Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Alzheimer's - A New Experience

I haven't been on this blog in a long time and I'm pretty sure that's not the first time I've said that. With the changes that have taken place in my family's life in recent months, however, my sister suggested it might be a good idea to start writing again. That it might be therapeutic even - for me and perhaps others out there in the blogosphere. So here I am.

Six months ago, my husband's parents came to live with us. We moved them here from Europe due to health issues and the lack of help available to them where they were. My Mother-In-Law (MIL) is wheelchair bound and requires some help here and there, mostly with transferring; my Father-in-Law (FIL) is in mid-late stage Alzheimer's. My MIL speaks English fairly well but my FIL has lost it completely. He's reverted back to his original language. He used to speak English perfectly but now even his native language is understandable only 10% of the time and I don't speak that at all.

Where do I even begin with this tale? Life has become a challenge none of us saw coming, though in retrospect, there were signs, hints and glimpses if any one of us had been of a mind to decipher them. We weren't and we didn't. Even when it became apparent, denial has a way of proving itself a force to contend with. It's amazing how much he's deteriorated in such a short amount of time. I'm sure the move had something to do with that. It's hard on every single one of us. We'd had hopes of how things might be when they came here. No doubt they did too. Visions of going out to eat, to church, to school functions, etc. have not quite played out as envisioned. Disappointment sets in but that's life and we all do what we can to help, to keep things as normal as possible and to remember to have fun in spite of the challenges. But it's hard. Did I say that already?

Even though my FIL is in the mid-late stages of the disease, we're only beginning to wade through the confusion of how best to help him - where to go, who to talk to, etc. Some of my MIL's health issues have had to take precedence out of urgency or necessity so it's taking precious time to get his diagnosis, a treatment plan and to determine the best route to take for his care. They've been so dependent on each other for so long but the worse he gets, the more that dynamic changes. It's a worry and a stress on everybody both directly or indirectly. Tears come from time to time, at least for my MIL and me. For me, the tears are more of a pressure release. For her it's that but it's also grief over what she's lost and currently losing. I think Nancy Reagan said it best when she called it The Long Goodbye.

Because this is so new to my family and me, if you have in the past or are currently dealing with Alzheimer's, I would certainly welcome your comments and advice on what helped you and your loved one(s) to cope.

Thank you!


Karen Jenkins said...

By His grace and in His strength. Be blessed, Mel.

Mandi said...

My heart grieves for you and your family right now. I pray that God gives you the grace and mercy to make it through this hard time.

Patrina's Pencil said...

Saw your current posted poem...and loved the heart-felt flow of it so I wanted to see how long you've been dealing with this disease and who in your family was affected by it... I see from this post, that you are still wading through the mirage.

My heart identifies with you and yours so much. I guess God sent me here tonight. I don't blog often...but I trust that He knows who needs His love and encouragement when I surf.

I think Jesus said it well in his story of the talents...when the Master said ...'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matt 25:21

Not every one can do what you are doing. And I admire anyone who tries. I said that I'd never do it again...but after this last year off..I miss caring for daddy. Hard as it was...I would choose to do it again. Dad is now in a 'home plus' home. with just 10 others... and 2 caregivers. I just couldn't lift him any more after His stroke. I cared for him 24/7 for 2 and a half years - the last 1 1/2 as an invalid from the stroke. I cared for him alone.

Although dad didn't have the disease of ALZ... he did have brain damage from a car /pedestrian accident. His brain responded much like a person with ALZ. I kept expecting him to come out of it... I kept seeing him as before...he was always strong and wise...I just had a very hard time accepting where he was. I've cared for seniors for 16 years...familiar with ALZ... knew what to expect...but when it is your own family, it throws you for a loop. Caring for those with this horrid disease... was my favorite thing to do...but family is a totally different bag.

My biggest advise to you is to take time off and away from the house regularly. I had no time off..for 2 and 1/2 years... it almost killed me. It is a blessing that you have your husband and your family to help support each other in this endeavor.But it will change you..all of you. And further down the road, you'll like the change it brought... in the beginning... the idea of helping them in their helplessness is rewarding enough...but it wears on you quickly. Just go with the flow. Take time for you. Don't give up things that feed you and give back to you. I agree that blogging could fill a need at this time...that's why I started blogging... I was sooooo isolated and home bound just as much as daddy was - cause I couldn't leave him alone.

It is sad that FIL cant communicate... that makes it harder for all. He must feel so alone inside himself. Does you husband or you MIL speak his language?

They love music... can you play music or radio in his language? Maybe taped short stories in His own language.

Dad listened to christian radio all day long. He loved it.. Finding what makes them laugh is so healing for everyone. Whatever it is... make him laugh. Daddy was so sad most of the time...I just loved it when he'd crack a smile ... and he'd laugh so hard he couldn't catch his breath! Those are the best memories.

The ALZ Assoc. is very helpful and they have support groups that help you gather info from others in like situations. There is help out there. Seek help.

Praying for you tonight... and will remember you often in my prayers... I'll check back to see how you're doing. Keep writing. I not only blogged, I wrote pages and pages in journals at night after dad was tucked into bed. It was my voice. God was my listener. I worked out a lot of deep things...on those tear stained pages! With God's help and lots of prayerful heart renderings...I survived..and even though I am different...I am a better person for it.

hang in there...God is near

HUGS to you tonight
from one caregiver to another
Patrina <")>><

Melanie said...

Thanks, Karen, Mandi and Patrina. I appreciate your comments and your prayers very much. It's been so long since I've blogged that I'd forgotten how much of a blessing the blog community can be!

Patrina, thank you for the Matthew verse and for your encouraging words. You have really blessed my heart and I needed that. I'm sorry for all you've gone thru with your dad and yet I completely understand why you say you would do it again. My in-laws are wonderful people and it is a privilege and honor to care for two people who have always loved and treated me as their very own daughter.

I pray God meets and speaks and provides with and for your every need as only He can. You are a precious daughter to Him. Thank you again for coming to my blog and most especially for sharing your experience.

Be blessed.
Melanie :)