Alzheimer's Disease often results in role reversal for parents, - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Alzheimer's Disease often results in role reversal for parents, children

(Source: Raycom) (Source: Raycom)
(WAFF) -

Charlotte Roberts was always the pretty, popular girl with the big heart. Now a baby-sitting grandmother, she takes on a new role - that of her mother's caretaker, ever since her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. 

"Now, I have two wonderful sitters, but we have to get her up and we have to get her dressed," Roberts said. "We have to pick out her clothes, make sure that she eats, because she will forget that she eats and she will eat again."

Her mother, Doris Tolbert, says she counts on her children and sitters. "You just depend on them cause they're there and they're supposed to be there by you. And you depend on them," she said.

In this case, while Doris knows she has some problems with memory, she does not remember getting a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

But she did - quite a while back, according to Charlotte. 

"Probably been about four or five years ago," Charlotte said. "She had symptoms before that, but she was declared incompetent just recently."

Charlotte is thankful her mom knows her family. "And she doesn't really like being told what to do. It's just like being a teenager. I mean, I'm just like the mama to a teenager," she said.

Of course, Doris doesn't think it's too bad. "I'm not as bad as I was. I've calmed down a lot. So I think I'm settling in, more."

Charlotte's experiences are much like other caregivers. "I love my mother... but it is stressful. And I think a lot of that is because the normal becomes different. I used to do things with friends and live at my house and have my own life just like Mama had her own life," Charlotte said.

Jim, Charlotte's stepdad, has passed away, leaving her in charge. She says while she does have a good support system with her sons, siblings and others, "I do sometimes have to take a deep breath and realize what my role is here because it's real easy to kind of go into a dive and feel overwhelmed."

To avoid that, she advises cultivating friendships outside the home, learning to deal with bizarre behavior, carving out time for yourself and taking advantage of programs to help both the patient and the caretaker.

She also has some other tips:

• Make sure there is a durable power of attorney in place before health and mind deteriorate.

• Make sure you have lined up an Elder Care Attorney, a legal representative who knows all about caring for parents and estates.

• Communicate with Medicare and Medicaid, the latter of which may be able to pay Medicare monthly premiums

• VA has money for veterans who need help in the home or assisted living. Contact your regional office for more information.

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