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    Posted March 18, 2011 by
    District of Columbia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    What I Know: Alzheimer's disease

    More from JPR11

    Alzheimer's Slide - Prepare for Combat (Part 3)


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JPR11 says he and his wife have tried to avoid being overwhelmed when taking care of his mother-in-law who has Alzheimer's.
    - madisonCNN, CNN iReport producer

    In the first article in this series we shared a little about Peggy before she was stricken with Alzheimer’s. In the second installment we discussed the need for caregiver support and some of our experiences. In this article we will share our experiences when we reached the point where Peggy became a bit paranoid and combative.

    As discussed previously, Peggy could no longer understand why she needed to take any sort of medication. My best guess is she thought somebody was trying to poison her. Even hiding her medication in food was not a guarantee we could get her to take it. Sometimes she would recognize that something was in the food and simply spit it out or refuse to eat or drink. It was not easy to deal with this situation and I don’t have any great advice. What worked for us one day might not work the next day. You just have to be creative and patient.

    Even before reaching this point, we had removed all sharp knives and placed them in cabinets well above Peggy’s ability to reach them. You need to start thinking about kid-proofing the house. However, this is a really big kid. Just as you would not allow things like household cleaners to be in reach of a toddler, now you need to keep them away from a fully grown adult. Peggy no longer seemed to understand what things were safe or appropriate to eat. She might put anything in her mouth.

    Peggy had enough awareness at this point in the regression that she would lash out in some manner if things were not going her way. She might start cussing at a caregiver. She might throw an elbow if you got too close. She would attempt to bite, hit, and kick. This was physically the most challenging stage of the disease. I considered this a particularly dangerous time for all of Peggy’s caregivers. I am much larger than my wife and Peggy. So, I could generally constrain her arms if necessary. But, you really had to be careful.  As a result of this experience I have let my wife know that she should not even think about caring for me during this stage of dementia. I hope I never develop the disease. But, if I do and if I behave like Peggy did during this stage, I think it would be very dangerous for a home caregiver.

    Care for Peggy was becoming increasingly personal. We needed to hold her hands to guide her to the table, to the bathroom, etc. This was a good opportunity for her to kick. I managed to move my leg as she tried to kick me while I was standing in front of her trying to help her ascend some stairs. She ended up kicking the stair so hard that she broke her toe.

    She was reaching the stage where she could no longer go to the bathroom by herself. Someone had to clean her and place a diaper on her. She could not brush her teeth. As an aside, you need to be very careful helping an Alzheimer’s patient brush or floss his/her teeth. You could easily lose part of a finger. Getting her to spit after brushing her teeth didn’t always work. Sometimes it was more of a dribble. On other occasions she simply swallowed. Consider using a child’s toothpaste when you reach this point.

    Peggy increasingly had insomnia. We would find her roaming the house at 3:00 in the morning. One night, the front door was open and she was standing there looking out the doorway. We had already experienced some minor wandering and we grew concerned that we would wake up one morning and not be able to find her. A little research and we purchased a passive IR detector from RadioShack. We placed it such that anytime she went beyond her bedroom or bathroom an alarm would sound in our bedroom. We simply switched it off during the day. A little technology provided us substantial relief. We could rest without worry that she might wander out of the house. This worked for about six months, then she reached the point where she was unable to get out of bed without assistance. No alarm needed at that point.


    Next we will discuss imaginary friends and old memories.

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