Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Dear Abby" Answers Alzheimer's Caregiver

On November 9, 2008, the personal advice column "Dear Abby" highlighted a question from a caregiver for a parent afflicted with progressive Alzheimer's Disease, which ended with the plea: "I can’t keep my head above water. Please tell me what to do."

November, 2008 is National Caregivers Month, according to the
White House Proclamation for National Family Caregivers Month, 2008, issued October, 2008.

During National Family Caregivers Month we recognize and celebrate the many individuals throughout our country who work each day to ensure a better quality of life for their family members.

Through their selfless action, these caregivers provide their loved ones support and comfort as they age, combat illness, or suffer from disability. * * *
The National Family Caregivers Association, which initiated and continues to organize recognitions during this commemorative NFC Month, posted explanations and resource links on its website.
NFC Month is organized each year by the National Family Caregivers Association and is designated as a time every year to thank, support, educate and empower family caregivers.

"This year we are encouraging people to speak up during National Family Caregivers Month." said Suzanne Mintz, NFCA president and co-founder.

"One of the most important attributes on being an advocate for your loved one is the willingness and the ability to speak up and keep your eye on the ultimate goal, protecting not only the health and safety of your loved ones but for yourself as well." * * *
". . . for yourself as well" is the focus of advice in the recent syndicated Dear Abby column entitled "Mom’s Alzheimer’s consumes daughter’s life" published (among other newspapers) in The Kansas City Star that began with the caregiver's inquiry:
My beautiful, loving mother is now in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This cruel disease has robbed her of her memories as well as the ability to reason and function.

I want to support her the way she has always supported me. But caring for Mama is becoming more and more difficult as she drifts further and further away. Not only am I caring for my mother, but I also have a career and three children. * * *
The advice is supportive and helpful (although perhaps a bit presumptuous based upon the facts in the inquiry):
Although you feel alone and overwhelmed right now, the truth is you are not. * * *

Some signs to be aware of:
  • feeling you have to “do it all yourself”;
  • withdrawing from friends and activities that you used to enjoy;
  • worrying that the person you care for is safe;
  • feeling anxious about money and health-care decisions;
  • denying the impact of the disease and its effect on your family;
  • feeling grief or sadness that your relationship with the person isn’t what it used to be;
  • becoming frustrated and angry when the person continually repeats things and doesn’t seem to listen; and
  • having health problems. [Formatting applied.]
The column then provides a referral:
If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor and contact the Alzheimer’s Association, because it offers a full range of services.

The toll-free number is 800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org and take the Caregiver Stress Check interactive quiz. You will find with it a list of helpful referrals there.
In conducting that Caregiver Stress Check, twenty educational & support resources -- each keyed under one of the eight topic questions -- are offered to assist the caregiver of an Alzheimer's Disease patient. At its conclusion, all twenty online resources are listed.

At least two new books about caregiving were timed for release at
National Family Caregivers Month; and a valuable third book, written in a sports theme for caregivers, was released last year. I'll note these publications in my next posting.

Update: 11/20/08:

Yes, please read that "next posting" --
Coach Broyles' "Alzheimer's Playbook" (11/20/08).