Living with Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease? Get Help with the Right Care Provider. When a loved one develops intermediate- or advanced-stage Alzheimer’s disease, decisions may need to be made quickly. For family members and family caregivers this can be a very difficult time because, let’s be honest, few of us are really prepared for all that will be necessary to care for a patient with Alzheimer’s.

We do our best, but we may make mistakes along the way. Complicating matters, we usually have our “regular” jobs to attend to in addition to the emotionally and physically challenging tasks of Alzheimer’s care. To help you cope and to give yourself a break, consider enlisting the assistance of paid caregivers (in home health care) as well as volunteer respite providers. You may also look for Alzheimer’s day care centers or daytime memory care facilities near you.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s disease became significantly worse very quickly and did not leave me with much time to find help. Suddenly we needed someone to be with her 24 hours a day. One day it was sufficient to have someone simply keep her company in the afternoons while I was at work. The next day… she couldn’t be left alone at all.

To make matters worse, I was traveling a lot for my job and it was very difficult for me to take time off.  Did I need to quit and look after my mother fulltime? That didn’t seem like the best solution. I’ve always loved my mother very much, but I’m not a professional caregiver. I needed to find someone who knew more about caregiving and Alzheimer’s than I did and who could make sure my Mom was well taken care of while I was working.

How to Choose the Right Person?

My first attempt to find a caregiver involved asking friends and acquaintances who I knew were involved in caring for their own parents. My neighbor recommended someone who had been assisting a friend’s grandmother. She had good references and was sensitive and attentive so I hired her. I took a few days off work to teach her how to care for my mother and how to handle certain behaviors and, after a while, I started leaving them alone together every afternoon. Each time I returned, I found my mom to be calm and happy. The caregiver was gentle, affectionate and energetic. She was nice to my mother and although she had never cared for a person with Alzheimer’s before, she seemed up to the task. Soon, I had a work trip that would take me away for a week and I thought both my mother and the caregiver were ready to handle my absence. But when I came home after the trip, I discovered my mother and the caregiver on the couch crying. The caregiver was crying because Mom didn’t remember her name. She had been hoping for affection, warmth and gratitude but my mother’s illness didn’t allow for those things. My mother was crying because she was scared and confused by the caregiver’s emotions. Soon I was near tears myself. This was not the kind of help I needed!

Our next caregiver was a little more experienced with providing in home health care for Alzheimer’s patients. She was also strong, sympathetic and cheerful. “This time,” I thought, “I’ve made the right choice.” Still, when I had to leave on another business trip I felt unsettled. Was my mother looking at her new caregiver strangely?

I returned home a day earlier than expected only to find my mother out in our street and very confused. She hadn’t taken her medications and her caregiver wasn’t paying her any attention.

So, on my third attempt to find an in home heath care provider, I took it much slower. I could not afford to make another mistake. Yes, I had to take time off from work to care for my mother while I interviewed new potential caregivers. But it was worth it. The next person I hired had extensive experience with Alzheimer’s disease patients and the things my mother did and said did not surprise her. Knowing my mother was in good hands, I was even able to go on business trips again.

Experience matters. I encourage anyone reading this to look for in home health care, a memory care facility, Alzheimer’s day care, or Alzheimer’s assisted living locations where the care providers are knowledgeable and experienced in the nuances of Alzheimer’s disease. And, of course, verify the individuals’ or facilities’ credentials. Your loved one is depending on you.

Need tips, information and techniques for managing behaviors, emotions, and the practicalities of caregiving for a loved one with chronic illness? How are you holding up? MyHealios can help.