How do I balance my time with the time I need to give to caring for my mother with Alzheimer's?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 16, 2010
Jw812 asked...

I recently quit my full time job to care for my mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. How can I balance being with her and doing my own chores? I give her as many chores as I think she can do, but there are still things only one person can do. She doesn't like to be left alone. How do I balance the time I need to take care of certain chores with her need to be with me?

Expert Answers

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. She directs Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's and related illnesses.

You are absolutely right that it is important for you to balance your time with your mother with your own needs. If you start this now in the early stages, you will be in a much better position as the disease progresses. Caregivers who do not take care of themselves often become ill themselves or burn out from the constant stress.

I would suggest setting up a schedule for yourself and your mother. Include several chores each day that are hers to do or to help you with. But also have times of the day when you are occupied. If you set up a regular routine, it will help her know what to expect, which ultimately brings comfort and a feeling of safety. Some families put a large white board in a prominent place in the home that lists the schedule for the day. You can train your mom to look at that board by directing her there every time she asks what she should do.

You might also consider hiring a companion once or twice a week to take your mother somewhere -- out to lunch, to a museum, for a walk – whatever she enjoys doing. That will guarantee you a little bit of alone time in the house and will build an alternate relationship for your mother. Also you might look at either early stage or adult day programs in your area and see whether there is a place where she could go once or twice a week to get some of her social needs met by someone other than you. Although you are her "security blanket" it is possible and helpful to find some other places and people where she feels safe and comfortable.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

My heart goes out to you and your family. There are some great elder care consulting companies that can help you make the best decisions possible. Check out Assisted Living AZ<?A>.[]

Workerpriest answered...

The answers are helpful here and I see the need in my own situation for some structure in our daily life that could help. Unless old friends come by, however, my Mom absolutely refuses to go to day care and there are many fine programs around here where we live.

It is in fact the next step I am taking with the nurse supervisor because Mom absolutely will not listen to me on this but screams and yeslls. She has huge resentment for every single thing I do for myself this is away from her and has for years even before she got as impaired as she is now. I did everything, kept my life going and she fought every minute of the way so I can't say I haven't done everything I can to keep my life. But still she cannot respect that I have these needs and becomes punishing and makes me pay a high price as I continue to do what I must for myself. I am waiting for the day when she slips into some lack of recognition of these issues and just lets them be. Later maybe? Maybe never? So it is an ongoing painful situation but I do what I must for myself anyway.

Sonteimtes that feels great. Sometimes it is almost ruined by her attitude.It is especially stressful when I return from somewhere and re-enter the house and she is now suspicious of all my friends so the effects of her disease are absolutely insidious in the ways they invade my life. I only say invade because I will not let them penetrate into my inner being though at times I have to work pretty hard to repair myself in that respect.

Hope solid help in this regard comes into our liveds soon, Workerpriest

Paulanthony answered...

If you do not have someone to be with her when you have to do errands you have to train her to be alone for short periods of time. You have to get out once in a while or you will be in the looniebin before she is. I leave my mom in front of the TV and after lunch I go out for a bike ride or food shopping. I am out of work so I am a full time care giver now myself. You have to assure her that you will come back. Even leave a little note or sign with lettering big enough that she does not have to squint to read it telling her where you are. Some things you just have to do. Yes I worry when I am out but it is part of it. It is beter than putting them in a nursing home.


Croroc answered...

The expert has great advice. I have found that as the dementia increases, so does the paranoia, confusion and the desire for constant attention. A year ago, I could go to the gym, go to the store, by myself. Now I hire a companion for my dad. It is expensive, but my peace of mind depends on it. He still insists "he is okay, no one needs to be here". But the caregiver tells me that usually within a 1/2 hour he is calling for me, where did I go, when will I be back etc. But "training" them to know that you will be gone, having a daily schedule, with reminders of what needs to be done, have helped me immensely. Consistency and activities are crucial. Good luck, and remember, that you HAVE to do what YOU can, to keep your sanity. Otherwise, the person you are taking care of will have nothing. I am selfish by nature, and it is hard for me to realize and accept how dependant my father is on me. I can do the work, but the realization of MY responsibility is overwhelming at times. Hugs and prayers to all the caregivers. Keep posting, it helps to know we are not alone.