Alzheimer's blog

Help, support crucial for caregivers

By Angela Lunde November 3, 2007

I facilitate a men's caregiving support group. Twice a month 5 to 10 male caregivers gather around a table finding support in one another at a time when it can feel like no one understands. It is here they find companionship when isolation can be a problem. The men listen and learn from one another.

I remember Joe. Joe had been a caregiver for his wife in their own home since her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Joe frequently looked to the men in the group for answers to the difficult situations that impact all caregivers. I imagine Joe was apprehensive at first, as are many men.

He was a quiet and reserved gentleman and probably felt most comfortable handling his affairs privately. But somehow Joe found his way to the group and continued to come for several years.

I clearly recall valuable lessons that Joe taught all of us. He reminded us that to care for a person with dementia meant helping them to maintain their personal identity and sense of dignity. I remember Joe telling the group that when it came time for him to help his wife with her hair, makeup, and clothing, it was important that he do it 'just right' because his wife was always particular about that sort of thing.

And when Joe started looking at day programs for her to attend so he could have a break, he looked for a place that was "pretty" because Joe said his wife always liked the things around her to be pretty. For Joe, caring for his wife meant respecting her for the person she had been and the person she was at any given time.

What I valued most in my time with Joe was observing the transformation that took place within him. Over time, he learned something very important in the lives of caregivers. Joe accepted that asking for help and support was not the same thing as being needy or dependent.

He recognized that it was only by asking for help and making use of available resources that he could provide his wife the best possible care. Joe is a reminder of the humble and caring act of accepting help.

Nov. 03, 2007