Porter Shimer, in his book New Hope for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers, gives a tongue-in-cheek view of the dementia caregiver’s role with this proposed ad — “Wanted: Someone to spend an average of 100 hours a week to oversee the physical and emotional well-being of another human being. Expect frustration, depression, rejection, occasional abuse, and chronic fatigue. No benefits, no vacation, no room for advancement, and no salary. (An annual fee, in fact, of approximately $12,500 may be required to cover the cost of goods and services not provided by the applicant.)”1
For many family caregivers in the trenches with Alzheimer’s disease, there are few rewards in this irreversible journey through languishing memories and fading personalities. Sometimes the caregiver receives a smile or a brief recognition, but more likely they encounter confusion, resistance, and a plethora of uncharacteristic, difficult behaviors. My own step-grandmother, a captive of the disease these past 10 years, was transformed from a sweet, loving person to a cursing and combative nursing home patient, unable to recall the faces of those most precious to her in earlier life. The disease finally won when she recently passed on — a blessing and a curse, as those who deal with Alzheimer’s disease know all too well. There is no escape, save death.