Who’s being cared for anyway?

January 16, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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As I wrote yesterday, caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s tend to feel guilty even when there’s no good solution. Society itself causes problems. We have more medical knowledge about Alzheimer’s, but we don’t have the family and social resources to deal with it that we had a century ago, when we didn’t even know what to call it. We have to depend on institutions and social agencies because we have nowhere else to turn.

Still, that doesn’t mean that we family caregivers do everything right. Like those who are paid to care for Alzheimer’s patients, it’s easy for us to arrange things for our benefit, rather than for our loved one’s benefit. Maybe it’s good that we tend to feel guilty about institutionalizing our relatives, so that we can think long and hard about our motives first, even when it’s necessary.

Our society does not have healthy attitudes toward the elderly and the weak. What we do with them is often for our benefit, not for theirs. Even our previous article, Reasons to consider an Alzheimer’s care facility, uses words and phrases that I don’t want to use. They make me ask the question, “Who’s being cared for anyway: you or your loved one?” They make me wonder about the difference between caring for my grandmother and caring for my infant son.

  • “alternatives [to an Alzheimer’s care facility]… might not always be available.” – Boy, do I appreciate this dilemma. Many lower and middle income families do not have the financial resources to provide round-the-clock care for their loved one, but they have too many resources to qualify for government funds. So the common route in the United States is to use up all the relative’s money, then they can qualify for government-assisted institutional care. It would be cheaper for governments to provide assistance for home care, but too few do.
  • “…the memory loss is so great that family members are uncomfortable giving care” – I was uncomfortable giving care to my newborn son, but I needed to learn. Being uncomfortable with something is not a good reason in itself not to do it.
  • “…lose the ability to care for themselves” – My newborn son didn’t come with that ability, as far as I’m aware. I expect him to gain it over time, but until then, I don’t plan to put him in a home.
  • “Family members… spend lots of time worrying about whether they are doing things right.” – So do new parents. The solution to worry is to learn how to do things right, the best you can, not to stop doing them.
  • “incredibly difficult for a family to watch the day-to-day decline of a loved one” – Yes, it is. What do you think is the best way to learn to deal with it?

Understand, sometimes our loved ones do need to be in a care facility. There are sometimes good reasons. But I don’t think these are some of them.

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