Daughter and Nurse: My Father’s Battle with Alzheimer’s

Many of us have felt the tragic effects of Alzheimer’s—a debilitating form of dementia that causes problems with a person’s thinking, memory and behavior—by watching a loved one suffer from this incurable disease.  For someone who has spent years caring for a declining loved one, it is heartbreaking when the inevitable day comes when they can’t remember your name, or that you are their spouse, daughter, or son.  Many of you know that the founder of Home Care Plus, Suzy Kuppens, spent nine years caring for her father during his battle with Alzheimer’s.  Her experience is what inspired her to create an eldercare service dedicated to hiring an experienced, compassionate staff to offer the support and peace of mind she was desperately looking for with her father.

Suzy was kind enough to share some of her thoughts and experiences with us.  As a nurse she had some difficult choices to make regarding what role to take on in the care of her father, and her insight may help others who are struggling with the same concerns.

Though there were many hardships, the hardest thing for Suzy about the experience was the role reversal. Her father raised her and took care of her as a child.  He was always there for her and her family even throughout her adult life. Having him now dependent on her was a shock, and she missed having him as the one she could rely on.  Her family realized they could not manage the caregiving alone. They brought in outside help but not without a lot of trial and error in their search for the right caregivers; it was difficult finding someone who understood they needed to take care of her Mom’s emotional health as well.  In hindsight, Suzy says she would have relished every moment she had as her father’s caregiver. In the midst of the turmoil, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that it was truly an honor to have had the opportunity, the knowledge and the means to take care of her father and keep him safe and surrounded by his family during his final days.  Her greatest struggle was with the question of whether she should be his nurse or his daughter, and she often worried if she was making the right decisions regarding his care. Hospice was her saving grace. Once they came she was finally able to be his daughter again.  Suzy was and is fortunate to be one of seven children raised to value family. Her family shared the tasks they faced during this trying time and supported each other throughout the process.  They helped her keep her sanity when everything felt like it was falling apart.

Everyone deals with this disease differently, and if you are both the loved one and caregiver of someone suffering from its devastating effects it is important to understand you are not alone.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take care of yourself while you care for your loved one.  Please share your thoughts and concerns regarding your experience with Alzheimer’s with us.  You never know who will benefit from reading about it!