QUESTION: I’m heartbroken. I just returned from a visit with my grandparents. My grandma is in the fifth stage of Alzheimer’s, and my grandpa, now 84, is her sole caregiver. He is mentally and physically exhausted, but he won’t put her in an assisted living home. They have been together for more than 60 years and he can’t part with her. What can I do to help? What can I suggest that might move him in the right direction of getting the help they both need? — Stacey
DEAR STACEY: Your concern for your grandparents is admirable. Indeed, this is a very sad situation considering how long they have been together. But all is not lost. There are some steps you can take to help your grandparents and begin to mend your broken heart, as well. Since parting is going to be difficult for them, it is best to facilitate the separation in stages. First, research adult day care facilities in the city where they live. Select facilities that specialize in the care of Alzheimer’s patients. Pay a visit to each facility to find the one that you feel best suits the needs of your grandparents. Begin by leaving your grandma a day at a time. Most day care facilities are open Monday through Friday, so your grandpa can have his love home on the weekends. This arrangement will allow them to acclimate to the process of living apart. Gradually add to the time she spends at the day care facility. Knowing she is well cared for, your grandpa will adjust and begin to regain his strength and resiliency, which he will need to continue on. If, eventually, your grandma needs around-the-clock care, the separation won’t be as difficult. And don’t be worried that your grandpa will have to live the rest of his life alone. He’s a lucky man. He has you.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com.