Earlier this year, I attended a caregivers conference at the University of Minnesota. The morning keynote speaker was absolutely terrific — an engaging, informed speaker who was also funny and self-deprecating.
The speaker’s bio was also impressive. He was a physician, a teacher, an author as well as a long-time caregiver for his mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. The man knew his stuff. Yet, even with all of his education and experience, the speaker kept coming back to a central theme: All the planning in the world won’t prepare a person for becoming an Alzheimer’s caregiver.
Many reasons. The main factor is the disease itself: It is totally unpredictable.
I’m sure you know the well-worn saying, ‘If you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s, then you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s.” It’s often repeated for a reason.
Alzheimer’s, or whatever disease is destroying the brain, doesn’t follow a set pattern. Every journey is different and the disease takes twists and turns one never thought possible. Even the best physician or care expert cannot tell you how the disease will progress and how it will ultimately manifest in the person. The experts know only that the brain will continue to deteriorate .
Likewise, a care technique that works with one Alzheimer’s patient may not work on the next person. And, what was effective yesterday might not be tomorrow. Alzheimer’s disease shifts constantly.
So why don’t we simply give up?
Because that alternative is unacceptable. As caregivers, we have to keep learning, innovating and testing. When a technique doesn’t work, we attempt something else.
The conference speaker was right — being completely prepared is elusive. Yet, we still keep trying.
Photo from iStockPhoto