As a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society for seven years and having cared for a spouse with Alzheimer’s, I have seen and experienced first hand how providing care for someone living with dementia takes a tremendous toll on the physical and emotional health of the caregiver.
In my work facilitating support groups and assisting in workshops, I have seen how caregivers often set their own needs aside and hope that if they don’t think about it, the stress might just go away. I also have noticed fatigue and people reaching the end of their ropes in terms of patience.
There are many types of dementia. Healthy human brains have billions of brain cells (neurons) that communicate with each other through neural pathways like long arms and legs that reach out to touch each other. When there is damage to the cells, the ability to communicate is impaired, resulting in symptoms of dementia. Those symptoms worsen over time, and the changes that occur in the brain cannot be reversed. Symptoms can include memory loss, difficulty thinking and performing daily activities, and changes in judgment, reasoning, emotions, communication, and behavior.
My husband had Alzheimer’s for many years. He continued to live at home until I could no longer look after him, and he was placed in a long-term care home until his death in 2018. It was a difficult journey.
Over time, as I visited my husband in the care home, the visits became more emotional and difficult. He did not recognize me and would not allow me to help at meal times. At the end of my visits, I would pray with him, thanking the Lord for the great care he was receiving at the home. I would push him down the hallways in his wheelchair, singing familiar hymns that he seemed to like, and he would give a timid smile.
God kept me strong in those days and walked me through this unknown valley. Before my husband was moved to the care facility, God supported me with friends who would offer to stay with my husband so that I, his caregiver, could go out. My faith and trust in God supplied me in the most unique instances, for which I am so grateful every day.
My heart and prayers go out to each of you who is a caregiver. I have found that our suffering brings us nearer to God. I pray God remains with us always. Lift up your prayer, and he will offer you his everlasting love.