ORANGE, Conn. (WTNH) — Making memories and maximizing time together, many communities are gathering this month for Alzheimer’s awareness.
And while much of the focus is on those suffering from the disease, a family of caregivers can give excellent advice.
“It was very, very hard to accept. It was an emotional roller coaster,” said Paula Savarese from Orange. “The feeling went from sad to happy to mad to angry, you name it. I was on that roller coaster.”
These are words spoken by too many families in Connecticut. Savarese spends her days caring for her husband Lou, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about four and a half years ago.
Savarese said even Lou was in denial of the diagnosis.
“By the time we got to the point when he was starting to talk about it, he became nonverbal,” she said. “So everything is a guessing game. Every day is different.”
Thankfully, Lou has a loving family who finds ways to communicate and show him support. Their granddaughter, Ella, donned the color purple for Lou (or as she calls him, “poppy”).
The purple shirt read “Poppy’s Peeps”, and on the back, it said “Memories Matter”.
Making memories becomes the priority when a loved one is diagnosed. As Savarese will share with you, when taking on the role of caretaker, that first year is crucial when it comes to getting organized.
“So the very first year I figured out our will, our power of attorney, and all of our financial bank accounts, I had to realize where everything was and put it in a safe place for our children to know,” she recalled.
She suggests that you don’t wait to designate a power of attorney, as Alzheimer’s can progress quicker than you may expect.
“The longer you wait, they’re not able to sign anymore.”
Asking for help is key, as well as taking care of yourself so you can take care of someone else. And as each day becomes unpredictable, learning to go with the flow is essential.
“He doesn’t speak, but he does say go with the flow,” Savarese said. “If I say ‘Go with the …’ he’ll say ‘flow.’ Because he knows, he knows.”
And tapping into community resources can help you as well. You can go on walks or find groups to meet others like you to lean on, or maybe lift you up when you don’t even know what you need.
“We’re on the same boat. We’re not alone and it’s good to know I’m not alone,” said Savarese.
Asking for help is key here. Paula said it’s specific help, such as asking for someone to give you a break for an hour or mowing the lawn for you. Something specific, because there are always people ready to help.
And going back to walks, there is one coming up on Sunday at Calf Pasture Breach in Norwalk on Oct. 9.