Caring for an Alzheimer’s Patient: The Parent Becomes the Child
She continues, “It becomes a role reversal, the parent becomes the child and the child the parent. That is hard to accept.”
Preet tells me how it started slowly, “When he goes for a walk and almost gets lost…when you see a little emptiness in his eyes.” The family would begin to lock to the front door and hide the car keys. “We would be scared for ourselves when he drove.”
Slowly his condition deteriorated. His daughter Sumeet says that they noticed an increase in mood swings, “He became angry, withdrawn – we thought it was due to moms passing, but it was something more.” After consulting a doctor, they were first hesitant to believe it was true. But as time passed, they accepted the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And the role of the caregivers became more pronounced.
“Once we accepted the Alzheimer’s, we changed our attitude, we became more understanding and sensitive. I had left my job and was at his side non-stop. I regret taking so long to believe it,” she adds.
“It’s difficult seeing your strong father like this,” she reiterates. But throughout, the Sethi family made sure he was never alone. “Someone would be sitting with him, and we focussed a lot on mental stimulation, we would play whatever games we could.”
It’s helpful when the caregiver is a loved one and can identify stressors, triggers and things that bring him joy and calm him down. “We were always with him, and I knew that music helped calm him down. He was very religious and I used to keep the radio next to him and play Paath when he was stressed. It helped.”
A good caregiver can help improve the patients emotional health as well.
Alzheimer’s is a tricky disease, and the patient is often stressed out and confused. “I used to wonder if he knew what was happening but couldn’t communicate. What if he resented us treating him like a child?” She says thoughtfully. But in some instances, they had to find tricks and ways to make sure their father was fed, had his medicines and was well looked after.
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