What your caregiver really wants from you

ALZHEIMERS, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR WISH-LIST


Dad has learned to cook. He’s learned to charm Mom into clean clothes. He’s learned to do laundry. Here are 11 budget-friendly gifts for your Alzheimer’s Caregiver Dad that will wrap him in love every day. After all, who deserves your love more?

“…a generous serving of love makes every gift better.” – Barbara Ivey

Brighten His Day

Life as a Caregiver means that your Dad is caring for your Alzheimer’s Loved one around the clock.  Along with preparing food and providing a safe home, Dad is the household source of love, laughter and joy. That means that Dad needs to be filled with joy enough for two. Here are some reasonably priced gift ideas that Dad and Mom can both enjoy together.

1.       A card – sweet, funny, or musical

2.       Recent photos, printed and mailed

3.       Old photos, printed and mailed

4.       A spare phone charger

Make Every Day Easier

Caregivers are on-the-job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They take on household duties more and more as the Alzheimer’s Loved One becomes less able to remember the sequence of steps.  So a gift that makes a Caregiver’s day easier is always a great idea.

5.       Pre-prepared meals

6.       Sign Dad up for online grocery ordering, so he can pick up at the drive-through. 

7.       Clean laundry / laundry service

8.       A simplified wardrobe for Mom.   Having only this season’s clothes in the closet, helps her dress appropriately for the season.

9.       A clean, orderly living space that is safe for Mom

Visit

Before you visit, talk with your Dad to identify a convenient time to arrive. Your Alzheimer’s Loved One has good times of day, and better times of day. Remember that your Caregiver Dad needs a hug and a friendly face as much (or more) than your Alzheimer’s Loved One

10.   Try 2 by 2 visits.  Visit in pairs. This way, one visitor can talk, listen and laugh with the Caregiver while the other does the same with the Alzheimer’s Loved One.

When did your Caregiver last have a few minutes on their own?   The answer may surprise you. Getting a haircut used to be simple, fun errand.  So was getting the oil changed. Now, your Mom may come along on these errands (and others) because it is safer for her than staying home alone. Give your Caregiver Dad the gift of a free hour, an afternoon, or longer by caring for your Loved One yourself. Plus, you will learn a lot by walking in his shoes.

     11. Take a turn caring for your Mom

Whether you live near or far, whatever your budget, there are many priceless gift options you can give to your Caregiver Father that really will make life easier for him as he cares for your Mom.  And remember – a generous serving of love makes every gift better!

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? 

Finding a good time to chat with your Caregiver

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR CLOTHING


“Your blue eyes look so pretty when you wear this blouse, Hon.” Dad sweet-talks Mom as I wait on the phone.

“These clothes are fine.” replies Mom

“Honey, it’s laundry day.  Time to give this outfit a bath,” Dad teases.

“I wore this to bed, so it’s already clean.  Just leave me alone,” says Mom.  I hear her footsteps, loud at first, then fading as she walks away.

“Dad? Are you there?,” I ask.

“Oh for goodness sake!,” Dad snaps. “The oatmeal is burning.” I hear the click of the stove dial and the clang of the pot. “Look, I’ve got to go,” Dad says.

“I love you Dad. Talk to you soon.”

“Bye.”

I glance at the notes on my computer screen.  Today I wanted to continue our conversation about visiting the local Adult Day Program with Mom. Three years of notes on just this subject stare back at me on the screen.  Three years of phone calls with the Director, three years of planning.

Clearly, I need to put even more effort into finding a good time to have this conversation with Dad.

Does it require a lot of effort to find the right time for the important discussions you need to have with your Caregiver?  When there are only so many opportunities to be with a Caregiver in person, the list of critical conversations grows. 

The process of elimination helps. During meal preparation, meal time, and meal cleanup remember that your Caregiver is juggling chores and Caregiving, so they are twice as busy.  Try to call afterward.  Perhaps they take walks or naps every day.  Respect that.  Show your support and love for your Caregiver by putting effort into finding a good time for them to have the conversations that need to happen. 

When can your Caregiver be present for a conversation?