Alzheimer's blog

Tips for caregivers facing painful decisions

By Angela Lunde February 22, 2011

I'm so pleased to read your posts and see how much caring, understanding, and unconditional support penetrates through this online community of friends.

I want to make a quick plug for any of you who can make a trip to St. Paul. Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer's Association will host a conference called "Meeting of the Minds" on Saturday, March 19.

The conference for families and friends of those with dementia, healthcare professionals, as well as persons with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia is one of the largest in the country.

A link to the brochure and on-line registration can be found in the Resources tab above. If any of you do attend, please introduce yourself to me. What a treat it would be to meet you face to face!

A couple weeks ago, Richard and Dan posted on the blog.  They each spoke about the painful decision they recently made to move their wife to a care facility. In their own way, they each wrote about how they've found peace within themselves to not only accept the reality of this progressive disease, but to humbly accept their limitations as a caregiver. As Dan shared, "When it gets too much ... you have to give in to get the best for the affected. Now I will be able to visit, and (truly) enjoy the time."

And then there is Andrea, who is caring for her mom at home. She seems well aware of the sacrifices she's taking on in so many ways. Yet, she continues the journey and finds a small sense of renewal when she and her mom share a laugh — a reminder that there is still a connection.

Similar to the decision to use medications in dementia, the decision to care for someone at home or move them to a care facility is incredibly personal — neither choice fits every situation. For some, there's no choice. But one thing's generally true; caregivers endure painful decisions and feel guilty no matter what.

Whether you're caring for someone at home, or have moved them to a care facility, here are 5 simple messages that may serve you from time to time:

  • Learn to separate what you can and can't control — many things are simply out of your hands.
  • Do all you can and then let it go.
  • Make a decision and don't look back — believe you made the best decision you could at the time.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Remember, we feel guilty because we love.

"Care-providing presents us with the challenge of a lifetime, and the hardest task many of us will ever face. But the extraordinary circumstances in which it places us are also opportunities to open up new frontiers in human development and understanding."

— Lela Knox Shanks, author of "Your Name is Hughes Hannibal Shanks — A Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's"

Feb. 22, 2011