and hung them around her apartment. We started out by reminding her about some of the important things she needed to act on, like; “Remember to take your medicine every morning with your coffee.” “We will be here at 5PM to pick you up for dinner.” It worked! She gained back enough control of her life to continue to live independently.
But dementia is a progressive disease.
New problems began to arise when we found ourselves struggling to remind her of so much each and every day that her walls started to look like a kindergarten class room. She thought our notes and messages had become clutter so she kept putting it away as soon as we left. Another challenge began to show up. Sequencing her reminder messages so that they made sense to her through-out the day and changing those as her needs changed began to complicate our effort. She also needed some type of notification to read the reminders based on a schedule rather than randomly. Our simple solution was no longer as effective as when we started.
About Us Continued