My Dad lived with Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years. He passed on three months ago at the age of 94. As I look back at the choices I made for him over the years as his primary caregiver, there are some things I would do differently now. But there are also many things I’m glad I did because I believe they made a real difference in Dad’s abilities, comfort and quality of life—and also made it easier for us to care for him. These are things I would absolutely do again.
1. Getting early diagnosis and treatment … and sticking with it
Dad’s doctor evaluated his memory concerns and started him on a medication to help with the symptoms very early in the progression of the disease. The generic drug did not work for him, so he always took the brand-name version. Twice, when we stopped the medication, his abilities went downhill fast, so we started it back up. But he never regained all the abilities he had lost.
Medication may not be as effective for everyone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but for Dad it was crucial. I advocated strongly with his doctors and hospice to ensure he continued to take it until he died.
2. Gradually increasing support
Throughout the years Dad lived with Alzheimer’s, I broke down his daily activities into steps and focused on his strengths rather than deficits.
Whether managing finances, organizing and taking medications, cooking, shopping, doing housework and laundry, dressing, bathing, exercising or toileting, we encouraged him to do anything he was able to do, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.