Currently, millions of baby boomers are caring for parents afflicted with a disease that robs people of their minds, memories, judgement and identity. It’s impossible to imagine what life is like when your parent or spouse doesn't know you, or her own name.
This is the tragic part of life with Alzheimer's, the most common type of dementia. It is an emotionally heart-wrenching experience that millions of baby boomers share. So many of their parents are living past 80, the age when the incidence of all types of dementia rises sharply.
Dementia currently afflicts more than 30 million people worldwide. By 2050, it is projected that this figure will have increased to over 100 million. 70 percent of affected people live at home, where they are cared for by many millions of daughters, sons and spouses. Caregivers can be younger or older, but the demographic reality means that the weight of the work is falling largely on those born between 1946 and 1964. As they watch their parents' inevitable decline, baby boomers can't help but see a disturbing glimpse of their own potential future.
Aging spouses and parents with declining health raise uncomfortable questions about socially and culturally taboo topics, including seeking outside help from professional caregivers and the possibility of placing one's parent into institutional care. It is only in exceptional cases, such as when a family member is stricken with Alzheimer's disease, that the family turns to institutional care. Cultural factors such as filial piety ( one of the virtues to be held above all else: a respect for the parents and ancestors) and privacy play an influential role in caregiving duties. The shame and guilt of not caring for, or not being able to care for family members can be crippling. http://www.alz.co.uk/research/statistics.html
Family members wrestling with emotionally wrenching decisions worry about finding the right kind of care for their elderly and frail spouse or parent. Many elders from different cultures have unique cultural and linguistics needs that are absent in most typical care communities
Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's Disease can be very challenging especially if you were dependent upon your parent. Reversing the role is never easy.
Most especially, if you were in a strained relationship with your parent, you will find it extremely difficult to take on that role as caregiver, because of the feelings you have been carrying around all these years. But it can be done if you are willing to deal with the issues.
Even though caregiving can be a physically and emotionally daunting experience, and you don't have control over the disease, you do have control over how you handle your responsibilities. One needs to be creative and find innovative ways to handle some situations that arise. Because you are the one in control, your relative will pick up on your emotions. As you display certain behavior , they will behave the same way. If you are angry and impatient that is how your relative will act.
If your relative is becoming quick tempered, you need to check and see if you have been displaying that behavior. There are times when an affected person has no control over their behavior and doesn’t even know what they are doing because their memory and judgement is failing, so they take their cue from you.
You might be uneasy about bathing your parent, or assisting with toileting or other ADL’s (Activities of daily living). Most people can usually take care of themselves until the disease becomes more advanced when you really have to put your shyness away. You may also hire a homecare company to take care of your relatives ADL, or contact your local CLSC to arrange for homecare. It can be a long and arduous process to work with the CLSC. Many are overwhelmed with similar requests, so it is recommended to contact a Social Worker earlier than later.
Difficult as this is, whatever the situation, you need to treat your relative with love, understanding and respect always.
Support groups can be a lifeline for caregivers. Be aware, that one person cannot handle this disease alone. Seek out other family members for assistance or consider Adult Day Care, to arrange for respite for yourself and stimulation for your relative. You can obtain information about Adult Day Care from your CLSC. http://www.examiner.com/x-31385-Montreal-Caregiver-Examiner~y2009m12d4-Caring-for-people-with-Alzheimers-calls-for-creativity-and-compassion