Alzheimer’s Disease is somewhat different from many of the other neurological diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is the only pathological source that can short-circuit, and wreak havoc not only on the victim, but also affect the care giver in ways I’ve not seen in any other disease.
In fact, one could say the way Alzheimer’s Disease develops and affects the victim is unique. This unique road leads to stresses and strains on the care giver that are also unique. Assistance and resources for the care giver is just as important as getting medical attention for the patient.
Who Is The Care Giver?
Most often the care giver is the spouse, or family of the victim. In this case, the care giver not only cares for, but loves the victim very much. The care giver can be someone who sits or stays with the patient for certain durations of time throughout the day or week. Many times, I’ve seen great numbers of family members provide coordinated efforts when caring for the patient.
When observing care givers and families caring for a patient with Alzheimer’s, I’ve seen certain characteristics that are unique to this disease and very disturbing.
I’ve seen cases where, although the patient was suffering from Alzheimer’s, it seemed that the family suffered somewhat to a greater degree because of the fact that the patient could no longer remember things and wasn’t aware of most of the strains and stresses developing daily.
The Care Giver Suffers Along With The Patient With Alzheimer’s Disease
For instance, in one specific case a woman was losing many of her memories and deteriorating at a steady rate. Although our therapists would work with her and try to build functional skills physically, and mentally, she seemed to not be aware of her decline and was therefore, in a way, spared the suffering and depression that came along with her decline. However, the patient’s family suffered greatly because they were watching their mother, and spouse, decline daily.
In this case, the family confided in me that they feel as though their mother, and spouse, is slowly becoming a stranger. Although the family, and loved ones, realized that this is a pathological process and the patient could not help what was happening, it was difficult for hurt emotions to not factor in the situation and add to the stresses.
Since the patient commonly doesn’t know what is happening during the Alzheimer’s Disease process, to the outsider or analyzer, it would seem that the family suffers significantly more than the patient only because the patient isn’t as acutely aware. Because of this decrease in awareness, the patient is spared the mental anguish that accompanies the steady rate of decline.
The Closest Distant Strangers
Alzheimer’s disease causes many innocent victims and families to become distant strangers because all of the precious memories that are slowly taken away from the victim. While these memories are not taken away from the family members, greater strain results from a feeling of alienation. Many family members feel that it’s as though the precious memories were taken away from everyone involved because the memories can no longer be exchanged and enjoyed between the victim and family members.
In another case, the family felt a little guilty because of the things they had to resort to on behalf of their loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In this case, the family had to slowly take away things from the patient daily for safety purposes. First they took away everyday items like razors for shaving, toothpaste and tooth-brush, then mouthwash, until the spare roles of toilet paper had to be taken away. This was because the patient was flushing entire rolls down the toilet without realizing what was going on. This patient’s family was particularly disturbed because the Alzheimer’s Disease victim was someone who always took care of them, looked after them, and someone who was well respected in the community. This family loved the victim very much. They felt guilty because the patient didn’t deserve to be treated in this way. However, they were forced to take these measures, because they had no choice. So it is with most other Alzheimer’s Disease patients and family members.
Alzheimer’s disease indeed affects everyone within the family and even friends of the victim. The emotional strain can cause changes in lifestyles and relationships that if not addressed and treated properly, can cause damage to the loved ones.
There Are Resources For Families of Alzheimer’s Disease Victims
There are Alzheimer’s Disease support groups, support functions, counselors, and people to help families of victims who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Physicians are beginning to analyze in the literature that when Alzheimer’s Disease develops, counseling and support for the family members are indicated, just as antibiotics are indicated for a bacterial infection.
If you suffer or are suffering from the damages that Alzheimer’s Disease not only has on the victim but on the family, there are people and places that can help you. These people can offer practical tips on how to cope and deal with your specific strains and stresses. Getting the proper help that you need when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease is just as important as our loved ones getting proper medical attention. In fact, it’s just as important. Because, if you don’t take care of yourself physically and emotionally, you will have greater difficulty caring for the one you love. caregiver jobs toronto