On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

MomandDadIn the past I haven’t taken part in the many contests available for writers, but earlier this week I received an e-mail from an Internet friend about a “Fearless Caregiver” contest. Winning entries will be printed in Today’s Caregiver, and my interest was piqued. I checked out the website, and decided to enter. Following is my entry:

During my 15 years as a family caregiver for Mom and Dad, both of whom had Alzheimer’s, I faced doctors, insurance companies, and government bureaucrats without fear. But when it came time to say no to my parents, I became a trembling child again. Two of the hardest confrontations arose over medication and the car keys.

Mom and Dad had a number of conditions that required medication. They thought pills were the answer to every woe, and they believed that if one was good, two were better.  Making sure they took the proper meds at the proper time was a daunting task even for someone with full mental facilities, but for one with dementia, it became impossible.

I realized Dad was having trouble when pill sorters and bottles were spread out on their dining room table for days at a time. My takeover was gradual. At first I organized the meds for the week, but when those were gone by Wednesday, I began bringing a day’s worth of pills at a time.

This worked pretty well, but the real confrontation came over the pain meds. Mom had extensive back surgery several decades before, but she continued to take some pretty powerful pain pills. When it became obvious that she was abusing them, I made a sweep of their house, confiscating everything but the mildest over-the-counter remedies. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty when my phone rang about midnight that night.

“Did you take Mom’s pain pills?”

Dad was not happy – it probably had something to do with Mom yelling in the background that she wanted her pills. I did what any good daughter would do. I lied.

“No, Dad, I didn’t.”

One of the advantages of Alzheimer’s is that confrontations are soon forgotten. Mom learned that she wasn’t in as much pain as she thought and that an aspirin worked quite nicely. The pain pills were not mentioned again.

I had to play the fearless caregiver role again a few years later when Mom and Dad were living with us. Dad still had his car and a driver’s license, but by unspoken agreement, I kept his keys and did all the driving.

My husband and I were going away for a couple of nights, and I had arranged for friends to provide meals and check in on Mom and Dad from time to time. As I was making final preparations to leave, Dad asked for his keys. It wasn’t pretty. The mild-mannered man who rarely raised his voice turned red in the face, yelled at the top of his voice, and threatened to hit me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I lovingly stood my ground and kept the keys.

It’s hard to be the one who takes control from your loved ones. But when control conflicts with safety, be the bad guy and go with safety.



NOTE: The contest is almost over, but if you’d like to enter, CLICK HERE.  If you’d like to vote for my entry, CLICK HERE.  You can vote once a day between now and December 13.


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