If someone with Alzheimer’s has an illness or accident, it can be a trying time for the patient and the caregiver. No matter how well you monitor their behavior or actions or visitors, accidents happen and germs spread. The odds are, they will be sick or injured at some time while under your care!
Mom had the sniffles a couple times and we dealt with her arthritic knee more times than I care to remember, which I’ve spoken of many times here. That knee was a constant pain to mom, and me. We wrapped it, heated it, froze it, salved it and soaked it. We tried anything we could think of to stop the constant ache in that knee– but ache it did despite all our efforts. Her Physician said there was nothing he could do that wouldn’t cause her more pain than she already endured. Fortunately, Mom seemed to accept it as a fact of life, without question.
Mom was not so accepting of her 82 year-old skin that hung in fleshy ripples on her arms. That drove her to anger every morning as soon as she awoke. Since she didn’t remember her age, neither did she remember her aging skin from the day before.
Mom was fascinated by these wrinkles and would hold her arm aloft and shake the loose skin. Her thought was that she was shriveling away and no matter how many times I told her otherwise, she would ask me about it every 10 minutes. “Why am I shriveling,” she would say. “Do I need to eat more? My skin just hangs.”
Mom eventually forgot her loose skin, though she did remember the mean arthritis that settled in her knee for as long as she lived. I guess when something causes you so much pain for so long, you don’t forget it easily. But every morning was a new day with her skin until her mind wound slowly backwards into her youth, and she no longer thought of her old skin. She didn’t like it one bit but no longer thought she was shriveling and dying from lack of food.
The most difficult illness for Mom, and me as her caregiver, was something as simple as Vertigo. I’d heard the word and knew it meant dizzy, but had no idea what a sad impact it could have on someone with memory loss.
When Mom had a spell of Vertigo, it literally looked like someone grabbed her arm and slung her to the floor. She had no warning (at least none that she recognized as a warning) or control. If she wasn’t near a chair or something to break her fall, she went sprawling to the floor. The doctor wrote a prescription but could not guarantee the spells would stop right away since Mom had issues with her inner ear. So we bought a walker.
- To our way of thinking– it would prevent a serious fall since Mom would be able to catch herself by holding on to the walker.
- To Mom’s way of thinking–a walker was for old and handicapped people and she was neither. As soon as she stood upright from being tossed to the floor by a Vertigo spin, she simply forg0t it happened.
She thought we were quite ridiculous for suggesting that she might need a walker. For two days I stayed on “High Alert” near her side every minute, ready to “catch” if she was thrown to the floor. Finally, the medicine began to work and the Vertigo spells became farther apart until they were finally gone.
As caregivers, we do the best we can. We can’t kill all germs, they may occasionally get sick. We can’t control an illness such as dizziness, they may fall. We can’t stop their aging aches and pains, though we certainly wish we could. Without guilt, we do the very best we can to keep them happy and safe and comfortable and loved. And that’s all we can do.
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