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Rita, Alzheimer's, and Me - A Family Caregiver's Story of Alzheimer's Disease

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Updated November 11, 2008

5 of 10

Lessons Learned as a Caregiver
Photo © Don Franklin

Life had changed for both Rita and Don.

Photo © Don Franklin
I was now officially a caregiver, although I had already been caring for Rita in many ways and for many months before the official diagnosis. It was stupid of me to have not become better educated about Alzheimer's disease and caregiving after the initial tests. By not doing so, I had no idea what to expect as the disease progressed. I had heard the disease moved rather slowly if treated with medication, and I would have time to learn more as it worsened. I was ready to assist her in any way necessary and determined to not think about what the future would bring. I didn't feel that I needed any outside help. I was determined to meet this thing head-on and work through it. I soon learned that Alzheimer's disease was not something I could "work through."

In the beginning, caring for Rita was not difficult. The main problem was getting through the depression. However, as the disease progressed, Rita forgot all about the fact that she was an Alzheimer's patient, but by that time, she required more and more help in her daily activities, such as bathing, eating, toileting and general incontinence of urine.

I was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with trying to maintain a household and provide the proper care for Rita. I knew that I needed help and discussed with Rita the possibility of bringing in a home care aide during the day or taking her to an adult day care center several times a week. Her reaction was explosively negative! Little did I realize that discussing the situation with Rita was not the correct approach at this stage of the disease.

For the previous 40+ years, Rita and I had always made our decisions together. I now realized that we were living in different worlds and it would be up to me to plan and direct both our destinies.

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