What it’s like for a cheerful caregiver shouldering the responsibility of a family member living with Alzheimer’s. You won’t believe it.
I think my mom and dad told me I was next on the list to be Power of Attorney for my aunt in 2010. The responsibility I was going to have didn’t register.
I was 34. My aunt had Alzheimer’s, but we were in the early phase; the phase where my aunt would choose to go to the movies over going to the doctor’s office for an appointment.
At that point, the mistakes were often comical. Sure she seemed more forgetful than usual and made strange choices, but I often understood her choices. I didn’t really think it was *that* big of a deal she skipped the doctor’s appointment to go to the movies. I mean, I would MUCH rather go to the movies than go see a doctor.
Alarming things were happening, but they seemed few and far between. She had a few falls. She could no longer drive. She was starting to make decisions that even I couldn’t rationalize. I didn’t realize how much my family was protecting me from the scary stuff.
When I took over in 2012 things were declining pretty rapidly. I was unequipped to deal with the problems. I’d been married for less than six months. I’d just moved to a new state. I’d just started working remotely at my job. I had just lost my father.
Caregiving impacted my job and my relationships. I had to take time off work. I was distracted. My workday would get derailed over non-urgent issues like the location of household cleaning supplies or the time of an appointment with a friend.
I had little, or no, patience for the people who were helping me and my life was scheduled down to the minute. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t exercising, I was letting my aunt’s life eclipse my own.
Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is hard, no matter who you are.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 81 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers under the age of 65 are employed. Young adult caregivers (18 to 25) make up between 12 and 18 percent of the total number of adult caregivers, according to the American Journal of Public Health. The younger caregivers have had to make major changes to their work schedules because of their caregiving responsibilities.
Many of those young adults are providing caregiving services for an older family relative, most often a grandmother.
Luckily, I had help.
With the support of my family, my friends and the friends of my aunt, I was able to understand how I could make my aunt’s life better without sacrificing my own. Our solutions have made my aunt’s life better without putting too much responsibility on any single family member.
- We split up responsibilities among family members and documented our plan.
- Through my aunt’s friends, we found reliable people who could help us.
- We found someone reliable to help us with day-to-day activities.
- We started using Google documents to share information with each other.
- We estimated projected expenses and made a financial plan.
I contribute to Alzlive.com so I can help others who are in a similar situation. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve spent two-plus years solving problems that initially seemed insurmountable.
If you’re a young caregiver and you need help, contact me. I couldn’t have made the progress I’ve made without a lot of help from loved ones and strangers on the Internet.
I’m happy to be your stranger.
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