Home Health Aides For Dementia Patients Can Be a Wonderful Thing


Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be very challenging and also exhausting for the caretaker. I was many years into it before I realized that I needed the help of a Home Health Aide. I was lucky, the first timeout of the gate with Cardine. She was the first Home Health Aide that was send to help with my mother suffering with dementia. She became my hero very quickly.

When first taking on a parent with dementia, we go through so many different feelings and experiences, that often leaves our heads spinning and feeling frustrated all at the same time. Many of us don’t have a healthcare background or any resources at our fingertips to help us cope and make sense of the situation that unfolds before our eyes on a daily basis. Really, we are flying blindly into the path of the oncoming train, sometimes, not understanding what’s ahead.

When I first took on my mother, after moving into my house from her California apartment, I noticed a few little things, but like we all do, it’s brushed off as “oh, she’s just getting older”. After awhile the symptoms get worse and we know that something is very wrong. After we seek a diagnosis, we start our journey into the unknown with our loved one. Life for your parent will never be the same and for you also. It’s almost like when you become a first time parent, changing your life forever, only this time it’s with an unhappy prognosis.

For years I took care of Mom and we went through all of the different stages that most dementia patients and caretakers go through, paranoia, accusations, hiding their belongings, aggressiveness, depression, sadness, incontinence, denial, lack of interest in daily hygiene, preoccupation in trying to make sense of paperwork, confusion, wandering, getting lost, looking for her mother, loss of words and substitution of words, etc. There were so many more things that I went through with her, and since we are all living individual experiences, I’m sure others have gone through even different things that I know nothing of. My situation with Mom, finally came to a point where I could no longer leave her alone while I was at work because she was a safety hazard to herself and others. That’s when I started researching and got the social workers involved, finally getting on the right track in finding a Home Health Aide for Mom.

mom-cardineIt was a long road to learning what to do in order to get help at home, but through Mom’s doctor, who had earlier applied for the Visiting Nurse Service to come to give her B12 shots every month, I was introduced to the social workers of that organization. Since her condition was becoming a safety issue, we discussed our options through meetings and house calls. Of course, I couldn’t afford to go out and hire a Home Health Aide on my salary, so I was naturally feeling very stressed on how to bring help in. Working was something that I must do in order to survive, it’s not debatable as with so many caretakers in the same situation these days. It’s a huge dilemma for all involved.

Needless to say, we found a way and soon thereafter, Cardine arrived. She was the best thing that had every happened to us since Mom came to live with me. We were so lucky to have her as she was experienced, compassionate, concerned and very good at her job. She was mentally present at all times, always putting my Mother’s best interest first. I was very relieved that we were so fortunate to have found her.

Cardine had 12 hour shifts, 5 days a week making it possible to commute to my job and keep the roof over our heads. She would take care of every need that my Mother had, personal hygiene, meals, bathing, companionship, arts and crafts, interaction and keeping her mind engaged and active. She was a one woman band and a rock star in her profession. While I was at work, I was absolutely sure that my demented Mom was in good hands and also safe at home. She wasn’t lonely, and she was content and well taken care of. What more could I ask for?

Mom_Cardine3  Mom_Cardine1

Photos: (1) Cardine on Mom’s 86th birthday, (2) Cardine drying Mom’s hair after a shampoo, (3) Cardine and Mom, Eleanor Van Meter doing puzzles together.

Home Health Aides are a wonderful choice for your loved one.

Bottom line for me, Home Health Aides are a wonderful choice for your loved one. If you can find the right fit through an agency, it will change your world and that of your parent.

 They will make the quality of life for the patient and the caretaker better, giving more time to enjoy with your loved one. If you find yourself in this situation, reach out to a social worker through agencies in your area. Reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association who can advise you further. Call the physician caring for your parent, who can open many doors. Although it may be different for others, In my experience, if you don’t ask them, they won’t offer any open channels for help in the home. You must present your needs and concerns to make it known that it is a safety issue. They will then advise what avenues and options are open to you. There are ways to provide a loved one with a Home Health Aide if you are financially unable.

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Easter Sunday, Dementia, Mom and Memories of Her Sister Lillian

mom-sister_1929mom-sister2_1942It’s Easter Sunday, the sun is out, temps a bit cool, but it’s a happy, positive and upbeat day! The house is quiet and peaceful, just the way I like it and Mom started her day, on a bad note. She apparently got up in the middle of the night after having a little accident and took some of her night clothes off…so she woke up a little wet and cold. No matter, I got the situation under control and we were off to a better start. Got her breakfast, the Sunday newspaper and we sat together reading and eating. You never know what to expect with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Photos: (1) Mom and Lillian as young ladies, (2) Lillian and Mom considerably younger, (3) Below, Mom and Lillian again, very young, probably 1929.

This afternoon, Mom is wandering around the house appearing to have a good ole’ day and I am sitting here thinking about Lillian, her big sister. Mom spends a lot of time talking about her older sister who she worshiped, as they were very close as they were growing up. Lillian passed away very early on of Leukemia, leaving 4 small children and a husband. They lived on the other side of the United States in the state of Washington, so we didn’t get to see her before she left us. Back then it was a big deal to fly across the country, especially for my grandparents who never ate out, let alone get on a plane to fly cross-country. I know that my grandmother had always felt somewhat guilty for Lillian’s Leukemia, even though she had absolutely nothing to do with it. Never-the-less, she couldn’t shake that feeling.

Lillian was a kind and gentle woman who was not only very intelligent but was lucky enough to have gone to college as well. She had always wanted to be a mother and was blessed with 4 beautiful children, Michael, David, Maggie and Mom-Lil_brookynSam, my cousins. I don’t have any siblings, so these first cousins are close to my heart. Matter of fact, there was a time that I almost became a part of their clan when Lillian and Bob wanted me to permanently come live with them when my mother’s OCD was out of control. Mom actually never wanted to be married with kids as Lillian had. She had only wanted a career in Manhattan which she had accomplished, it was her dream. I was really only holding her back when I think about it now…but she was a trooper. I never actually knew that fact as a child, so she hid it well. I’ve always wondered how my life would have been different if that had happened? I suspect, I would have been more educated, had more people skills, have made better choices in my life and would have had a male role model in Uncle Bob not to mention a very present mother figure. But that’s all hindsight now…we only have the here and now. Everything happens for a reason.

As a child, I remember Lillian and her family coming to visit my grandparent’s house, which is where I was most of the time while growing up. It wasn’t a big house but we always found room for the McCracken clan when they came to visit. To my delight, we kids would camp out on the floor on a big quilt in the living room. Aunt Lillian would come in and read to us…I thought it was amazing. Nobody had ever read to me when I was a kid…just Aunt Lillian, in her very soft, expressive and compassionate voice. You couldn’t help but love her. She was living her purpose, on her life’s course and obviously was very happy doing what she loved to do. And her kids loved her so much…they were lucky to have her and I believe they knew it. To me, they seemed to have a great life, great parents, brothers and sister…what could be better? Who was to know how things would change so drastically in the future with the passing of their Mom. It would be a life changer for their family.

From what I can remember, Lillian took after her father, my grandfather, who by the way, had dementia in his later years. She seemed to have more of him than my mother did actually, but that’s only my personal observations and opinion. I often wonder, had she of lived, would she be in the middle of this dementia curse as my mother is? We will never know. We only have the wonderful memories of Lillian and although Leukemia took her, she was spared the torture of dementia.

When I had originally written this post a year ago, I didn’t know that my mother with dementia would be gone by now. I thought for sure that I could get her to 90 years old…a milestone for our family, but it was not to be. Out of left field, she was diagnosed with Leukemia of all things, like her sister. As if having dementia and Parkinson’s wasn’t enough…she developed Leukemia. She was gone less than 2 months later. What are the chances that sisters would both have Leukemia? Hematologist told me that they both were probably exposed to something as children. Could my grandmother have known something, or suspected something, therefore feeling guilty all those years? I guess that I will never know the answer. She’s with her sister Lillian now, running around with the angels…waiting to welcome us someday.

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