Last week, we talked about the unexpectedness of becoming a family caregiver. This unexpectedness implies that there is very little preparation you can do when taking on such a role. As a result, you are left with no manual on how to fulfill your role successfully. In this blog, we will talk about Immanuel, his wife, Simone, and the challenges they faced together as Immanuel’s Alzheimer’s progressed over time.
Immanuel is now in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. Simone has had a difficult time finding things she could be doing with him in order to connect with him and improve his mood. After all, he is her husband—shouldn’t she know what kinds of things he likes that make him feel better?
Not necessarily. Because Alzheimer’s begins to change your loved one’s moods, temperament, and behaviors, handling these changes can be difficult for caregivers like Simone because they have no previous experience with Alzheimer’s.
As a result of the toll the disorder takes on someone’s memory, people who have it may believe they exist in a previous time period of their life, undergo changes in mood, and become easily confused and anxious. For instance, Immanuel becomes agitated and angry for no reason that Simone can detect. At first, she struggled to address his aggravation but eventually learned how to handle it by acknowledging Immanuel’s feelings, telling him that she would take care of the problem, and redirected his attention to something else. This strategy seemed somewhat successful, so she continues to follow it.
Simone eventually hired a paid caregiver to help her with Immanuel and with some tasks around the house. Hiring a professional caregiver allowed Simone to take a break from the stressful and emotionally draining role as a family caregiver. Over time, Simone learned more about Immanuel as his disorder progressed and transformed him. He may not be able to watch movies to completion, but he could watch his favorite sci-fi movies for about thirty minutes. She also discovered the profound effect music had on Immanuel’s mood and that he could often hum along to his favorite songs from the past. They also learned that Immanuel enjoyed being rolled in his wheelchair around the park.
Around the house, Simone had Immanuel help with some easy tasks like making the bed (with some assistance) and folding towels. Over time, Simone learned that he likes to look at old photos, but that certain photos made him upset. Simone learned that Immanuel sometimes likes it when she holds his hand. She says that in these moments she can still feel the love Immanuel feels for her even though he may not verbally express it.
Although Simone struggles, she is learning something new every day about being a caregiver, and she is still motivated by her dedication to her husband. Not every day is easy for her and there are days when she feels like giving up. These experiences are common as Immanuel, like so many other afflicted individuals, has days that are also good and bad. Although neither Simone nor Immanuel asked to be put in these situations, they continue to live their lives together responding to the challenges and excitements each day produces. Simone knows deep inside that she is making a difference in her husband’s life even though there are days when it doesn’t seem so. Every challenge, Simone realizes, is a chance to handle what she is in control of, both for Immanuel’s and her wellbeing.