Kristy Dewberry offers inspiring and helpful advice based on her own experiences while caring for a mother who has Alzheimer's.
Hi. I'm Kristy Dewberry. I'm a wife, I'm a mother, a grandmother of six, and I'm a caregiver for my mother, Flo, who has Alzheimer's.
My story in Guideposts is based on my experience with helping my mother through her Alzheimer's, and how God helped me through the tough times and helped guide me into the best way that I could help her. After my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I realized how much I needed a relationship with God to help me cope, to teach me how to help Mom, and to strengthen me through the hard times.
What helped me through the low points was my faith in God and the support system I had with my sisters and my husband, who are all Christians as well. The thing with Alzheimer's is it's not a logical disease. And I'm a very logical person, so when she first started exhibiting paranoia or suspicious behavior, I would try to logic her out of it and explain to her that what she thinks is happening could not possibly be happening.
She is seeing and hearing these things with their own eyes and ears, so nothing anyone else tells her is going to convince her that what she's seeing isn't real. So we began just trying to either change the subject, steer her in another direction, or just empathize with her and say, "I'm sorry that happened," or "That must have been very scary for you." And hopefully get her out of the loop. She would tend to loop around constantly back to her paranoia. And then we would just keep having to steer her in another direction.
One of the main things that helped us is we took my mother to my personal physician and my sisters', trying to get help for the symptoms she was exhibiting. And they both said absolutely nothing can be done, which was very frustrating. A friend of mine, Robin, when I was telling her about the situation, she recommended a geriatric doctor that she had used for her father-in-law. And so we made an appointment and we took Mom there. And the difference was night and day.
He knew what was important for older people. He knew what to be worried about—quality of life versus quantity of life. He just ran all kinds of tests that a regular MD would not have done, and he was able to diagnose her with Alzheimer's and get her some medication—the other doctor said there were no medications that would help. So I would highly recommend that you take your loved one to a geriatric doctor, and not a regular physician.
Other things I would recommend—as the disease progresses, we would Google things that would help, and we found all kinds of helpful devices. We got my mother a phone that you put pictures of your loved ones on the numbers, so they don't have to dial or remember any number. If they want to call Kristy, you just touch Kristy's picture, and then it calls them. I made her a blanket out of photographs of us when we were little. I just recommend surrounding her with things that are meaningful to her in photographs, to help prompt her memories.
And the suggestions I would give to other people whose parents are going through this, or who have a parent who's getting Alzheimer's—first of all, you've got to be patient with them. And you've got to remember, they're still themselves, even though they don't seem like themselves. They're the person who raised you and loved you. And now it's your turn to love them back and care for them.
It's not always easy, but you've just got to try. You just can't give up on them. And you really don't know what they do remember or what they don't, so don't stop visiting them just because you think they don't know who you are anymore, because you don't know that. I just think it's so important that they're surrounded by people who love and care for them at all times.