Alzheimer's caregivers should seek help, too

Posted: July 09, 2012

DEAR ABBY: My mother's Alzheimer's became apparent after she was in a car accident. I should have noticed the signs earlier, but I didn't. Her body recovered, her mind did not.

I built a new house with a separate suite for her. My wife and I tried to care for her for a year, but I'm disabled and Mom was afraid of my wife. There was never a moment's peace. Fearing for our collective health, I finally placed Mom into an assisted living facility. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.

My children criticized me but offered no alternatives. I visited her as often as possible. Mom died in 2007 after 10 years in the facility. The last few years she didn't know me from a doorknob. Her disease left my wife and me drained emotionally and financially. I still feel guilty for not doing more. The look of fear on her face haunts me still. Is this normal for someone in my circumstances?

— Only Child in Florida

DEAR ONLY CHILD: Yes, it's very common. I'm sorry for your mother's passing and the difficult years your family experienced.

Given the progressive nature of Alzheimer's, it can be extremely taxing and affect the physical, mental and financial health not only of the person with the disease, but also his or her caregivers. Moving your mother into a residential facility was a way to ensure she got the care she needed and take care of yourself at the same time.

It's important for caregivers to get help. If you need to talk to someone about your feelings, call the Alzheimer's Association toll-free helpline at 800-272-3900, or visit alz.org online.

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