The exponential growth of Alzheimer’s disease is a reality. The state of California conducted a study for the purpose of developing public policy regarding the impact of the disease. These studies found that 18.5% of women and 10.2% of men will develop this disease by the age of 75 and by age 85 the % growths to 20.3 and 12 respectively. Calculate this out and you will arrive at the following numbers. The number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is estimated to reach 7.7 million by 2030 and by 2050 the estimated population suffering from the disease will be between 11 and 16 million. Your family is likely to have at least one parent that becomes a statistic. And, it is very likely that you currently have someone in your family who is a sufferer.
What are the realities of this disease for the family of the caregivers? Let me suggest some and how you might prepare to walk through this phase of life. There are four fundamentals that frame a mindset to enable you and your family to walk this pathway.
First, the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness are essential. It is imperative that you remember that God is sovereign. He has allowed this disease to impact your family. It did not surprise Him and He desires to use this process to mold you more and more into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). God’s goodness complements his sovereignty. He not only allowed it to come into your life, but he loves you and your family member and promises to comfort you by his Holy Spirit through the process.
Staying connected to Jesus is the second essential. In John 15:1-3 Jesus teaches us the he is the vine and we are the branches. He then implores us to keep connected to him. This task of parenting your parent will be very demanding, frustrating and aggravating. Walking in constant contact with Jesus will provide the opportunity to express these emotions to him and listen for his encouragement like that of Ps 23 where he promises to lead us by still waters and into green pastures, that is refreshment.
The third essential is the acceptance of the role reversal. No one wants this role. But fighting it generates bitterness, anger and resentment which in turn contribute to the development of depression.
Fourth, it is essential to maintain a sense of the ridiculous as my wife says. That is, keep a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. When the day comes that you have to change a diaper for your mother or father, pray, do the task and walk away thanking God for the times when they changed your diaper. Smile! Maybe even laugh, at your clumsiness in carrying out the task.
There are also four personal matters to which it is important to attend. First, maintain physical fitness. Both caregiver and parent need exercise. If you cannot get out to exercise, go up and down the stiars ten times morning and evening. Exercise both provides stress relief and physical well being.
Second, maintain a balanced diet. This is one of those simple things which most of us tend to ignore. As a caregiver it is more important than ever that you pay attention to diet and exercise both for yourself and your parent. The Apostle Paul reminds us that bodily exercise profits little, but it does profit as does a good diet that sustains health and strength. Adding caregiving to the mix of life often impairs both proper diet and appropriate exercise.
Third, get adequate rest. Your Alzheimer’s parent will probably more and more develop an erratic sleep pattern. It will take diligence to see that you get proper rest. As your parent’s patterns become disturbing to your own, you may want to discuss with your physician the use of a sleep mediation to help regulate their patterns.
Working at keeping a normal life style is the fourth personal matter. Your martial relationship, your relationship with your children and your own church and social relationships will take special efforts to maintain a normalcy. Talk often and openly with your spouse. Ask for his/her perspective on your relationship. Seek input. Listen to your children and talk them through their emotions—here is a good time to implement the principle of Deuteronomy 6:4-6.
Obviously, we have just touched the surface in this blog article. But these are some fundamentals that will lay the ground work for addressing the myriad of other problems that will surface.
 http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/alzheimers/Pages/default.aspx; http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/report_alzfactsfigures2010.pdf