DEAR ABBY: My beautiful, loving mother is now in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. This cruel disease has robbed her of her memories as well as the ability to reason and function.
She held my hand through every trial and triumph in my life, and I want to support her the way she has always supported me. But caring for Mama is becoming more and more difficult as she drifts further and further away. Not only am I caring for my mother, I also have a career and three children.
I have so little time to myself. From the financial considerations to the behavioral challenges to safety concerns, I can't keep my head above water. Please tell me what to do. -- OVERWHELMED IN CINCINNATI
DEAR OVERWHELMED: I'll try. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to see a loved one face the changes that Alzheimer's disease brings. Although you feel alone and overwhelmed right now, the truth is you are not.
Today, an estimated 10 million Americans are caring for someone with Alzheimer's or another dementia. More than 40 percent of them rate their emotional stress level as high or very high, and it is a danger to their health.
Some signs to be aware of: feeling you have to "do it all yourself" and that you should be doing more; withdrawing from family, friends and activities that you used to enjoy; worrying that the person you care for is safe; feeling anxious about money and health-care decisions; denying the impact of the disease and its effect on your family; feeling grief or sadness that your relationship with the person isn't what it used to be; becoming frustrated and angry when the person continually repeats things and doesn't seem to listen; and having health problems that are taking a toll on you.
If any of these apply to you, it is important that you take care of your own physical and mental health. Make time to talk to your doctor and contact the Alzheimer's Association because it offers a full range of services. The toll-free number is (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org and take the Caregiver Stress Check interactive quiz. You will find with it a list of helpful referrals there.