What if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s who is not a loved one?

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We had an interesting article sent to us about a topic we hear about from time to time: caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease who you might not consider to be a “loved one.”

What If They’re Not?

We were in the middle of caregiver workshop, the second session which was now focusing on caring for yourself while caring for a person with dementia. Deborah, a lovely lady sitting in the corner of the table, raised her hand in this small group of about 12 people and I said, “Deborah, you don’t have to raise your hand. Go ahead.” She replied, “What if they’re not?” I naturally said, “What if they’re not what?” To which she replied, “What if they’re not your loved one?” The discussion stopped as we all thought in silence about the question she had just asked.

We had been talking about “when your loved one gets angry” and “taking your loved one on vacation” and “how to get your loved one to take a shower or take their medications.” We looked out at our group and realized that more than one person knew exactly what Deborah was talking about.

When I went back to my office, I pulled up various websites and came across multiple tip sheets, research articles and blogs, all referring to “when your loved one…” We know that caregiving is often difficult at times, given the length of the commitment, the progression of the illness and the delicate balance of our own lives. We also know that caregivers who have a strained relationship with the person feel a greater burden and often have feelings of ambivalence rather then commitment.

A few years ago, I asked a well-known psychiatrist in southern California how he could continue taking care of a group of patients who had little chance of getting better and he said, “Because someone has to be with them along the way.”

So we applaud all the caregivers out there who are meeting the daily needs and meeting the daily challenge of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. But today we also especially give a shout out to all the caregivers who have stepped up despite a not so stellar past relationship, who have stepped up in the face of a history of abuse, neglect, or estrangement.

We applaud all the caregivers who have stepped up because it’s the right thing to do, all the caregivers who, despite the odds, have chosen to be with them along the way. Picture us giving you a virtual pat on the back…..and let us help you in any way we can.

— Marilyn P Williams, MS, RN Geriatrics Clinical Nurse Specialist and Lisa Polacci, MSW

1 Response

  1. Sabina Becker says:

    Thanks Stefanie, for posting on this important topic. When family or friends are in the position of having to care for someone with whom there is a conflicted relationship, or a history of traumatic abuse, I believe it’s important for care givers to reach out for additional emotional support.

    There may be issues of unresolved anger, grief, fear, and resentment that can be worked out with help from professional counselors or psychotherapists. Past hurts are often re-activated and intensified when a new crisis in such relationships emerges. Remember that you don’t have to deal with these complicated feelings alone!

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