Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Reading Room

Caregiver Admission: I’ve Stopped Following Alzheimer’s Advice


Lately every time I begin to read an article on Alzheimer’s, I get a queasy feeling in my gut. The article may offer an obvious suggestion, like how a caregiver should avoid arguing with the caregivee or how a caregiver should avoid making a caregivee anxious by giving too much information; these are behaviors I am already pretty good at except when I’m not. Or the article may suggest that caregivers should create more social experience for caregivees or should make sure caregivees get enough exercise, behaviors I have begun to slack off on. The article may suggest activities in which the caregiver should involve the caregivvee or suggest home improvements the caregiver should make to create a better care environment. The article may even be a kindly reminder that the caregiver should take better care of her own needs.

These articles are clearly well meaning. They are meant to smooth our lives as caregivers and caregivees. I never finish them or follow their lists.

In fact, I kind of hate them.

My hackles rise as soon as I encounter the word should. Or rather when the words should or could or might want to consider appear and I read in the verb SHOULD. As in I, ALICE, SHOULD do whatever is being benignly suggested. Even if the article suggested I should eat an extra piece of chocolate cake, I would probably react this way.

Part of the issue is my own stubborn rebellious nature. The know-it-all in me who bristles at instruction and aphorisms, looks at the organized lists and perky understanding prose and shouts inside, “I know, I know. Stop reminding me.”

But part of the problem is something else because when Ralph was first diagnosed I gobbled up these kinds of articles like, well like chocolate cake.

And I have had the same change in reaction to the never-ending slew of news pieces about Alzheimer’s research. Recently a friend sent me the link  to a study about the role of a specific gene linked to Alzheimer’s, but what stood out to me was one clause in one sentence: “…among people with late onset, nonfamilial Alzheimer’s, which accounts for 95 percent of all cases…” I don’t doubt the statistic but it shocked me because Ralph—like most of the people with whom I personally come into contact—is in the leftover 5% (earlier onset and probably familial). I’m sure the study was well conducted and offers hope, but to be honest it didn’t hold my attention, any more than the range of research coming out about Alzheimer’s.

It is a matter of overload. There is the unusual overload of information that we all are suffering through lately as we struggle  to sift through the day’s never-ending political and societal news, a chaotic, contradictory onrush that leaves so many of us exhausted and depressed whatever opinions we hold. My general distress over world events does trickle down and make me less patient and less trustful of what I read about dementia. But I also think that having wandered deeper and deeper into the forest of Memoryland, I feel a bit of been-there-done-that about most of the advice offered about the early stages of Alzheimer’s. So maybe I’m experiencing a bit of burnout too.

As for what lies ahead, I have read almost too much advice about issues I know are coming (while I’m deeply moved and driven, like the proverbial moth around the candle, to read every story I find about others coping with the final chapters of Alzheimer’s ), but I realize there are no answers to the questions that keep me up at night (like Will I have the patience to stick this out? Is Ralph’s condition going to deteriorate soon or later? What if my memory is going too?)

I find a bit of escapism is more helpful than advice these days.

So, for those who may have missed it, here is my “advice” for the day: this video of a karaoke car ride with Paul McCartney and James Corden  I don’t care where you fall on the Alzheimer’s spectrum as caregiver or caregiver, or on the political spectrum for that matter; you’ll be smiling by the end.


PS. Because my own reaction to advice is not necessarily the best one to have, here are some links to how to some of the advice articles bugged me but that might be helpful to everyone else:healthy life style ideas;  stimulating activities to try; disease tips; and a range of subjects from the Alzheimer’s Reading Room;


“I LOVE YOU”–Easier Said Than Done For Caregivers of the Cognitively Impaired

I happened to read a post at the Alzheimer’s Reading Room call Three Little Words. I am sure the article’s author Bob DeMarco is right. I realize that saying “I love you” is a wonderful thing to say. I am sure DeMarco is also right that changing patterns of behavior as a caregiver is a good idea.


But frankly I am not feeling it at the moment. I can hear you responding, that’s the point. If you say it, you will change how you are feeling and behaving. I get it intellectually and I don’t not love Ralph. But saying those words, and I do, sounds hollow. The truth, which is not always pretty, is that being together with him day in and day out is an emotional drain. Solitary even when we are in the same room and de-energizing because I tend to let myself drift into a slough of inaction with Ralph that I find both debilitating and anxiety-producing. (And yes, I know I should do things to make him more active, and I try, I really do.)

So, politically incorrect as this may be, I admit that I often put my own needs before Ralph’s these days. As I have said here before, we never had exactly an easy, or even happy marriage. I blame myself as much as him because I passively allowed him to be what he called “the captain” of the family, what the rest of us sometimes called the bully. My reasons were the usual complex mix of love, laziness, fear, and indecision.

Now, of course, Ralph is someone else altogether. As am I.

He has become the passive, gentle man who sat in the car today without complaining while I did grocery shopping on our way home from his aborted shrink appointment—for which he blamed not his therapist or me but himself for screwing up the dates and which despite the two hours spent driving in the car was not a complete waste of time because it gave his day a focus. The new jovial Ralph didn’t care that my run into Publix for milk turned into a full-fledged six-bag expedition.

Ten years ago, even if all I needed was a quick pint of milk, I would have driven him home and then driven back to the store we were passing on the way rather than argue over the practicality of adding an extra hour of driving to my life. For better or worse that weak-kneed version of Alice has disappeared. I have become a woman who tries to be diligent in her care but is seldom anything approaching affectionate.

Which brings me to this further shocking-to-me admission: Lately I have found myself transferring my affections from Ralph to another love object.

lola                I snuggle with Lola. I baby-talk to her the way I always made fun of other dog owners for doing. I encourage her to lie on the bed with me while I drink my morning coffee (especially since Ralph prefers to sit outside with his first cigarette). For the last month we have been taking classes together to make her more obedient. She now comes as soon as I call and stays sitting in “place” until I tell her otherwise. Along with obedience, she has become much more attached to me. All I do is look her way and she is by my side licking my ankle.

Ralph’s attachment comes with complications. Lola’s is much simpler (except that she eats my shoes). For me having Lola to love on has been a real help. And Ralph is not the least bit jealous.