Help, I blew it with my brother who is primary caregiver.


My brother is the primary caregiver for my Mom who is 79 with moderate dementia. My sister, myself and other brother come over everyday to help but we are not there 24/7
Today my brother is in a very bad mood and instead of telling him what a great job he is doing, or how hard it must be....
When he started going on about how he thinks this dementia is a "act" Mom is putting on. That she cares more for her dogs than herself. I tried to educate him about the way dementia impacts people. Of course she lights up and responds better when new people come over.. that is showtimers.
Anyway he just blew up and was yelling about it being an act and that Mom does know what she is doing.
I have suggested this site to him and offered books on dementia and dementia care to no avail.
I know I should have been compassionate and understanding but it scares me when he talks like this. saying "I am getting rid of Moms dogs as long as she pays more attention to them than she does to her own needs.
I know it was a mistake but I tired to tell him how lucky we are. My mom is kind, gentle, compliant, does what we ask and doesn't respond or fight back when he is yelling.
I will apologize later he won' hear me right now. But I am worried that his interactions with her are impacted by his belief that this is an act of some kind.
Thanks Jenn.

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Sounds like you need to schedule a vacation at work, trade out the caregiving, and give your brother a break for a bit. We all need some relief sometime. If you will go and sit with her for two weeks....maybe brother will come back more patient and understanding.
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OC, loved your post!

And no, what you said about getting one good week out of two makes perfect and total sense to me. It takes a while to shake off the care giver role, and all the stress that's been piling on you, sometimes for years on end. And, like you said, there it is, looming over you again at the end of your vacation... I get that totally.

And you are so right. Breaks are what we need, and breaks are what we lack. Lovely. And honestly, if it were me and your hubs siblings ever needed anything, I wouldn't spit on them if they were on fire. I'd watch them rot if they ever needed MY help..just like they're doing. Sad as hell, isn't it?
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Just my two cents - and, remember, two cents isn't worth much :0)

If your brother is with your mom 24/7 and you other sibs 'visit' - even if you do this daily - it just isn't enough.

I agree with an earlier post - you kids need to take her home 'overnight' at the least and 'for a few days to a week' would be even better. Each one of you should have all the elderly assist equipment on hand in your homes - so that the transition is smooth - no moving, loading/unloading of equipment. All you need to move is mom. You can have everything set up, ready, and waiting when you bring mom home.

Your brother is a saint - but is probably coming unglued under the constant pressure. It happens to the best of us. He needs a REAL BREAK. Care givers just do not get enough BREAKS. I know most don't have the help that you and your sibs are already offering. I commend you for your love and care.

I would guess that he is super stressed and that is why he feels that mom is doing things on purpose and loves her dogs more than herself.

Shoot, I had a friend (who does not have dementia in any form) tell her only son that her dogs loved her more than he did! Now, how silly is that? Her son was a GOOD son to her. But people DO get attached to their animals. Tis life for some.

It sounds like your brother's frustration is building and he just needs a lot more help with mom - and more time for his own life and to be able to get away long enough to do him some real good.

My hubby's siblings have not taken their mom or given us a break in over 8 years. They come and visit a few hours every year or two - but that doesn't help US. Your brother needs regular time off the 'job.' A week minimum - 2 weeks is better. This should be regular and scheduled if at all possible.

As my doctor said to me - will it be CONVENIENT? @%$# NO! But neither is full time care giving!!

When we finally did get away for 2 weeks (we begged/solicited friends and our kids to watch over things here) it took me 3-4 days just to feel relaxed. I enjoyed the next WEEK - It was wonderful - but then the dread came back and took the final 3 days. So, basically, I got a one full, wonderful week out of the two. I know it sounds weird.

So, support your brother as much as you can - interject helpful comments as you have been doing, give him print outs, books, etc. and ALWAYS make him feel appreciated and loved. Let him know how much you love him and how grateful you are for what he is doing for your mother. Hubby's sibs don't call, write or even answer our texts. We have just stopped asking them.

I do believe that dementia and ALZ types of issues must be some of the most difficult to endure and deal with productively and I pray for all you care givers who are caring for someone who has these problems. Bless you all.
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Bless you BeachWalker and may God keep the continuing ravages of age at bay for you. It is always good to look at caregiving from the eyes of the elderly. I understand fully the love of animals and how much they give back to us asking for so little in return.

What worries me is that the son thinks she cares more for her pets than for herself, yet there is no explanation as to why he thinks this. If she is so involved with her pets that she is neglecting to eat, bathe, take her medicines, etc. then he may not be angry with her and the dogs as much as he is terrified he can't keep her alive if she doesn't begin to eat, take her meds, etc. I wouldn't recommend getting rid of the pets as much as I would recommend "using" them to get the mother to "cooperate". If the son has a ritual where he "pretends to give the dogs their meds" (treats are great for this) then asks his mom to take her meds at the same time... if he feeds the dogs small portions at the same time he is trying to get her to eat (and has them eat next to the table where she's eating)... if one of the dogs has its bath, then the mom takes hers (with two dogs, he could bathe one on Sunday, the other on Wednesday) and the Mom would take her bath on these two days (at least it wouldn't be a battle to get her bathed) and the elderly don't always need to bathe everyday. The Mom may need it more often, but if he incorporates her dogs routine into HER routine, then he's won the battle. Therapy dogs are often used for just these reasons.

The original poster doesn't mention what they do when they come over and like other responders have said, if they're dropping by to check, but not doing any of the heavy lifting, their visits are more disruptive than helpful. Each sibling needs a specific task they perform each day, whether one daughter bathes her (and one of the dogs),, another sibling could take the mom and the dogs for an afternoon walk, another could come by and do the laundry, while another does the grocery shopping. Who takes the mother to the doctor? Alz often causes the sufferer to change during "sundowners", is there a sibling who stays over to help during this transition time? Alz patients also often have sleep disruption, does a sibling stay over a couple times a week to watch the mom so the brother can get a full night's sleep, including the necessary REM or deep sleep? Does a sibling cook at least one of the three meals each day and then clean up the kitchen? Does the primary care giver get a weekend a month off to recuperate? Does he have at least one afternoon/evening to go to movies or visit with friends? When was the last week long vacation he had? Does anyone go through photo albums with her and ask who is in the photos, where they were taken, when they were taken and the story behind the photo? It's amazing what the children can learn about the family history from doing this (and writing the info on the back of the photo for future generations) and this time is so precious to an alz patient.

These last years can be so hard, but they can also be rewarding and quite the learning experience... especially if the children all pitch in and remember their mom had a life before them... it's a chance to know the person she was, became and is yet to be. I highly recommend they treasure every moment they have with her. And may God Bless everyone of you in this endeavor.
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I speak from the other side of this fence, as it were, as I am a 78 yr old widow with the creeping in of old age that gets my attention day by week by year. my arthritis is very painful, my children live far away but do call, e-mail and visit when they can. I have two dogs and a cat who keep me warmly comforted and feeling needed.
My memory lapses are getting worse and worse. I have no trouble recalling long ago but yesterday...hmmmmmnot so much. Anyway, I don't yet need a live in caretaker but who knows. My point is that your mom is lucky indeed to have her children close enough to give care, but she still yearns to feel LOVED, RESPECTED, ADMIRED and VALUED even if in small increments. A bit of praise once a day would be welcome. You obviously adore her and your brother is getting scared/angry about the reality that he is losing/has lost the "MOM" he once had. She also scared knowing that she can no longer ever BE the MOM she once was. Still, giving him time off every week ( that he can count on) should be a help. But he MUST NOT get rid of her dogs!!!!! He may not understand why she is so devoted to them, but trust me, if they go she will hurry after them. I certainly would.
I used have four dogs, but now am down to two and they also are creaky with age but still can take short walks and fresh air with me., Which I need and enjoy.

Suggestion...Give mom some memory prompts about the years she remembers so well...have her talk, dictate etc. what her childhood was like, how she felt about school, who her first boy-friend was and so on...... She loves those memories and would love to share them.
Blessings on each and every one of you...
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Jen thanks again for the update - I posted above before I read that. Wil be hoping with you that it all works out OK and he's willing to take that day off, and then maybe accept some advice and education that will make it a lot more tolerable for him,and Mom too!
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JennyMae when I first read your post I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. When read babylettuce's answer that brother is probably just blowing off steam, I thought it was you for a minute and I felt better, but now that I realize you are not at all sure that is the case, I feel queasy again.

Jen, you are probably the only one in a spot to know what really is the case, but YOU didn't blow anything. You are right to be concerned. Mom does not benefit from being yelled at non-stop and hated on because she has dementia, and this sounds like a potential setup for elder abuse. You brother has you guys over EVERY DAY; to be sure, caregiving is hard and watching someone you live decline is hard, but from what you describe he is not one of the abandoned, solo, overstresssed caregivers who post on here all the time who can't ever leave or who are getting abused by their caregivee. You are the one seeing this,and you probably know if it is just a case of emotions running high for someone who would never actually do anything hurtful (beyond yelling - but that in itself is hurtful...arrgh) but if there is an option to get Mom out of there or relieve brother of his duties for an extended period of time it could be a real conisderation.

KathyT has a good point too, if it were a case where he really is doing a yeoman's job and you are just coming over and putting a little icing on the cake. Then maybe its true that all he needs is a little respite, and that might allow him to gain a little perspective, Does he take a break and get out of there when you come over, or is he still doing all the care personally? Could he be blowing up because he is doing it all and you just come over briefly to see how he is doing, or are you coming over and really doing a lot of the actual work on a day to day basis? If he perceives, rightly or wrongly, that he is doing all the work and you are just coming over and trying to tell him how he should be doing it better, his perspective could be rightfully very different than yours...or very different from reality. The honest answers to those questions could point you in the right direction on this.
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I guess people see things different when it comes alz patients.One thing for sure there is no faking. If he get rid of the pets that will make things worst I work with alz patients and one thing for sure you half to have patience and alot of people can't do this job..Everyone has dementia its a define word for forgetting, you forget where you put ur keys ur check book or even your charge or debit card ..I do not like it when people say their faking cause there is no such thing,,i hope your brother comes to his senses of NOT removing her pet because he will regret it
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Thanks for the update, Jenny!
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Thank you all. I do think he just needed to vent. I should have listened before educating. I'm on my way to give him the day off.
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