Alzheimer’s disease is so amazingly hard! It is one of those things that I could try and describe to you, but to fully comprehend the complete and utter devastation, it is something you have to witness first hand. It it like a tornado. You are aware it is coming, you are given the warning, you are given some time to prepare, but when it hits, and I mean truly hits, all you can do is hang on for dear life.
My father-in-law, Jim, has Alzheimer’s disease. Full blown, he is unaware of his surroundings, Alzheimer’s. He still knows the immediate family, as I am writing this, but that is about it. He doesn’t talk much at all anymore. He will answer your questions, but many times he mixes “yes” and “no” up.
Everyday is a new adventure when you love someone with Alzheimer’s. This couldn’t be more true than of my mother-in law, Monika. She is Jim’s full-time caregiver and does an amazing job of it! I am in awe of her. She is so kind, patient, and loving with him, even though at times I know she just wants to stick her head out a window and scream!
The past 6 months or so we have noticed a sharp decline in Jim’s Alzheimer’s. My husband, sister-in-law and I have started doing some research to try and figure out how to best be of help to Jim and Monika.
One of the most important things we have learned is that caregivers need a break!! They need to get away and do some things just for themselves and focus on their needs and wants. If you take nothing else away from this post, please give a caregiver (of any kind) a break! This is the most precious gift you can ever give them. The road an Alzheimer’s caregiver travels on is a very lonely one! Monika says the thing she misses the most about Jim is the conversation. He rarely talks and when he does it is just to give an answer (typically yes or no). They used to have all kinds of conversations over meals. They would discuss articles in the newspaper and debate politics. They would talk and plan about their next travel adventure. Not anymore. He remembers none of it. Jim’s short and long-term memory is completely gone. Monika can go days without much conversation and she says this is the hardest part of the disease.
We have also been learning about activities we can do with Jim, places we can take him, and ways to let him help himself. As you follow along with us, on our blogging adventures, you will see some of these things in action.
Sydney and Jim have baked together in the past. He really enjoys it. The pouring, stirring, and mixing are all things Jim really enjoys. He smiles while he works! 🙂 But I think his personal favorite is the eating at the end! He hasn’t lost his love of food and is always willing to try the new recipes we come up with.
I took Monika to the cardiologist today, so Sydney stayed with Jim. While we were gone they made brownies. As you can see he is having a really good time! Mason (our son) got in on a little brownie action himself!
For most of us a doctor appointment is not a big deal. It is just something we have to go and do. When Monika has an appointment, and someone stays with Jim, it is a chance for her to get a break. While Sydney and Jim were making brownies, Monika and I went to the cardiologist. We stopped at a coffee shop before the appointment and had lattes. After the appointment, on our way home, we stopped and had lunch.
For her, this is a huge treat! She can just relax and enjoy herself. No cutting up Jim’s food and helping him eat. No helping him in and out of the car. No helping him put on his coat and zipping it up. No keeping track of him and worrying he may wander off. She got to escape her reality for several hours and take a much needed break. Everyone needs a break and this is even more true for a full-time caregiver!
As Monika goes through some medical issues in the next few months, we will be spending some extra time with Jim. We will share our stories and adventures with you. If like us, you love someone with Alzheimer’s, please know you are not alone! We would love for you to share your stories and adventures with us also.
Have an amazing day!