Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Alzheimer’s disease on the rise - Chicago Sun-Times

Alzheimer’s disease on the rise - Chicago Sun-Times

My grandmother has Alzheimer's. And there is no truer statement than, “The toll on families is devastating.” (Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent services of the Alzheimer's Association) For years my mother (her daughter-in-law) and my grandfather took care of my greandmother at home - toileting, bathing, feeding. My mom took early retirement to take care of her. My mom is 4'7" and weighs 80-ish pounds. My grandmother was a tad bit over 5' tall and weighs about 125 pounds. It would take both my mother and grandfather to get my grandmother to walk to and from the car and up the stairs.

My grandfather passed away a little over a year ago and mom finally said she could not take care of her mother-in-law by herself. My Aunts and father stepped in to help, but still it wasn't enough. My grandmother would fall off the toilet (a caregiver was always present) and spoke less and less, slept more and more.

At the end of last year, my family finally agreed (or did not fight) that assisted living would be best action. The first time I visited was difficult to see her there. While the staff were nice and friendly, the overall decor was inpersonal, which really is what one would expect at a facility like this, and not like home. But I did see my grandmother was more alert and recently, she began speaking again.

As much as we would like to take care of our loved ones at home, sometimes it is better for everyone not to. When we visit my grandmother now, we are going with the intent to see and interact with her. Before, we were going home for dinner and we would say hi and talk to her a little, but there was always something else to be done too - dinner to cook, laundry to do, kids to watch. Now the focus is entirely on her when we see her.

It's still difficult to see her living at the assisted living facility, but when I look at the overall benefits to everyone in the family, I know that this is the best solution.

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