As I am researching facts to share with you about Alzheimer’s, I find I need to correct something already.
I referred to my aunt having dementia and my father having Alzheimer’s.
The terms I use are something we are all familiar with and use in our every day communication, but in fact Alzheimer’s is simply one of the causes of dementia.
According to https://www.alz.org, Dementia is an overall term for a particular group of symptoms. Alzheimer’s Disease is one cause of dementia where the brain changes due to an accumulation of some abnormal proteins (with big names we would all doze off trying to read) plus the degeneration of nerve cells.
I remember one pamphlet I was given as we tried to understand all that was going on with my dad and it showed nerve endings that looked like the spider veins on my legs. These frayed nerve endings send impulses to other unraveling nerve endings and thus the message that was sent with the correct word needed in a sentence is received with a completely different word or an impulse to go open a window or some other wierd unrelated message.
This progressive disease affects memory, language and thinking creating all kinds of problems for the one with Alzheimer’s and those who are trying to provide care.
Eventually the parts of the brain that enable bodily functions, including walking and swallowing are damaged and this is typically where we watch our loved ones lose the final battle.
Most caregivers (66%) live with the person who has dementia in our communities. Our neighbors, church friends and people we pass in the grocery may be worn out and needing a smile or some encouragement.
Approximately a quarter of caregivers are “sandwich generation.” Caught between caring for a family member with dementia, while still caring for at least one child.
I learned that term first hand as we began to care for my parents and aunt. I mentioned on Monday that our children ranged from grade seven to college, when we transported all three of my elder generation family to our town.
Navigating care for them, placement, closing out two homes (one in Kentucky and one in Florida) and finding medical care for them was not something I had planned to add to ball schedules, carpooling, youth group and choir, band and orchestra concerts, and all the other actives that filled our calendar in that season.
I had to make choices based on who needed me the most at any given time. I have shared on this blog before, but I began to just assess multiple demands on my time with a simple question.
Where is the one place that only I can be?
Did one of our children need a parent but my parents needed a daughter? I was the only daughter they had, but our children had their father.
Sometimes Russ was out of town. Did our children need a parent? Did my parents need a caregiver? I was the only parent our children had on that day, but there were others who could provide care for my parents.
It was hard and often I was not where I wanted to be.
One year, I remember I sat at a Christmas party in the cafeteria of the nursing home, drinking a plastic cup of 7Up with a maraschino cherry in it and eating a sugar cookie, praying fervently that the Elvis impersonator would not feel led to kneel in front of me and croon “Love me Tender.”
As I remember, Russ was covering something far more fun and involved one of our kiddos that evening. But my mom was under the weather or had passed and I was the only one who could be there for my dad than night.
Caregiving is a dance and it’s not easy.
I know wives and husbands who have discovered the true depths of that “for better or worse” vow.
I know the sorrow on faces of friends as their mom or dad increasingly decline and the pain as they talk about losing the relationship they once had, while still going faithfully to visit and try to maintain that tie.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers support through a helpline, information and groups that meet in local communities.
God blessed me with a built in support group as Russ came alongside me and took on all the financial and medical paperwork.
Our kids were troopers beyond what anyone could ever ask and our friends provided love and a place for me to cry and also laugh. Our extended family checked on us and also were a great help to let me know we were part of something bigger than just our little nuclear family
But not everyone has this and the funds raised by the Walk to End Alzheimer’s are huge in helping people navigate this disease.
Here is the link – would love to have you join the team and walk on October 8th, find a walk in your area or donate to our team: