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Published December 05, 2010, 12:00 AM

Bursack: Memory unit may be helpful

Dear Carol: My father has Alzheimer’s disease, and I really don’t know what more I can do for him. He’s paranoid and hard for me to handle. One minute he loves me, but the next minute he hates me. Half the time, he doesn’t even know who I am.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Dear Carol: My father has Alzheimer’s disease, and I really don’t know what more I can do for him. He’s paranoid and hard for me to handle. One minute he loves me, but the next minute he hates me. Half the time, he doesn’t even know who I am.

Some people tell me to ignore the hateful things he says, but I am exhausted and confused. I’ve tried so hard to do the right things but am constantly criticized by others. I’ve been told by his doctors to put him in a memory unit, but my cousin says it would be cruel because he’d just be given medicine and left to sit and drool. I feel guilty for wanting to get back to some kind of life of my own. Can you tell me more about memory units? How are they different from nursing homes? I don’t want to put my dad in a place where he won’t have a decent life, which is what my cousin says I would be doing, but I can’t keep this up either. – Melanie

Dear Melanie: Please look into a memory unit. Since his doctors are telling you that a memory unit is the best place for your dad, it seems wise for you to listen to them. This move could help you and your dad each live life with more quality.

As for criticism from others, caregivers sometimes have to develop thick skin, as often uninvolved people give advice. Many are well-meaning, but they don’t understand the demands of caring for an elder with Alzheimer’s. From what you say, your cousin isn’t actively caring for him, so in my opinion, she doesn’t get a significant “vote.”

Today’s memory units are staffed with nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants who are specifically trained to care for people with dementia. Most units are also secured for the patients’ safety, since wandering can be a dangerous risk with Alzheimer’s. Generally speaking, memory units also have well-designed physical layouts to help people with dementia better navigate their immediate world. Many nursing homes and assisted living centers have memory units within the facility.

You can still be your dad’s advocate, Melanie. You are doing the right thing for your dad, as well as yourself, by getting him professional help. Listen to the medical people, find a memory unit for him, and do what is best for both of you. You are a good person, and your own health is in danger. Please get moving on that soon.


Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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