Voices of Alzheimer's Caregivers: Part Three

Four Alzheimer's caregivers discuss the issues of daily living.

ByCARI NIERENBERG<br />ABC News Medical Unit
November 19, 2008, 12:19 PM

June 25, 2009&#151; -- This is part three of the transcript from a special roundtable discussion featuring Alzheimer's caregivers. In this section, the participants -- Alice, Maureen, Phyllis, and Joe -- talk about the challenges of daily living for a loved one with Alzheimer's, such as bathing and dressing.

PHYLLIS: I love playing med spy. Getting this person out of the room and going through the daily pill counter. And it's the only way we know whether or not they're taking their meds. ...We're sitting back hoping that they're taking their meds daily. They still live independently right now.

ALICE: See, my husband can't live independently. He couldn't do that. He couldn't even make himself a cup of tea.

PHYLLIS: That's our fear right now that it's coming close -- that living independently will be very short, at this point. So, trying to check in on them to confirm: Did they take their meds? Did they eat dinner? Did they do this? Did they do that? You know, not making it sound like we're mothering -- telling them what to do -- but trying to help guide them that little bit. But it's very difficult, right now, because we have no assurity that these things are happening.

JOE: The other problem I have is she won't take her medication.

MAUREEN: She won't take it?

JOE: She tries not to take it and I keep pursuing her to take it. She'll lie that she took it. Those are the two problems that I got -- the water, the showering and the medication…Other than that, I can handle it pretty well.

MAUREEN: The clothing? Getting dressed?

JOE: Oh, I lay out her clothes for her every day. One thing I learned is that she doesn't like to make decisions.

MAUREEN: That's how my mother is, too.

JOE: I lay out her clothes for her each day. If I didn't do that she would never dress up.

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JOE: [It's difficult] to get her to take a shower. She becomes another person.

Roundtable Discussion: Coping With Bathing, Dressing

ALICE: I've had that issue with my husband -- the showers. But now he doesn't want to take a shower. I've been able to talk him into sponge baths. I have to play my little game like, "Let me wash your face and neck." And then we keep going. But it's a mind game. And then I try to get him to shower maybe every week if I can, but at least he's getting sponge baths. But it's a battle for showers and baths.

MAUREEN: Why is it?

ALICE: I don't know.

JOE: It's common, I understand with Alzheimer's patients that they don't want to get the water.

MAUREEN: Is it a fear?

ALICE: No, he seems fine when he gets in it.

JOE: But it's not uncommon.

ALICE: I don't think he wants to bother taking the clothes off and all that.

JOE: My wife never lied to me, but she lies to me about taking a shower, like, "I just took one."

ALICE: Oh, he does. He'll just look at me straight in the eye and say, "I just took one."

MAUREEN: It's so amazing that there's so many similarities with the progression … with the clothes, with the shower.

ALICE: One thing I learned from a support group -- from going -- was about this man [whose] wife wouldn't take showers. Each day he would do a part of the body -- like in the whole week, he would get everything done. That's basically what I'm doing with my husband. I just do the top part one day, and I can talk him in to doing his feet because he's diabetic, and I've always done his feet every day -- washing them. But then I just keep going higher up.

MAUREEN: Whatever works. (Laughing.)

JOE: You know we can laugh at these things that we're discussing, but they're really not funny ... sometimes they're frustrating.

PHYLLIS: But we need to laugh, we need that chance to laugh. We need to. You know, it's a great stress reliever for us. Sometimes our loved ones will do something that's so quirky that you just can't help but laugh. I try to allow that time with our loved one to try to have a little laughter in our lives. It's too important for all of us.

Alzheimer's Caregiver Roundtable Topics


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