Dear Barb – Alzheimer’s

Dear Barb:

My 75-year-old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago. My father is 82 and not in good health. He has been taking care of my mother for the most part, but I don’t believe he will be able to continue this. This disease is talking a toll on my family members. I’m not sure if we should put my mother into a long-term care facility or continue to care for her at home. We are an independent family and my father is reluctant to go outside for help. I’m not sure if there is somewhere we could get additional help, so that we would be able to care for mom at home. My father would be grateful for any information you can provide us.

Monica – Cochrane AB

How unfortunate for your family to have received this diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia among older individuals. The risk for contracting this disease increases with age. About 5% of men and women aged 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s disease. And almost half of adults over the age of 85 may have it. Individuals usually live 8 to 10 years after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada has a series of brochures which are available online at As well, you can obtain these brochures through the local chapter of The Alzheimer Society.

When caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, a caregiver must be sensitive to the individual’s basic needs:
“¢ to feel stimulation,
“¢ to enjoy companionship,
“¢ to feel secure,
“¢ to feel self esteem,
“¢ to feel valued, and
“¢ to be treated with dignity and respect.

This is a disease that demands a lot from caregivers, as your family is realizing Monica. Therefore, it is important for caregivers to have breaks, where they take the time to care for their own needs. There are services to help you care for your mother at home for as long as possible. Some services you may be able to receive are homemakers and medical personnel, such as nurses, that will come into your home. In addition, day care services can be arranged for your mother.

The best way to find out if these services are available is to contact your local Alzheimer Society, which will be listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book.

You have a difficult road ahead of you Monica, but it is manageable. Remember to pace yourself and try to remain calm, as your mother will no longer be the person you remember.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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