I was excited to read this book, especially since the caregiver was of the male persuasion. Secretly, I’ve harbored the view that women are better caregivers than men. Well, at least until a couple years ago.
When COPD shortened my breath and demanded a hospital stay, Hubby became my caregiver. And, surprisingly, I’ve had few complaints. However, had I known this gentler side of hubby 30 years ago I would have demanded more help with our four children. Better that he kept it a secret back then, I’m thinking.
While reading “Alzheimer’s Moments: Memories from a Caregiver’s Diary” I came to believe that Gavin Dougherty is a caregiver’s caregiver. After their Mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Gavin and his brother Dan determined to take care of their widowed mother at home where she’d resided for more than 50 years. Dan lived near Mother Dear in up-state New York, while California was home for Gavin. A wonderful decision made for a woman with no daughters but two sons with her very best interest at heart!
The brothers affectionately referred to their mother as “Mother Dear” and as I read their story I came to think of her the same way and will refer to her by that name as well.
With the decision made, Dan looked after Mother Dear during the early stages of Alzheimer’s while she could still live alone and take care of herself. Once the brothers took the car away, there were few mishaps worse than a little forgetfulness. Mother Dear was happy and safe in her own home for several years.
Overtime, Mother Dear forgot more than words. She forgot appointments, confusing dates and times and places and things. She forgot words, what they meant and how to use them. She forgot buttons, on the remote control for television or VCR.
When she could no longer dial the phone, or call for help in case of an emergency or accident, the brothers knew it was time for a Primary Caregiver–Fulltime. The flexibility of Gavin’s job allowed for the long move from California to New York and he settled into the family home as Mother Dear’s Primary Caregiver.
Frustration reigns during the next stage (the middle stage) of Alzheimer’s, for Mother Dear and Caregiver Gavin. Mother Dear can remember that she once taped her favorite soap operas, but no longer knows how to work the VCR. She can remember that she use to make phone calls, but can no longer remember how to dial the phone. Similar experiences occur with the stove and toaster and most mechanical devices. For the person with Alzheimer’s, it’s more than frustrating because they remember the things they use to do but can no longer do them.
I must admit, Gavin fared better than I did during this very frustrating stage of Alzheimer’s. My mom and I would argue and argue, until I finally learned to agree at all cost because it didn’t really matter in the long run. Mom would forget anything I said within 2 minutes. This frustration only diminishes when they finally ‘forget that they are forgetting.’
With a laid-back, loving personality, Gavin stays calm during most crisis. Of course he minimizes his caregiver skills as, “Male caregivers are different, they can allow mess and confusion and worry about it later.” Definitely the way to deal with Alzheimer’s behaviors.
Gavin had a good understanding of the disease and himself. “Knowing my own personality, I’ve trained myself to see the bright side of any situation. This helps to cope as a caregiver. Instead of something being overwhelming, embarrassing, and sad it could just as easily be viewed as interesting, endearing, and humorous. I was lucky that Mother Dear was never abusive or nasty,” he says.
I also agree with Gavin’s assertion about arguments with Mother Dear. “Pick your Battles,” he says, “should be the motto of every caregiver.”
If you have a loved-one, relative or friend with Alzheimer’s, this book will take you through every Stage of Alzheimer’s and every Level of Dementia. The last section of the book is Gavin’s quest to find a good home for his mother when home-care is no longer sufficient. You’ll learn why and when constant-care may become necessary; the questions to ask, the choices to make. You can create a checklist of must-do’s while watching Gavin search for Assisted living, Memory Care, and finally a Nursing Home.
Gavin finds an excellent Assisted Living Home for Mother Dear and watches her flourish amid good friends and wonderful staff. The antics of some residents will make you laugh out loud as memory-loss evaporates long taught manners.
You’ll have moments of happy laughter and tears of immense sorrow as you follow Gavin and Mother Dear through the long descent into Alzheimer’s. It was a pleasure to read and share their journey and— to refine my position on men as caregivers. They can be Wonderful Caregivers!
Gavin Dougherty has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Siena and is a marketing consultant. With 25 years of experience writing and designing marketing communications materials, he began keeping a journal to document the daily ups and downs of caring for his mother who was affected by dementia. That diary, in large part, became Alzheimer’s Moments. You can follow at:
You can follow Gavin’s story and view photos at his Facebook page:
Gavin’s Blog reports the latest update for his mother and more: