A Richland daughter taking care of her mother who’s battling vascular dementia

More than 110,000 people in Washington live with Alzheimer’s disease. Behind those with the diagnosis comes the family members who take care of them.

Lorrie Torrence has been caring for her mother, Diane, since May. She has dementia, a condition causing loss of memory. Alzheimer’s is the most common type. Diane has vascular dementia. It’s the lack of blood flow to the brain causing a decline in thinking skills.

The diagnosis came when Diane was 75, but she didn’t move in with her daughter until this year. Since then, there have been several struggles as an in-home caretaker.

“There’s these times where I’m just angry because I just have all this pent up frustration,” Torrence said.

“My hands hurt. My wrists hurt because she pulls on them when trying to get up.”

Along with the physical pain comes the emotional.

“There’s these moments where you think she was just on death’s doorstep just looking at her face,” Torrence said. “You’re losing them and you’re watching this decline happen right before your eyes.”

A sight that takes a toll.

“There’s times where I’m an emotionally basket case,” Torrence explained. “You have to stop living your life because it’s not about what I want to do. It’s about what she needs.”

According to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, nearly 50% of primary caregivers experience significant psychological distress.

For Torrence, the emotional distress is the most significant.

“I have watched her on this rollercoaster decline and I’ve had to make the hardest decisions I ever had to make in my life,” Torrence said. “It’s a huge learning process.”

Finding time to herself is difficult, but she says it’s necessary.

“Caregivers need to find a way to take care of themselves whether it’s finding an hour a day to read a book,” Torrence said.

She also tries to make time for a date night with her husband, times that are rare for the couple. If they do go out, Torrence says she has to set up in-home care with an outside resources weeks in advance.

However, with struggles comes relief.

“I know in my heart that I’ve told myself that I’m a peace with her passing,” Torrence said.

For other caregivers, Torrence says to reach out for help through the Alzheimer’s Association and support groups.

“Don’t try to do it alone,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to try and do this alone because it will consume you.”

The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 helpline you can reach out to by calling 1-800-272-3900. There’s also a chapter in Washington.

For more information about the disease, click here.

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