The memory challenged suffer considerably and have a harder time achieving day-to-day happiness because they are less capable and more dependent than they used to be. But they are not the only victims. As caregivers, we struggle with balancing our lives with the care of our loved ones. We balance the time we commit to caring for others with time for our other family, friends and self. We struggle with the guilt of not spending more time with the memory challenged.
How Much is Enough?
The answer to this question is different for each individual and family. There are numerous elements that factor into the equation including previous family relationships, severity of the disease, proximity to the loved one, capabilities of the loved one, and several other factors.
With my brother living four hours away, the burden falls on me being only one hour away. My mom is fortunate to have her brother and sister nearby and they carry a significant part of the burden of keeping an eye on her daily. But I feel the responsibility lies with me. I do as much as I can to minimize the burden and obligations of her siblings.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, her brother visits every morning when he is walking his dog and her sister checks in periodically. I take care of her every Thursday unless I am traveling. This includes breakfast, taking her to her hair appointment, lunch and dinner. This is mother / son day. Other than handling other crisis events that come up, this is the extent of my time commitment since it is a two-hour round trip to see her. I find ways to combine other activates that I need to do in the area.
So for my mom with fairly advanced Alzheimer’s disease, she receives a visit every morning from her brother, a visit from a professional caregiver every weekday late morning who also serves lunch (except Thursdays), ladies from the neighborhood spend 2 hrs with her 4 days a week and her sister covers any remaining needs. As her disease worsens, this may change.
The other day, I was sitting working a puzzle with my mother and her sister came in the garage. My mom went to greet her and said she had another visitor. When she was asked who it was, she said the man sitting at the table. Her brother is the man down the street with the cute dog. It is these times that are so painful as you watch the glimmer fade from their eyes and they return to childhood.
Everyone deals with this in a different way. For me, I paint an image in my mind of the early days with mom and how much she supported me through my childhood. I treat her with the level of a child but with the respect of an adult.