Alzheimer's caregiving, week two.
As mentioned last week, we have become the primary caregivers for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer's. While we seem to be settling into somewhat of a routine, I continue to learn things that work or don't work. Here are a few of my insights from week number two.
Adult temper tantrums.
I've witnessed a few temper tantrums this week. Evidently, the ability to rationally respond to frustrations disappears along with the brain cells for knowledge. The saddest part of this process is that, unlike a two-year old with a tantrum, people with Alzheimer's won't grow out of the behavior. In fact, I'm guessing it will get worse as time goes on. I'm hoping knowing what the triggers have been so far will help me over the next few weeks keep things relatively calm.
The need for help.
Last week, we had in-home companions come for four days, five hours per day. The five hours seems to be enough to allow me to get to my "real" office, do a few hours of work, get to the grocery store and run whatever other errands that I need to, and be back in time to take over again. And on Friday, I was also able to squeeze in a few hours of fun during my five hour hiatus. Getting help assisted me in maintaining some sense of "normalcy."
But the important thing was that this time didn't only help me, it helped my mother-in-law! She had a fresh, energetic and patient person ready to deal with her for a short period of time. During the days she had company last week, one companion gave her a manicure and painted her finger nails. One of the companions found songs that she actually knew and was singing. They colored and played "war." One of the ladies helped her rake the lawn, one of the only things we've found that truly keeps my mother-in-laws mind off her troubles. Another of the ladies sat on the edge of her bed, held her hand, and talked with her for hours. So help is crucial for both the caregivers AND the person with the Alzheimer's.
Finding things that calm her down.
I'm sure all Alzheimer's sufferers react differently, but my mother-in-law gets frantic about not knowing details anymore. She wants to know what day, date and year it is. She wants to know where she is, and who I am, and why she's here and how long she's known me and where her husband is, and on and on.
So every morning I hand her a piece of paper with the main details on it. And all day long when she asks the same questions, I just direct her to the paper, where she can read the answers without my having to repeat them. This seems to help both of us. She is quiet for a few moments while reading through the details, and I don't have to say the same thing multiple times. The caregivers who came last week all thought that was a great idea, and it helped them as well.
If my mother-in-law is busy doing something that requires her focus, she is calm. She stayed quite calm when helping me prepare a mailing. I addressed the envelopes. Then she would put the document in the envelopes. When done with that, she put on the return mailing labels, and then the stamps. She took her time with each one to make sure it was done correctly. While I did have to provide a lot of confirmation that she was doing it right, she didn't ask any questions during the process. Other things that she loves to do are to rake the lawn and sweep the steps. Also, I found that if I played some songs on the piano she would quietly listen. Of course, I can't sit at the piano all day. Nor can we rake the lawn all day, but these have helped for bits of the time.
Getting work done.
This one remains tricky. I was able to prepare for and conduct two listing appointments last week. In addition, I conducted two showings, and resolved a few issues with a pending transaction. That being said, my level of involvement has seriously declined over the last few weeks. I have very little time to make uninterrupted phone calls or do anything that requires analysis or writing. If I don't do it in the morning before 6:30am or during my few hours in the office (so far, I was able to spend about 5 hours in total last week in the office which is just about nothing), it doesn't get done. So one of my biggest frustrations right now is that I am letting business grind to a slow halt. I truly do not want to do that, so I struggle with myself daily.
The nutty stuff.
Having my mother-in-law here continues to be an experience in staying alert! My week included catching my mother-in-law "washing" her coffee cup with Formula 409, I guess because it was on the counter near the sink. Also, watching her walking by someone else's wine glass and just picking it up and guzzling it. Having my mother-in-law thinking "getting your nightgown on for bed" meant putting it on on top of all her other clothes. Thinking a nice walk on a warm day would do her good, and having her stop every few feet to say, "have we done this before?" (few more steps) "have we done this before?" We didn't make it very far before I decided to turn around!
I'm learning a lot during this time with my mother-in-law. Getting help is critical, and we are lucky my mother-in-law has a long term care policy that will eventually kick in towards the costs of the home care. For people who cannot hire someone to come in, they HAVE to ask friends and family members for help. There is absolutely no way one person, or even two people, can handle the craziness of life with a person with any kind of dementia, unless they are able to escape and take care of their own lives from time to time. And that is all for now! I have to throw on some exercise clothes and try to get a little jumping jacks or something in before my mother-in-law awakes!!!!!