Dear Frustrated Caregiver,

Being a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be very difficult.  Many have said it is the hardest thing they have ever had to do.  Not only does the caregiver have to deal with the twists and turns of the mind of the loved one, but also the many emotions the caregiver personally experiences.  One common emotion is frustration.  You may be frustrated that you have to now be the parent to your loved one in addition to all the other responsibilities in your life.  You may be frustrated that you have little to no time to yourself.  You may be frustrated at hearing the same story from  20 years ago day after day.  You may be frustrated that your loved one doesn’t understand the present, but lives sometime in the past.  A past that you have moved on from and might be painful for you to even think of.  Please know you are not alone.  Next to Family Home Care understands this frustration.

I am very familiar with this frustration.  My 95 year old grandmother has Alzheimer’s.  Sometimes I hear the frustration in my mother’s voice when we discuss caring for my grandmother.  She gets frustrated that grandma no longer understands day and night and gets up 20 minutes after she puts her to bed because she thinks it is morning and time to get up and get dressed for the day.  She gets frustrated that grandma wants to cook dinner for my grandfather every night even though he passed away over 20 years ago or that she wants to know when my aunt will be there even though she has been gone almost 8 years.  My aunt was my mom’s best friend.  Losing her was very difficult for my mother to move past.  Now she gets to relive that pain everyday when my grandmother asks when my aunt will be home.  Her frustration is real, it’s tangible, it hurts.

What can you do if you are frustrated with a loved one with Alzheimer’s?  Next to Family Home Care has three suggestions.

  1. Don’t try to convince your loved one that someone has passed  away.  It is a battle you will never win.  Many of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia believe that their deceased spouse, parent or other person is still alive.  Reminding him or her may upset them or make them angry because they don’t believe you.  Then you are dealing with your frustration and an angry or crying person who will likely soon forget that you reminded them of the death leaving you to remind them again, sometimes within minutes.  It’s a never ending circle.  Instead of reminding that someone has passed, try distracting the person with Alzheimer’s to a different subject.  Another option is to go along with their belief.  My mother no longer tries to convince my grandmother that my aunt or my grandfather are dead.  She simply says they are working late and will stop at McDonald’s on their way home.  It pacifies my grandmother and she moves on to something else.
  2. Take care of yourself.  You MUST make time to care for YOU.  You need to be at your best to take care of your loved one in the best way.  This includes your mental health in additional to your physical health.  Do something that you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, crafting or taking a walk.  Maybe there is something you can do together that will relax both of you .
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Though you may feel like it, you are not alone in the situation.  Recruit a family member, a neighbor or a friend to watch your loved one so you can take a break for a couple of hours.  You would be surprised what even a three hour break once a week will do for you.  Perhaps you could have lunch with a friend, go shopping or attend an Alzheimer’s Association support group.  Talking with a friend or someone that understands can help control negative emotions such as frustration.

However you choose to deal with the frustration, make sure it is positive.  Not dealing with the frustration can lead to other problems such as irritability, tiredness and depression.  Negatively dealing with the frustration, or not dealing with it at all, will not improve the situation and only make caring for your loved one harder.

I hope that these suggestions have been helpful and you can put them to use.  Being a caregiver is exhausting and difficult, but can also be rewarding.  Stay positive, take time for yourself and find a support group or person who you can talk to.  The Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource.  Their phone number is 800-272-3900.  Next to Family Home Care is here to help out as well.  One of the many services we offer is respite care for caregivers who need a break.  The break may be for 3 hours as stated above or 3 days, whatever is needed.  We are available anytime to answer any questions you may have as well.  Our office number is 614-828-8509.

One more thing.  Thank you for all the hard work you do to take care of your loved one.  He or she may not be able to voice their thanks, so we will for them.  Thank you!

Your partner in care giving,

Amanda McGlone and the staff of Next to Family Home Care