Thanks to Jacqueline Marcell for sharing her story and advice on caregiving for elderly parents. Jacqueline’s parents both suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which brought many challenges along the way, but also some surprising blessings.
Read our exclusive interview with Jacqueline, now an international speaker and author:
I was a television executive, but I barely survived as a fulltime caregiver to my (once-adoring) challenging elderly father and sweet ailing mother, both with Alzheimer’s which went undiagnosed for over a year. But after fighting through the medical system, endless tears, and depleting my parents’ life savings and much of my own, I finally figured everything out medically, behaviorally, socially, legally, financially and emotionally. The experience was the hardest of my life, but it also unexpectedly created a passion to save others from a similar experience, especially from getting so frustrated they commit elder abuse.
I became compelled to write my first book, ‘Elder Rage’ (www.ElderRage.com), launch the ‘Coping with Caregiving’ Internet radio show, became an international speaker on Caregiving & Alzheimer’s, and became an advocate for eldercare awareness and reform. I would have never guessed I would have this passion for a mission in my life!
You are not alone. There are 65 million caregivers in the U.S. and millions more who have been through it, so reach out and learn from those who went before you. Remember when life takes you to your knees and nearly destroys you to keep searching for the silver-lining even if you can’t find it yet. The lessons you are learning and the insight you are gaining will help others and may also lead you to a higher purpose, passion and reward.
Make a looong list of everything you need help with so when someone says, “Oh, I am so sorry about what you are going through–is there anything I can do?”, you can give the list and say, “Thank you, yes, there is. Here’s a list—pick one!” You may want to include things like: Get the car serviced, tires rotated, filled with gas; get broken items fixed; shop for items you don’t have time for such as a new battery for your watch; have clothes altered, pants shortened, mending done; garden, prune, clear the yard; take stuff to the Goodwill or dumps; organize the pantry, garage, attic, closet; pick up dry cleaning, groceries; make meals or cookies for the freezer; sit with Mom while I go to a support group; rent a carpet shampooer and clean the carpet; do Internet research on medications; evaluate the best local eldercare services and adult day care programs; take me out to lunch!
When I was a caregiver for my parents, joy came from the pride I felt in persevering and solving all the issues and making their lives the best I could. Now my joy comes every day from caregivers emailing me how much my book, radio show or seminar helped them — and that they feel so much less alone with their countless frustrations and rollercoaster emotions. It makes me grateful for all that happened because it gave me the drive to continue to help others.
Getting the right diagnosis for my parents, particularly my father who had always been a ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ personality who could be charming in front of healthcare professionals, yet horrible to my mother and me privately. Once I found and understood the Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and got my parents evaluated by a Neurologist SPECIALIZED in Dementia, everything started to fall into place. The doctor slowed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, treated the (often present depression) and also the aggression in my father. Then I was finally able to get my father to accept caregivers, optimize nutrition and fluids with much less resistance, implement creative behavioral techniques, enroll my parents in a marvelous Adult Day Care program, get myself into a support group, and save my sanity!
Put you and your health FIRST and never put off your yearly physical and all medical tests. You can’t take care of anyone if you go down, which statistically happens all the time. I know, because even though I was under tremendous stress as a caregiver, I just didn’t think anything would happen to me. After caring for my parents I developed invasive breast cancer, went through it all, and had a heck of a time regaining my health. Please learn from those who have gone before you and never take risks with your health.
Jacqueline Marcell is an international speaker on Caregiving & Alzheimer’s, and author of the best-selling book, Elder Rage (print, audio, Kindle/Nook), a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 50+ endorsements, 400+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, required reading at numerous universities, and considered for a film. You can read a sample of her book at http://www.ElderRage.com/SampleChapter.asp.