Mom’s Heroic Advocate

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR SAFETY

“You need to know what is going on at the Rehab center,” says Gabriela over my speaker phone.  “I know I’m risking my job to tell you this, but I think you really need to know.” Gabriela is the fourth, maybe fifth, Director of the Memory Unit since Mom moved in eleven months ago.

“Thanks for calling,” I say.  “What’s going on?”

What it would take to make the Director of one facility call about the care provided in another, I wonder.

“I went to Rehab to visit Christa this morning.  I arrived at eleven.” Gabriela continues, “Christa was wearing her nightgown. She had yet to be bathed, and her hair had yet to be combed. Her breakfast tray stood in the corner of the room, untouched.  When I asked the male aide if Christa had been fed her breakfast he said that she didn’t ask for help.”  

“They know she needs assistance eating,” I say.  “They know she has yet to be able to ask for help.  After all, I had them mark her chart “Advanced Alzheimer’s”.

“There’s more,” Gabriela continues. “A few minutes later a female aide came in. I asked her to dress Christa.  When the aide opened the closet door, the shelves and hangers were empty and the floor was piled knee-high with dirty clothes.”

“But we signed up for daily laundry service,” I say.

“As I was straightening Christa’s blanket, I noticed her feet.  Barbara, Christa’s heels have big bedsores on them.  No ways she has been doing physical therapy with sores like that on her feet.”

“Dear Lord,” I pray.

Gabriela continues, “I was so outraged, I went straight to the nurse’s station and asked to speak to the Director.  She poked her head from her office and introduced herself.  I asked her to come with me to Christa’s room and she did.   As we walked she explained that she is actually the interim director – on the job for only a week. Since it is the week between Christmas and New Year’s many regular staff members are out for the holiday.”

I try to find my breathe.

“I explained to her that Christa has advanced Alzheimer’s.  That she is yet to be able to tell them what she needs,” Gabriela continues.  “I showed her Christa’s condition – bedsores, unwashed, bedclothes on, clean clothes yet to be available.  Her jaw dropped.  She marched into the hallway, called both the aides, and ordered a fresh breakfast for Christa.”

I force myself to breathe.  Once, then again.  Suddenly I see it in a clear equation.  The Rehab staff are yet to be properly trained on how to work with an Alzheimer’s patient.  They are short staffed during the holidays.  Mom is not receiving physical therapy at the Rehab. Mom is barely being cared for.  Correction: Mom is being neglected.

“Gabriela,” I ask.   “Can your team at the Memory Unit care for Mom in her current condition?”

“Absolutely.”

“Can your team be ready for her to come back today?”

“Absolutely.”

“Please give me the name of the interim director you spoke to,” I ask Gabriela. “Mom is coming home to you today.”

The need for care giving from family members continues, even after an Alzheimer’s Loved One is admitted to the hospital, rehabilitation or other care facility. What is your plan for ongoing care giving of your Alzheimer’s Loved One?  When are frequent visits frequent enough? 

When your Loved One needs more care than they get at home

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR DECISIONS


“How did your annual physical go, Dad?”

“Dr. T. says I lost 50 pounds.”

I take a deep breath.  “Since last year?” I ask.

“Yes.”

Fifty pounds?  Dad was already skinny.  Did he even have that much weight to spare?  That’s why his belt was cinched so tight last time I saw him.

Refocusing on the conversation, I dig deeper.  “And what did Dr. T. say about that?

“He said that I need to make a change,” Dad explains.  “He says that it’s my responsibility to care for Mom, and that I can only do that if I take care of myself first.”

 I take a deep breath in.  “So what are you thinking?”

 “It’s time to look for a Memory Care Facility for your Mom.”

I exhale. 

After all these years. After all my other-than-perfect efforts to support my Dad – I have finally learned a few things.  I learned that ultimately, Dad will make all the decisions about Mom’s care himself.  I learned that there are better uses of my energy than trying to speed Dad toward a decision before he was ready.  My opportunity was to grow my patience and my compassion, as I learned to work on Dad’s timeline. 

Has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver finally agreed to accept help with caring for your Alzheimer’s Loved One?   If not, what role can you play in encouraging this, without forcing their hand?  By letting the Alzheimer’s Caregiver arrive to this conclusion on their own time, you may find that you will have grown in your own unique ways, too.