It’s been said that Alzheimer’s is the long goodbye. For sure the person with dementia suffers. But for the family that is watching and experiencing the changes in their loved one, the pain can be overwhelming too. Especially when the loved one has reached a stage of dementia that requires a decision to seek help with care.
The heartache and guilt are very real. There is the feeling that you are letting your loved one down when they need you the most. You may experience frustration for not being able to help the one who helped you for many years as you grew up.
On top of that may be the hurt of your loved one not even knowing who you are anymore. And while you know that it is the dementia, the little boy or girl inside of you can’t handle the fact that Dad doesn’t know who you are anymore. Or, the one that you have been married to for 50 plus years thinks that you are a stranger.
With all of those feelings rolling around in your head, now you are faced with no longer being able to take care of them. You struggle with the decision to find a care situation that can address the needs of somebody with dementia.
I have come to think of this as another form of ‘tough love’. For years we have heard about tough love from the standpoint of raising your kids who may have taken a path that you can’t support. But in this instance I think of it as coming to the decision to do what is best for your loved one, knowing all the while it is breaking your heart.
I have said before that the measure that I often use is safety. We all want our parents or spouse to be safe from harm and if you are no longer able to provide that safety, 24 hours a day sometimes, it is time to look for help.
I know what can happen. Sometimes the caregiver (frequently a son, daughter or spouse) doesn’t get any sleep because the one with dementia is up at night roaming the house and has gotten out before. Maybe you ran out to the store for an hour and your loved one tried to cook something on the stove and ended up starting a fire. Perhaps you came to visit and found your loved one with a significant injury that they couldn’t explain to you. Or, sometimes the aggressive behavior of someone with dementia is placing the caregiver at risk. Don’t ignore the need for help!
At times like this, I think the most loving thing that you can do for your loved one, and for yourself, is to admit when it is time to get help. In dealing with my own father, I remind myself that the fully healthy man of 25 years ago would understand the choices that we have had to make to accommodate his decline. The decisions have been made to protect both him and my mother and they are the right choices.
But, there is no way that this is easy. Tough love. Let me know if I can help support you in your journey of tough love. I really do understand…….
On the journey with you…….Kathy