Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Changing Relationship Roles--Stressful!

Making the transition to the role of caregiver is especially difficult when the care-recipient is someone who once took care of you. When the loved one is a spouse or a parent, becoming that person’s caregiver brings a burden of grief as well as an increased workload. The combination of these two stresses can cause clashes between the caregiver and patient as each suffers through difficulties associated with changing relationship roles.

During the early days of my mother’s struggle with dementia, she suffered confusion and feelings of failure. She understood that her inability to pay bills and remember appointments was causing inconvenience for those around her, and she felt a deep sense of shame. As a new caregiver I was more likely to scold than to provide comfort and reassurance. Despite Mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I continued to respond to her as though she was the mother I’d always known.

One of the little frustrations I experienced with Mom was that she struggled to fasten her seat belt, and I had to help her. I didn’t say a word, but Mom had to know from my exasperated sigh and grim expression that she had failed once again. During that time I happened to read an excellent publication entitled “Pocket Reference of Tips and Strategies” by Coach Frank Broyles, whose wife, Barbara, was an Alzheimer patient. When his wife had difficulty fastening her seat belt, Broyles saved her dignity by telling her that all cars have seat belts that fasten differently. This one helpful tip served to be a catalyst for a change in my attitude toward my mother.

When Coach Broyles’ wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he approached her disease utilizing the same positive approach that made him the winningest coach in Arkansas Razorbacks football history. His “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” and the companion pocket reference book that was so helpful to me are available for free download at http://www.alzheimersplaybook.com.

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, there must be a release of who that person has been in the past, and acceptance of who they have become. This release is a process and not an event, but with much prayer and a network of support that includes guidance from caregivers such as Coach Frank Broyles, the transition can be made successfully.

Linda’s book, My Mom Has Alzheimer’s: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers, is available at Amazon.com. If you would like a signed copy, contact Linda through her website at http://www.godmomandme.com.


  1. Linda,

    When I took my husband's keys away from him, he said "I don't want to be treated like a child," and I gave it back to him. Now I try to treat him as much as an adult as I can. He did pass an ALZ research test and can drive for the time being.

    I am enjoying your book and this blog.


  2. I try to have my Mom help with no fail activities, like folding the towels (so she put them under the bed when we were done, that's okay!) and writing out the grocery list---I know what we need, so if there is creamed corn on the list again for the hundreth time, that's okay, too.

  3. Annonymous,

    It doesn't work to order my husband around, but when I put laundry to be folded on the pool table, he carefully does that if I don't.

    We have a little humor going about the laundry hamper. He claims I put it back in our bedroom full of dirty clothes without washing them! He has no sense of time, of course.

    Linda, I posted a link to this blog on my PlantCityLady blog.