What happens when the caregivers are youth? ‘We just did our best’
2019-04-12 from montrealgazette.com
Noam Blauer was 16, just finishing high school, when his mother’s cognitive difficulties began: She’d have trouble figuring out where she needed to be and when, trouble with basic math skills, trouble navigating, even areas she knew well. She was 52.
People close to Susie Blauer, a longtime teacher at Bialik High School, knew something was wrong. She went on disability leave. As her condition deteriorated, she couldn’t be left alone. Weekdays there was paid help but evenings and weekends Noam, his brother and father were on their own with her: They had to learn to be caregivers.
“Getting her to get dressed or eat or take her medication or go to the bathroom: Each of those activities could easily take an hour. That could be four hours in a row,” Noam, now 25, told a recent Montreal symposium on young carers. “She was lovingly playful and resistant in her own way. We just did our best.”
After four years of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong, there was a diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Noam was 20. His mother was 56.
The natural order of things is upended when a teenager or young adult becomes caregiver to a parent. “It is incredibly hard to have to adopt the role of parent — and also to not have the parent you once had,” he said. “I needed my mom when I was 16 — and 21 and 25. It is heartbreaking and tragic.”
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