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January 26, 2009
When Mom Wants to Break Up Your Relationship

January 5, 2009
When the Inevitable Moving Day Comes for Mom and Dad

December 15, 2008
Running Ragged in Caregiving Runaround

December 1, 2008
Getting a Handle on Your Own Stress

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Posted: August 18, 2008

Practical Caregiving

When You're Taken to the Edge with Caregiving

Caregiving is one of those roles where, unless you’ve been there and done that, you probably won’t “get it.” That’s a shame, in a way, because a lot of people could learn a lot about life, stress and love from family elder-caregivers.

Nonetheless, you sometimes reach your wits end and have to dig deep for the reserve that will see you through. Coming at it from different directions, that’s what Janice in Denver and Edith in St. Louis are learning. And, of course, they have questions. Let’s see what they’re running into and what they should do next.


Dear Jean:


Mom has Alzheimer’s disease. I moved her in with my husband and me a month ago. Mom understood and agreed to the move, but when we were packing things, she got very upset and told me not to take her things. She grabbed them out of my hand and told me to get out of her house and never come back. We sat down and had a cup of tea. Mom relaxed and so did I. We discussed what had been decided, and she started to remember, at least a little. We finished packing and moved her in with us.


Now we have another problem I didn’t expect. I knew the move would be traumatic for her, and I’ve heard that Alzheimer’s patients have trouble with change. But I didn’t expect it to be this much of a problem. She seems to be much worse than she was before she moved. I don’t know if something happened or if the move did it. I don’t want to think that I made her worse by moving her here. Is that possible?


Janice K., Denver, Colorado

Dear Janice:


A person with Alzheimer’s disease does have trouble with major changes in their life. The get confused much easier than you or me. There are some things you can do that might help her adjust, but she should also have a good, updated physical exam because it is possible that a physical change that is causing some of the problems. Explain the situation to her doctor. He needs to know what is going on in her life and that she is having more problems now.


Be very patient and give her more attention (yes, I imagine she gets plenty from you already). Try some of these things, and then come up with your own ideas based on her many years of life. Latch on to the things she used to enjoy before Alzheimer’s, and stay away from anything she did not enjoy.


  • One very important thing is to find something to laugh about with her. But make sure she doesn’t feel you are laughing at her.
  • Have a cup of tea, or something similar, with her every afternoon or morning.
  • Talk with her about the good things that have happened in her life.
  • Together, look at pictures from when she was younger. Include pictures of yourself from when you were younger.
  • Talk about things you did together.
  • Talk about things she did with your father, if it was a happy marriage.
  • Put things around the house that came from her home. This will make your home feel more like her home to her.
  • Watch the Lawrence Welk show or some similar old-time TV show together. It seems to calm a person with Alzheimer’s, and both of you can sing along with Welk’s old shows.
  • Play a simple game with her, making sure to let her win part of the time.

 In other words, find things to help her enjoy her life now. She is regressing into childhood at a pace that’s not clear from your email, so you will have to continually re-evaluate her understanding and abilities.


It’s hard to face, but quite simply, you have become her parent. She depends on you to make sure she gets good care, just as a child would. Try to think as a parent of a child instead of an adult who is taking care of her parent. Try to think of how you would react to her behavior and attitude if she were 2 or 3 years old. With a little practice, you will be able to do this without thinking about it.


You are doing what is right for her, Janice, so don’t give up. And if it comes to the point that she needs to be in a nursing home, don’t feel guilty about putting here there. You can still visit her and continue the life-long relationship.



Dear Jean:


I feel like I’m going crazy. I’ve been taking care of my husband for a couple years. He has cancer and is going to die. Sometimes I get so upset I scream at the littlest things. My husband wakes up from his dozing and tells me to be quiet.


Am I going crazy? 

Edith W., St. Louis, Missouri


Dear Edith:


No, you are not going crazy. You are under a lot of pressure because your husband is going to die and you can’t do anything to stop the cancer. A lot of people feel the same frustrations you are feeling.


Why don’t you talk to your doctor about how you feel and how you sometimes scream? He will probably want to schedule you for a complete physical exam. Make sure you get it. He may be able to prescribe medicine to help you. He also may want you to talk to a counselor. You do need to talk to someone about your feelings -- anyone in your situation needs to talk to someone about their feelings.


Please make a doctor’s appointment quickly. You need to deal with your frustrations as soon as possible. And don’t worry. You definitely are not going crazy.

© 2008 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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