Has your spouse’s dementia made him forget that there is such a day as Valentine’s Day? Worse yet, has your spouse forgotten who you are? Under these circumstances, the second being far more devastating than the first, why would you want to go through the motions of celebrating Valentine’s Day?
Hearing problems don’t just happen to the very old. Boomers, as well as their parents, need to pay attention to ear health. Working with your health care provider to prevent hearing loss is important to lower the risk of problems down the road. Considering the importance of ear maintenance, I felt we should seek some medical advice about what we should and should not do to have a better chance of maintaining our hearing.
While many of us have spent years as family caregivers, some caregivers are new to this challenge. So new, in fact, that they have yet to realize that they are caregivers. So new that they haven’t had time to even consider the stress that they are under – stress that will likely increase, rather than decrease, if they don’t begin to develop some self-care strategies early on.
The only experience I’ve had with the speech and language problem called aphasia was after my uncle had a series of strokes. This was a man who had lived for reading and word games. The worst part of watching him struggle to find words was that he knew the words he found were wrong. He was not only frustrated, but humiliated too. Aphasia is not uncommon, and, as caregivers, we must learn to assist our loved ones with the disorder however we can.
If what we do isn't highly paid or well understood, many people often brush it off as unimportant. Thus, one of the most important jobs in our society today – that of being a family caregiver – is all too often undervalued by people who don't understand. We may not be able to control other's viewpoints, but we do have some control over whether we accept this view of what we do and remain confident in our own decisions.
Dear Carol: My husband and I are both 71 years old and have been married 48 years. I’ve got a few health problems, including high blood pressure, however my husband has had heart by-pass surgery and is diabetic as well. His health is a big worry. My mother, now 95, has lived with us for nine years. She’s physically healthy except for severe arthritis, but she has dementia that is rapidly worsening. Her needs are increasing but so are my husband’s. He’s been a saint all of these years with Mom and he still insists he doesn’t want to “push her out,” as he puts it. However, I want to take care of my husband and I can only do so much.
...One story that stands out in my memory was told to me while interviewing people for “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” The woman’s whole family had gathered by her father’s bedside. It had been days for some, hours for others, but they had all arrived. Their father had been withdrawing into himself, and they knew that his time to leave would soon come. Then, he rallied. He was able to sit up and even talk a bit. There was a spark in his eye. He told his family to go and get something to eat. During the time it took the family to grab some fast food at a nearby restaurant, the father died.
While family members who provide care for loved ones share many issues, there’s a different emotional dynamic between caregiver and care receiver when the care partners are spouses than when they are an adult child caring for a parent. Here, we offer some tips for spouses.
Dear Carol: My 75-year-old husband has been reasonably healthy but lately I’ve found he either doesn’t understand what I’ve told him or doesn’t remember what I said. For example, I mentioned that we needed to have a minor plumbing leak fixed eventually and he said fine. I made an appointment for the plumber and when I told my husband about it, my husband got mad saying that I should have checked with him first. I nicely reminded him of our conversation but he said he thought I was just talking in generalities. This type of thing happens quite often which makes me afraid that he is developing dementia. Should I worry? Gail
Alcohol abuse can occur at any age, but in the past most doctors looked for the signs in younger people. There’s also a bias in society at large, including some doctors, that people who abuse alcohol will be of a certain type. It can be hard for a doctor to look at a sweet, grandmotherly woman and think that perhaps the “occasional” glass of wine she admits to drinking may actually be a good portion of a bottle on nightly basis.