By Samra Bufkins
December 27, 2015
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s blog about a little scare we had on Christmas Eve.
I was not surprised to read several articles the week before Christmas anticipating increased calls to Alzheimer’s help lines and organizations. There are plenty of articles preparing families, guests and caregivers for the holidays, but if somebody hasn’t seen Grandpa or Mom in a while the changes can be shocking, especially if that family member is still in denial or simply uneducated about the disease. Alzheimer’s charities in the UK expect a 60 percent rise in calls after Christmas because family members who haven’t seen their loved one in a while become alarmed at the dramatic changes they witness.
In many cases, one family member is the primary caregiver, with others providing support ranging from regular to nonexistent. I continually hear stories of adult children blaming the healthy parent or accusing him/her of ineptitude when the parent they see sporadically deteriorates. They aren’t living with the stress of caregiving 24/7. Sometimes when they visit, their parent is at his or her best, and they see nothing beyond “normal aging.”
One friend I’ll call “Sally” said their many children thought she was making things up until each one had an individual experience with their dad—an event that occurred when they were with Dad and nobody else, especially Mom, was around to influence his behavior. Once it dawned on that child there really WAS something wrong with Dad they each came around and were more supportive.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember the patient’s behavior is the disease speaking, not the person.
Alzheimer’s is not just about memory loss
Change—sudden or subtle—can indicate the progression of the disease, a change in medications, or an underlying medical condition. It should not be taken for granted. As illustrated in yesterday’s blog, language difficulties may make it difficult for Alzheimer’s patients to express symptoms.
Everybody—especially the advertising agencies promoting dementia drugs—focuses on memory loss in Alzheimer’s. Yes, it’s sad when Grandma can’t remember you, but it’s even sadder to watch your spouse hold something in his hand and have no clue what to do with it.