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Alzheimer's Disease

Perhaps the most stressful caregiving of all is tending a victim of Alzheimer's disease. Caregivers must be certain to get help. Ask Ethelinn Block of Mesa, Arizona. She was interviewed by Dale Bell.

Ethelinn Block

Hi Dad.

Arthur Block

Hi.

Ethelinn

You want to take a shower?

Arthur

No.

Ethelinn

Let's take a shower.

Arthur

No.

Ethelinn

Why not? Let's take a shower

Arthur

I took a shower about three, four months ago.

Ethelinn

I know, but you've got to take a shower now. Let's take a shower.


There's two victims in this. The person and the caregiver

Only five years ago, Ethelinn's father ran a successful chain of photography studios, specializing in family portraits. Today, the simple act of getting out of bed and taking a shower is overwhelming.

Ethelinn: One of the things that I had to do was very slowly take everything away. Started with the car, then the money, then the phone, certain things in his room. I have to be totally controlling.

Notice one roll of toilet paper, and only one extra roll. I always make sure there's just one. If there's more, he will flush them down the toilet, and has, ten rolls, flooded my whole house. This is my father's closet, that I try and keep as controlled as possible. Shirts. Shorts. The shorts are same color, solid color, so he can't make any fashion mistakes here. You'll notice that there's no shoes. There's no shoes because if he has shoes, that means he's dressed. That means he's all dressed and he's ready to leave. And so, we have to hide his shoes because my father tends to wander and if he doesn't have the shoes, that's one more thing that will stop him from leaving the house.

And as I did it, he said to me, "Can you just leave one pair?" and it broke my heart. I took away his shoes. Taking away the shoes is only one technique that we use. We double lock our doors, inside and out. We have an alarm system. There's no way, short of breaking a window, that he can leave, but he will find a way. When someone with Alzheimer's gets something in their head, they're going. He's going on that streetcar to Los Angeles, or whatever. He's going and there's nothing I can do to stop him, except play, fight, coax, do everything, and I usually have to give him a drug that will calm him down when he's in that phase. Or else, he's out the door.

I cry wondering how much of this he is aware of. Once we were talking about his memory and he said to me, "What don't I remember?" and I said, "Well, sometimes you forget that mom died" and he looked at me and he said, "Maybe I want to."

Arthur: I love all my family and they're very nice to me and I'm very nice to them. That's the way it is.

Ethelinn: There's two victims in this. The person and the caregiver and that scares me, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't even conceive of any other way. We know he's safe. We know he's happy. He sees his grandkids, and I'm already giving so much here that I wonder, at some point, this isn't going to go on forever, will there be any of me left?

Forum

Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease is very stressful. Caregivers must reach out for assistance and support. Share your experiences and offer support in the forum.

Visit the forum now!

Arthur Block

Arthur Block



Block family

The Block family

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