Many of you don’t know that my father-in-law, Joseph Kempler, has recently been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. This came as no real surprise to the family. We had been noticing a steady physical decline and memory loss for years. But, an unexpected hospital stay awakened us to the realities of Joseph’s situation.
It turns out the symptoms that prompted Joseph’s hospital stay might be associated with some new medication he is taking, but the results of that visit were a breakthrough for my husband and I, who had been begging Joseph’s wife and primary care-giver to get assistance with in-home help the last few years.
When handed this kind of information the first thought is, how can I help my loved one? What steps do I need to take? Can I do this? This has just become an overwhelming situation, and perhaps the first instinct is to isolate oneself and run for cover. There are so many things to set in place: in-home help, nursing, monitoring physical activity, monitoring food intake, and medication intake.
An important step is always to put the care for the Alzheimer’s victim in first place.
Second, we need to ask ourselves if the person can be left on their own, or do they need supervision? Are they still capable of doing things for themselves? This is harder to determine than you might think. A form of denial is given an opportunity to develop within the spouse or child of the Alzheimer’s victim, or whoever is appointed as the primary care-giver. After all, perhaps the person isn’t that bad yet, they don’t wander out of the house, or endanger themselves when left alone.
Although Joseph barely moved around and was content to sit in his chair drinking tea and doing crossword puzzles, there were so many other important facets of care-giving that needed to be considered. The ordinary things Joseph used to do for himself, such as bathing, dressing, communicating, can no longer be accomplished without help. These may seem like simple common sense things to you and me, but if the care-giver is new to the depth, breadth, and width of care-giving, they may need more clear direction and perhaps a health-care professional to show them exactly how it should be carried out.
Initially, the primary care-giver will think they have it covered. They don’t need outside help, and that they are doing the best they can. Sometimes though “the best they can” just isn’t quite enough. For instance, in our family, Joseph is stubborn… no, he is downright mulish. Getting him up in the morning, washed, dressed and fed is practically a feat of Olympic proportions. Sometimes it is just easier to leave him be. But, as hard as this is, leaving him be is about the worst way to handle it. Care-giving is exhausting work, it is almost like living for two people. Gone is the independence and dignity each person had formerly been accustomed to.
Third, the caregiver needs to allow others to help. This is where we, as the children, enter the scene. Often Joseph will listen to his son before he will follow the directions of his wife and care-giver. Don’t ask me why, but Paul has a tone in his voice that indicates he will not back down and Joe obediently does what he is supposed to do.
We are learning how to handle Joseph’s health crisis together. We will definitely make mistakes along the way. No two people with Alzheimer’s react the same, that is why it is so complicated and heart-breaking.
I’m pleased to say Joseph Kempler, age eighty-five, is now home and stable. We have a plan of action and hopefully a new outlook on this horrible condition that strikes so many families. In-home care has been planned for and is in the process of being instituted. With support, communication and a ready hand we can pull together as a family and help each other through Joseph’s worsening condition.
- What’s It Like to Have Alzheimer’s and Get Worse? (asourparentsage.net)
- Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease topic of luncheon (victoriaadvocate.com)