Learning Caregiving For Alzheimer’s Disease

Written by Hiland - Senior Lifestyle Expert on Thursday, September 15, 2016

I wonder how many seniors are thinking, “I thought I was prepared,” only to be surprised by a spouse’s surprising healthcare issue. It is likely there are many readers out there in the same boat as my bride and me. As much as you plan ahead, there are few things more surprising than unexpectedly having to shoulder caregiving responsibilities for your spouse.

Caregiving is challenging but doubly challenging for seniors.  After having sought advice from providers in two other major cities, we hopefully arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire, home to the fabulous Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital.

Being a senior caregiver for an early-stage Alzheimer’s senior spouse is a 24/7 learning experience. It is natural to feel isolated and uncomfortable discussing the travails of your spouse with even your most trusted family members of friends.

Procuring the Proper Diagnosis

One of the most challenging aspects of dementia is obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Over four years, we have received four different diagnoses from four different treatment facilities in three different cities and states.

The first diagnosis was from a prominent neurologist in Albany NY. After several rounds of testing over nine months, his diagnosis was early stage dementia.

One year later, we received a more hopeful diagnosis from a psychiatrist in Hanover who reported my bride suffered from pseudo-dementia or extreme sadness that has symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Anti-depressants were prescribed for treatment of this treatable condition.

But, the dementia worsened. When we visited a psychiatrist at a highly regarded the Byrd Memory Clinic in Tampa, the diagnosis was more serious; early stage Alzheimer’s Disease. I admit I panicked because my bride was the healthy one, the fitness fanatic who would never stop. And, she hasn’t, but her dementia continues to worsen.

Upon returning to Hanover, another MRI of the brain revealed more identifiable memory loss and threatening blockage of speech. Now, we knew the disease was present and expanding. We had arrived at a scary place and I was overwhelmed with caregiving responsibilities and decisions.

This was not the plan we had spent years structuring. I needed experienced advice!

The Aging Resource Center

During one series of tests, a kindly psychiatrist asked how I was doing. I gathered my mental and physical fatigue was showing. The psychiatrist pulled me aside and listened to my myriad of concerns.

I had read about Aging Resource Centers while visiting the National Institute on Aging. I made a point to visit the local Aging Resource Center where an abundance of valuable resources opened to me.

Caregiving Programs that Help

Caregivers are likely to feel that no one really understands the weight they bare. At the Aging Resource Center, I immediately enrolled in a biweekly caregiving group. At the first meeting, I introduced myself and stated my biggest concern that this job was bigger than my abilities.

Everyone in the room nodded knowingly until one gentleman said; “Everyone is this room has felt the same way at some point. That’s why we are here.”

Before I left, I received brochures from local and national resources covering everything for financial and caregiving assistance to references to other groups that included both dementia sufferers and their caregivers. A world of support opened to us. What a relief!

I relay this story because if you are a caregiver and feeling overwhelmed, there is hope. Take the advice of the NIA, the Pay For Senior Care resource library,  and me and engage your local Aging Resource Center or local Alzheimer’s Association chapter and receive free advice and free access to helpful resources.

This may be the best meeting you have. Don’t wait!