This is one of the few most endearing posts that I’m writing all because it’s about my parents who love me most dearly and whom I love and miss very, very much. Being so far away from home is always a pain especially when they are not feeling well. Being able to spend time with them for 2 solid weeks recently was a most wonderful experience that I will deeply cherish forever. It’s always wonderful to be with them.
As mentioned in my previous post, Taking Care Of The Elderly - Simple And Easy Natural Cure, both my mom and dad are 80 years old and my mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease while my dad is suffering from poor health. Mom’s Alzheimer is actually quite bad because she can’t remember me….my name or the fact that I’m her daughter. I had to tell her of my young days to help her to recall. Yet she will often deny that I’m her daughter. She can’t actually remember any of us siblings. She told my sister that she picked up a beautiful lady who is very sweet and good on the way and adopted her as her daughter. My sister asked where is she and she pointed at me!!!!…..haha. We really had a very good laugh.
My parents stay with my youngest brother who is not married. My other brothers and sisters are all living in other towns. My eldest sister has been trying very hard to persuade them to live with her but my mom refuses and my dad is still worried about my brother. She still thinks of the old house (our first house which is already in very bad shape) and still wants to ‘go back’ everyday. Dad really had a hard time arguing with her everyday, trying to persuade and explain to her but to no avail. So you can imagine the situation everyday. They stress each other out. That’s what an Alzheimer’s patient is like….very good memories of things of long ago and very short memories of things more recent.
I must say that Alzheimer’s disease is a very cruel disease. I didn’t know about Alzheimer’s disease until a few years back and never bother to know it in further details. Heard about it, saw it a couple of times on TV and that’s all about it. But then when it happens to my mom, this cruel disease suddenly became a gigantic issue. And without much knowledge about it, my attempt to help her was obviously a hit and miss endeavour. It was too late to read up. I have to gear up and use what little knowledge that I know about Alzheimer’s disease and some important principles of life that work in any normal human relationships.
So what is Alzheimer’s Disease? It’s a brain disease that slowly causes memory loss and deteriorates over time and it affects daily thinking and work. You can read more about it at What is Alzheimer’s Disease? I think it’s important that everyone is informed of this dreadful disease to be well prepared ahead just in case anyone in the family suffers from it and knows what to do. Great if no one in the family suffers from it but we can also help friends who may be going through tough times with someone at home who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. I have been telling my daughters all that I did and this post will be one that they can always refer to when there’s a need.
I joked to my children that should one day (pray not) I suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, just surround me with lots of cookbooks and kitchen gadgets! Make sure I have good eye sight, too. Oh, but make sure I don’t burn down the house…haha.
Important Principles Of Life
I was a high school Math teacher for many years and head of the children’s church in my church for about 6 years. There are some principles of life which I have used over and over again to much success in getting the results that I look for, both at home, work and in church. But will it work with an Alzheimer’s patient? I have yet to see.
Mom is like going through her second childhood. If I can treat her like a little kid and come down to that level, I believe my method is going to work. So here it goes with what I did during my 2 weeks with my parents, working hand in hand with my mom and dad. It’s important that it works because then dad and everyone at home can use the same method. I’m sure the list is endless but in the 2 short weeks, that’s all that I could do.
Love Faith Hope
The first and greatest principle of life is love. Nothing succeeds without love. Love is the essence of any relationship, and passion drives you to achieve. It is love that motivates me to spend time with my parents to help them in their circumstances, constantly hoping that each day will be a better day for them and having the faith that they will co-operate and believe that they can do it. Without a strong love in the first place, I know I couldn’t do it.
I feel very inspired by the many bloggers and friends who commented in my previous post or emailed me about how they loved and took care of their parents until they passed away while some are still taking care of their elderly parents or even grandparents. That really warms my heart!
My dad had shown us a great example himself. I saw it with my own eyes how he took great care of my grand parents in their old age….cleaning up back sores, feeding them, talking to them lovingly, cleaning them up, carrying them into the car to go and see doctors etc etc. Indeed a lot of things that children learn are caught rather than taught. We always say, “actions speak louder than words” or “walk the talk”.
People can feel it when we love genuinely. My parents could feel it. I could see that my mom smiles each morning when she sees me and she wants to stay close to me. She told me that she’s only happy if I don’t leave her…..awwwww!!! That’s so very sweet of her! It was really heart-breakng to have to leave her and dad to return to Scotland. But I will be seeing them again soon. This I promised them. Each day I call I remind them of my promise.
Give Incentives And Rewards
Incentives and rewards work like magic in kids…..even adults. Ever see those sweet smiles when people receive something, even a small thing? Even big companies gives incentives and rewards (bonuses) so that employees will work harder and stay longer in the company. It’s really not how expensive the incentives and rewards are but it’s the thought and appreciation that counts.
If we want good behaviour in kids or want them to do something, we often give them incentives and then reward them for doing it. Doing it every now and then will reinforce good behaviour and help them to perform and achieve their goals. It’s the same with an Alzheimer’s patient.
Mom loves food so I buy some of her favourite food for tea time to share with dad as incentives and rewards.
I even bought her an exercise book and a pen for her to write. I told her that I like her Mandarin handwriting and reminded her how she used to write stuff. She smiled. She can see quite well but not when comes to writing small words. Her hand was a little unsteady. She tried her best to write but gave up as she didn’t like her handwriting now. I did not push further just in case I discouraged her. However she likes the book and pen. It reminds her of her younger days when she was good at writing. I wrote a church song for her in the book in big writings and asked her to read for me. Like a child she was very happy to do it. Of course she gets lots of praise from me.
Constant Praise And Encouragement
Praise and encouragement lift a person’s joy and desire to reach goals and expectations. Like a little child, an Alzheimer’s patient would love to do what you ask them to do when being constantly praised and encouraged. I believe every parent, teacher and carer needs to get into the habit of being generous with praise and encouragement and of course I mean genuine praise and encouragement.
I talked about mom’s past achievements and praise her for doing things well. I constantly encourage her when she does the right thing. Yes, she may forget but I just keep doing it.
I told her not to ask to go home to the old house by explaining to her the reason. I told her I may fall through and then I can’t play with her. She nodded her head. I told her that she is very good when she doesn’t do it. I would tell dad and my sister how good she is for not saying that. You can see a smile slowly grow on her face.
I also told her not to keep calling dad when he’s taking a shower. I explained that she may stress him out and he may fall as the floor is slippery. She always promised but then she forgot again the next day. But each time dad went into the shower room, I reminded her my request and tell her that I believe she won’t call dad cos she loves him. I would keep praising her and tell her that I’m really happy because she’s doing the right thing. She would smile and say she won’t do it again. She may forget but never mind, keep reinforcing it.
Everyday I would remind her not to call me too when I was taking a shower. But she always forgot. Then one day I decided to ask her to do something to distract her attention. I asked her to take care of my bag, telling her that I have important stuff inside. She was so happy and sat in front of my bag to take care of it. But then I forgot it can be very boring. But she is smarter. She tied the left-over coconut rice roll (pulut panggang) from our tea time, to my bag. When I came out of the shower, I was totally amused and laughed. When she saw me laugh, she laughed too.
Like kids, an Alzheimer’s parient love to be involved in activities. I got mom to exercise together, counting 1 to 10 when doing each set of simple exercises. She loves it. I taught her to do leg and hand exercises…simple stretching. She enjoyed the counting, too. We did it together. It was fun and amusing!
I also got her involved with cooking, like separating vegetable leaves, making noodles, etc. She really enjoyed it and was smiling while doing it. The picture here shows her separating the noodle strands after I cut them while the maid pulled them into long thin strands. This is real hand-pulled noodles. They were both enjoying it. Even the maid had fun!
Mom loves following me around in the kitchen. I told her I would cook her favourite food, those that she used to cook for us and that I needed her help. There were times when she was supposed to be resting but she didn’t want to. She wanted to help. I was totally happy to see that she was happy. I believe it gave her a sense of self worth. We all need that, right? So does she!
Humor And Laughter
Laughter is the best medicine. Children laugh a lot but sadly as people grow up, many lose that essence of laughter. We need to learn to laugh more. It’s very therapeutic. My parents and I had lots of good laugh together. For years my parents have not really laughed. I think lonely people hardly laugh, and so do depressed and hurting people. They have forgotten the power of laughter. Laughter is good for health. I had a great time laughing with them and making them laugh. They look so adorable when they laugh!
2 things that make my mom laugh…all the time. Dad had a hard time with her each time she says to wants to go home (to the old house). Nothing so far worked. She would pack her clothing and insist that she wants to go home otherwise she would get real mad. That’s what really stressed dad. I tried to tell her that the house is so old and the wood is quite rotten. I told her that I love to play at the open big verandah but with my size now and the weak wooden structure, I would fall through with a BIG BANG! I acted it out and she would laugh and laugh. She thinks it’s so funny.
But that didn’t convince her. She still asked to go home. So I decided to go and take a look at the house with my sister-in-law. Then returned to tell her that I actually went to take a look and it was really bad and not safe to live in. She believed me and told me that in that case we need to ask someone to go and repair. I told her it’s not worth repairing any more and that it would be very costly to repair. She looked convinced. So each time she asked to go home, I acted out my silly falling through the verandah and she would laugh and laugh and then tell her it’s too expensive to repair.
Dad soon learned the trick and learned to explain to her gently instead of getting upset and stressed out. It worked. I found them talking to each other in low tones (dad explaining with utter patience) like 2 love birds…haha.
The other thing that makes her laugh was when she makes me laugh. I would tell her that I’m so happy that my tail fell off and show her my back side…no tail there!…haha. She would laugh and laugh and then tell me that it’s not nice to say things like that…haha. I would laugh more and then we had fun laughing together!
Keep Your Promise
Never break any promise. I make sure that I tell the truth and don’t break promise. The best is not to make a promise if you are not sure if you can keep it. If I tell her I would take her out, I would do it. She would be waiting. Keeping my promises build trust and I want her to trust me and believe what I say is good for her so that she would do it.
I tried to keep her expectation high and having something to look forward to, so each day I would tell her in advance what I would do for her or get for her. Then I would mention a few times to her throughout the day to remind her so that she won’t forget. That was exciting to both of us. That sounds like planning ahead!
Touch is a very tangible way of showing love. From birth to old age, touch is an important integral part of life. My girls are grown up but every now and then they will come to me and say, ‘Mom, I want a hug from you!’ Awwww…how sweet! I will always squeeze them tight and they love it. Very often I give them a slight spanking to let them know they are still small and adorable in my heart!
I held mom’s hand whenever I can and she really likes it. Whenever she is sitting and resting, she wanted me to sit next to her and hold my hand. Sometimes I fell asleep on the sofa and she would come to me and put my legs on her lap! Sometimes she would disturb me to wake me up to talk to her! One day when she saw me in the morning, she came over and gave me a big hug! That was such a good hug from my mom!
Always have something interesting to share and do. I love telling mom and dad stories that happen around, even stories about my life here in Scotland. I also told them of our naughty stories when we were young. They will happily join in. I had much fun illustrating and making them laugh….haha. In turn they have lots of stories to share with me, too. When we do that, each day passes very fast and they don’t feel lonely.
I even told mom and dad about my dream to start a club one day for the elderlies with healthy delicious food and also various interesting activities for them. It would be a place of relaxation and fun. My dad was so excited and added on to my stories by giving me lots of good ideas. We had fun dreaming about it together. Hope my dream comes true one day!
Knowledge of a person and circumstances is important. Knowledge about what an Alzheimer’s patient is is important…what she thinks and how she responses. Without knowledge, both parties will get hurt and be stressed out. Both would want to climb up the wall!
It’s important to know something about her life……her likes and her dislikes, and things that provoke her to anger. I need to know the areas that I can dwell on and emphasise and also the areas that I should avoid.
I know my mom well so it becomes easier for me. It would be hard to employ a carer to care for them cos the very essence of love and knowledge is not there. We have a live-in maid to take care of them. She is very good I must say. I’m very impressed by the way she takes care of my parents……cooks for them, washes and cleans. But that’s all. That’s what a carer does most of the time…meeting the physical needs. But it’s the emotional needs that need to be taken care off. The best person is one’s own children. But sadly this is not happening these days.
Mom and dad used to tell us about other people’s family stories. I always remember them telling us that ‘2 parents are able to take care of 12 children but 12 children are unable to take care of 2 parents’! That’s such a hard and strong message. They have sacrificed so much for us and it’s very important we make sacrifices for them, too.
Stay Cool All The Time
I know it’s not easy to stay cool all the time. But also remember that the moment you lose your cool, you lose the battle and you have to start all over again. Keep your voice low in any tense situation. Explain in gentle voice. It’s easier to stay positive when you stay cool.
I must say that dad is the coolest person that I have met. He hardly gets angry. And the fact that he is married to a firecracker wife is just absolutely amazing. When mom gets angry, dad will still smile to her and talk to her gently! Sadly, I didn’t inherit his genes for that, maybe only partly! My husband knows…haha. I won’t smile and I don’t talk to angry people. I don’t have as much patience as dad. I just think talking to angry people is a pure waste of time.
But I realise that with so much patience, dad had come to the point where he couldn’t take it. He became very frustrated and stressed up. Alzheimer’s patients are very difficult to handle. Without proper knowledge how to handle them, there will be constant quarrelling and fighting in the house. It will be more stress, sickness and quicker deterioration of health.
There was a couple of occasions when mom was very angry. She remembered some bad incidences. Her face frightened me. I never like to look into angry faces. They freak me out! I usually just walk away. But when mom did that, I couldn’t just walk away. I was taken by utter surprise at the sudden outburst. I took her hand, looked at her in the eyes and with a soft voice told her that she really frightened me, putting my hands to my chest. To my surprise she immediately toned down, put her hand to my chest and told me not to be afraid. She said she won’t do it again! Whao…that’s like a miracle to me!
Know the types of food that are good for the elderlies including Alzheimer patients and also the type of food that they like. Mom loves to eat, so cooking is easy. But I chose to cook all the food that she cooked for us when we were young. Of course it’s not as delicious as hers but she was really happy to have them. It’s something the maid doesn’t know how to cook and you can’t get it outside in the shops. By cooking all those food, I have lots to talk to her……about my childhood and my growing up years and the many interesting things that we did or the things that she did for me.
I cooked quite a number of dishes which I will share in another post.
Support From Others
It’s important that support from others, especially family members, is always there otherwise it can be very taxing for the carer. Dad is my greatest support, working alongside me with much patience to learn together how to take care of mom effectively. Dad told me that he has never heard of mom say that she’s happy. So he was totally amazed that mom would tell me everyday that she’s happy. I just feel so pleased that my effort paid off.
My eldest sister also gave me lots of support and is now taking care of mom and dad. She said it’s so much easier to take care of them now. She’s a wonderful sister to me. She really pampers me even until today. She’s very motherly and very caring. I really love and look up to her very much.
Get Out Of The House
Being out of the house is very refreshing. Like kids, an Alzheimer’s patient loves to be out of the house if possible. My sister and I took our parents out to the coffee shop for light breakfast every morning. All along in life they love going to the coffee shop. So even though they are weak we still try our best to bring them there. That makes them very happy. Of course I was also very happy because I love to sit in coffee shops too. Over here we don’t have those like in Malaysia so I often go to MacDonalds or Starbucks to sit and read. I find it very refreshing when there’s a change of environment.
Taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient is similar to taking care of a kid. With some simple knowledge and some simple skills coupled with the basic principles of life, we can achieve good success in taking care of the elderly including those who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m really glad that I had achieved a good amount of success. Mom and dad are happy and so is my sister. I’m of course the happiest. It’s a breakthrough in my family. I have learned a lot this trip. Keep Learning Keep Smiling!
Back To Scotland
I have been calling mom and dad everyday since I came back. It really pleases me to know that they are adjusting well in my sister’s place. Every time I call, mom would ask me when will I be going back to see her. That’s really heart breaking! I’m keeping my promise to go back again soon to see her.
The latest news…….dad has been admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and other health problems. It’s really sad and worrying because of his age. We have been praying for him and hope he recovers fast. Appreciate your understanding very much if I am not really visiting your blog. I have not forgotten. Thanks very much for visiting my blog and also all lovely comments. Hope everyone is having a lovely day!
Quote of the day…..
“The most important in health is never to lose heart.”