The School project
You know you are deep in the throes of caring for someone with Dementia/Alzheimers when your middle school child announces that his school project is called “Pop Pop Finder.” When you have someone living with you who needs a great deal of care, it’s hard to look through the lens of how this changing family dynamic is affecting everyone in that person’s orbit.
taking care of others
From the time my children were born, we were always taking in people who needed help. When they were young, we had 3 blind young men with significant intellectual disabilities living with us. Both my children thought of these men as their brothers. They interacted with them as freely and openly as they did with anyone else. Because none of us were strangers to people who had needs different than our own, it seemed like no big deal to have my dad move in with us. The changing roles in the family turned out to be a bigger challenge than any of us expected.
Fast forward 11 years and my dad is living with us. I know what motivated my son deciding on the “Pop Pop Finder” project. Several weeks before, my father had gone out the front door for the first time without us. We didn’t notice that he was gone right away, yet when we did, there was a feeling of panic. In our backyard was a canal and from time to time, alligators were spotted out there. I wasn’t too worried about him being out front because we lived on a quiet street. My concern was him making his way out back where there were way more dangers. Luckily, we found him within minutes in a neighbor’s yard. I told myself I would be more vigilant and gave it no more thought until my son’s school project came up.
A heartwarming gesture
So back to the “Pop Pop Finder.” This seemingly minor incident had enough impact on our middle school son that he wanted to do something to make his grandfather safer. At the time, technology was not what it is today. My son came up with the brilliant idea to use key finders. They worked by whistling or clapping which caused the key finder to start beeping. He hid one of these “finders” in my dad’s wallet and jacket. They did help find my dad’s wallet once or twice, but unless you were within 20 or 30 feet they were not very effective. We all thought it was a great idea and the love behind it was especially heartwarming.
As simple as this project was, it made me realize how my children were affected by my dad being there; from that point on, I worked at being more aware and including them in any discussions about dad’s care when I could.
From the moment we are born, the role of a parent is defined as a caregiver and the child is the one being cared for. These roles for us switched almost overnight. When this switch in roles occurs, it does not only affect the adults in the home but has an impact on everyone. This shift in the household flow may not always be obvious. And as Dawne shared in an earlier post, it is important to give your feelings permission. Throughout your time as a caregiver, it is inevitable that you are all going to experience a range of emotions. The important thing is to share those feelings, keep communication open within the family, and get help when needed.
Focus on family
Remember, the struggles that you’re experiencing now won’t last forever. Though the initial process may be a challenge, time has a way of softening the edges. Allow yourself and your family space and time to adjust to the shifting relationships you are all experiencing.
A few points to consider:
- If you have children, are they inviting friends over less often?
- Is the family doing less together out of the home?
- Are your children given opportunities to talk about how they feel regarding changes in the home?
- Are their grades slipping?
- Do your children seem afraid or confused by the behavior of a loved one?
There is a wonderful resource called “Helping Children and Teens understand Alzheimer’s.” Alzheimer’s impacts every member of the caregiver’s family. This guide is a nice place to start the conversation about the disease itself. It can be very difficult to slow down enough to look around and evaluate how your new role in the family dynamic might be impacting others in your life.
Here are some tips on addressing family stress over caregiving:
- Consider a day program for seniors
- Have you children keep a journal about their feelings
- Make the school aware of the situation at home
- Schedule a fun activity out of the home if possible
- Have a family game night
- Look into respite care
- Find family or friends willing to step in for a couple of hours ♠
What about you? Have you faced family adjustments that you didn’t expect? Leave us a comment, or post in our Facebook group – we’d love to hear from you!