Being a disabled senior I do the best I can in trying to make my Dad's life easier for him. We lost my Gorgeous Mother to Alzheimer's 8/23/16 and Dad has not been the same. Long story short, Mom would not go into assisted living without my Father. My parents moved into an assisted living facility (and please check them thoroughly as we thought we had) Dad told us to sell the house, furnishings, take what we wanted of course and Dad never looked back.
The facility they moved to told them that they had an Alzheimer's unit and when Mom was ready to move to that unit they could care for her there. Hind sight is ALWAYS 20/20. While there were some awesome employees there, the majority of the employees were there only for a pay check and nothing else. When the time came that Mom needed 24/7 skilled care the facility told Dad we had 2 weeks to find her another place. With my family already being in a very emotional state of mind, this shattered us completely. My parents were private pay (thus the reason for selling their home), and then to be booted out like this when we were told they could care for her once she needed the Alzheimer's unit, this is unforgivable. I was traveling an hour multiple times per week trying to lighten Dad's load even while in Assisted living. Even paying thousands of dollars monthly for their care (all they did for Dad was administer his meds, nothing else) this was still very costly. I live on a very tiny fixed disability income so I have gone without many of the things I need to help make my parents last stage of life more comfortable. I am not complaining by any means and please don't misinterpret what I am saying. I would lay down and die for either of my parents if that would bring them back to live a long and healthy life for themselves.
We quickly located a nice Alzheimer's facility for Mom to live out the rest of her life and Dad insisted in moving into a normal apt complex. (Dad will be 93 in December). Dad is a very stubborn man and at times very difficult to deal with. However, my brothers found him a nice apt community to move to (which was a lot less financially) and I got together the things he would need to live independently again. Dad (and I) are still grieving the loss of my Mother tremendously. I always try to be strong for Daddy but so many times I sit and cry for hours missing my Gorgeous Angel Mom.
Dad had to relent and allow us to help him when he moved into a regular apt complex. I still drive the hour drive up there and the hour back. For months I was doing his laundry and taking back to him, cleaning his apt and cooking for him. I would either do his shopping or take him where he needed to go, doctor, grocery shopping or just get out for a while. Again, I am not complaining. My sister-in-law is now doing his laundry which has taken a lot off of me and my brother is getting Dad to doctor appts and his shopping. I still do the bulk of his cooking (frozen dinners) is about all Dad can handle on his own and he is a tremendous fall risk. He has just recently been released from medical care from fractures in his spine AGAIN. I clean his apt and I do everything humanly possible that I can do for him with my limited physical ability and my very low income. I call him several times a day to remind him to take meds (Dad is still pretty much mentally in tact) so that is a plus.
In one of the few private conversations my Gorgeous Mother and I had while alone I promised her I would take care of Daddy and I am doing the best I can. Again, I am not complaining; not one bit but I will go without the things I need to do for my Dad because I know should Dad draw his last breath before I do, I will have no regrets. I have made these choices for what I can do to make Daddy's life easier and I would not have it any other way. Brought up as a Christian we learned that we do whatever we can to help others and God will take care of our needs. For anyone out there feeling they can't do anything due to their personal situations in life, please allow me to offer a few suggestions.
Pick up the phone and call and just chat. If you cannot understand what your loved one is saying just go along with their conversation (especially if they are Alzheimer's or Dementia). They just want to be heard and if you try and bring them back to the present because that confuses them more. Mom often told me she wanted her Daddy (he died in 1979). I told her he was about to get off work and would be there soon. That satisfied her and of course she forgot about it.
Send lots of cards either through the mail or in person. They love receiving mail and if they are bright and colorful they will hold them and look at them for hours. Especially if there are animals on them.
Open the blinds and let them people watch outside. If they are able to go outside get them out in the fresh air. This will also get them around other people. They need this interaction just as we do.
Many, if not all facilities will have Bingo. Take them to these functions even though they have no clue what is going on. Play their cards for them and hopefully win so they can get a little prize. Oh, how this brightens their day.
With Mom I took in 3 of my daughter's dolls that had been packed away for decades. When Mom would melt down because she couldn't get her words out and was frustrated I would grab the dolls and sing Playmate come out and play with me.....Sometimes it took longer than other times but we could bring her back from the melt downs in most cases.
On the really bad days Mom had and I felt the tears about to fall, I would 'go out and find the aide and get her some apple sauce, ice cream, etc just so Mom wouldn't see me cry.
Go to the dollar store and pick out a cute, soft stuffed animal. Mom would name them and would hold on to them a large part of her waking hours and always showing them to everyone that came in. It's the little things that make the biggest differences in their lives.
The most important thing to remember is even when your loved one cannot respond and they look very distant, THEY CAN STILL HEAR AND UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. THEY JUST CAN'T RESPOND!!! Please be careful what is said in front of them. I have a strong medical background and I thank GOD for that knowledge.
Remember that you are on very limited time with your loved one. Savor every single moment that you can. Make the most out of every moment you have with them. Take lots of pictures and videos. Trust me, you will be so thankful to have those memories captured to reflect back to.
These are the things I have found to be the best and most productive when caring for an elderly parent. I want NO sympathy for what I am about to say next. I am a senior disabled lady. I have disabilities in both legs (left leg will never bend again) and I have to hobble on the outside of the right foot which makes hobbling a little challenging at times, I also have a disability in my right wrist and I have some medical issues. Yes of course doing these things for my Mother and now my Father it does inflict high pain levels but that is a small price to pay to know I've made my parents life somewhat better. While I realize not everyone can push through their pain and that is ok. Don't beat yourself up. Send a card, make phone calls, take a stuffed animal to your loved one. It doesn't take a lot to cheer them up. And try hard not to be upset if your loved one does not remember you. With Alzheimer's/Dementia or just plain old age, this is bound to happen. Softly tell them who you are and ask if you can just sit and chat for a while. Hold their hand, caress their hands, arms etc to allow them to see you are there to love them.
Every case can be different so please those who have encountered these situations post what has worked for you. The battles you have won in calming your loved one down and the battles you have lost in trying. You will not win every battle but do the best you can. And please, please remember that if you are a full time caregiver, TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. If you burn out you cannot be of benefit to your loved one. It's ok to walk away for a while and get yourself back where you need to be. Please don't feel guilty. It's extremely difficult caring for an aging parent so always allow time for yourselves.
To everyone who has traveled this journey, those traveling this journey now and to those who have not yet reached this journey, find an outlet that you can escape to for "me" time and prayerfully you will be able to balance everything out. My heart felt love and prayers are with each and every one of you.