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A Caregiver Exhausted by Dad's Dementia

Dealing with Dad's dementia: This week, I talk about how everyone needs a break to feel refreshed again.

As I write this week’s column, I realize that this may make me come across as a bad person. So I apologize for any misperception ahead of time. My papa has been sick for so many years now, since October 2007, that it gets to be exhausting.

It is exhausting keeping up with the stories.

“Yes, Papa, I was at Granny’s house earlier today,” I say to him after he asks me if I went to my grandmother’s house today, even though she passed away in 2003.

“Yes, Papa, I fed the dog and she went for a walk around the area with mom,” is what I say when he constantly asks about his dog, who passed more than 20 years ago.

“Yes, Papa, Chad is at school. He got a ride from a friend,” is what I say when he asks why my brother didn’t get a ride to school with our father, even though Chad hasn’t gone to school in years.

It is exhausting going back and forth to the house between my work appointments to rustle through the trash to figure out what Papa ate and doesn’t remember.

It is exhausting trying to get my papa’s diabetes handled and his sugar level up while he stubbornly refuses to drink orange juice because he doesn’t know he has diabetes.

Most of all, it is exhausting watching his mind deteriorate and his body weaken so much so that all he wants to do is sleep all night and most of the day.

So, birthdays and holidays aside, I had a vacation from dementia the past couple weeks. My mom had time off from work and covered my “day shift."

Ironically, all I wanted to do during this time off was sleep all day. I didn’t have to count pills, or make up stories, or do any of the things I do to keep Papa on track. I just wanted to unwind, for weeks on end.

Every once in awhile, that unwinding time is necessary.

Don't get me wrong; I love my family, my papa; I am happy to help and support my mom, but this time off felt really nice.

And this week, I go back to my normal schedule. I'm ready for it.

I have different jobs and contracts, some of which can be completed on the computer while sitting with my papa. So I sit and work and in between I check on Papa, helping where and when I can. Yes, I'm ready.

RESOURCES

It is often encouraged for both patients and family members/caregivers to join a support group. Cupertino Senior Center has a Caregiver's Support Group which meets regularly. The next scheduled meeting is Thursday, Jan. 12 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Additionally, there are support groups offered nearby in Mountain View, San Jose, or even telephone support groups. For support in your area, check out http://www.alz.org/norcal/in_my_community_support.asp

Sharon Osvald January 10, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I must related to your comment:" Most of all, it is exhausting watching his mind deteriorate and his body weaken so much so that all he wants to do is sleep all night and most of the day." My mom has vascular dementia and it is often the tiredness of the soul - of watching and worrying - that is the hardest. I live in Ontario and share my insights on being a daughter of mother with dementia at http://www.mymotherscaregiver.com. Thanks for sharing. It doesn't make you a bad person. We all need rest. Caregiving is a tough journey.
Anne Ernst January 10, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Sharon, thanks so much for sharing yourself. You and Nicole are certainly strong people and I'm sure by sharing your own experiences with these medical conditions and how they effect loved ones, you are both helping others cope.
Mary Ann Kimm January 10, 2012 at 05:58 PM
You are not alone. Thank you for you sharing your thoughts. It is most comforting to see you go thru the same issues and frustrations. And you are definitely not a "bad person". Anyone who has dealt with elderly parents and dementia knows how difficult the daily grind can be and how a periodic break is necessary. Your dad is very fortunate to have you.
Nicole Baldocchi January 10, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Dear Sharon and Mary Ann, Thank you very much for reading. I really appreciate the support. I must say that I think most of all, my mom is amazing for all she does. I just try to help as much as I can. It sincerely helps to hear that others are going through the same thing. Thanks for the kind words, Mary. And Sharon, I have checked out and begun reading your blog. Thanks so much for sharing; it helps to hear another person's story.

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