'I'm a Caregiver for a Parent With Alzheimer's Disease'

Kameron Browning opens up about navigating decisions as a caregiver.

For 20 years, Jim Browning lived in a cozy one-bedroom apartment with everything he needed. And for most of that time, he did just fine on his own.

When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago, his adult daughter Kameron Browning, who lived nearby, became his caregiver. She came to his apartment frequently to check on him. She also took him to his doctor’s appointments and helped him with his bills and his grocery shopping, among other tasks. “I was just his go-to person,” she says.

But as time went by, Jim’s symptoms became more pronounced, and Kameron began to realize that the situation would probably need to change sooner rather than later. An infestation of bed bugs—and the subsequent lackluster response from the apartment community management—was the final straw.

Shortly thereafter, Jim moved in with Kameron and her family. He’s still in a cozy one-bedroom set-up with his books, framed photos, model cars and TV, but now his daughter and his grandchildren are just down the hall.

Why Kameron Became Her Dad's Caregiver

Moving her dad out of his apartment was the right decision, as far as Kameron was concerned. But like many families facing the need to make a major decision about a loved one, Kameron consulted with her older brother and sister before making such a big move.

As a single mom with children ranging from ages one to 15, Kameron knew that taking on her father’s care would be a huge undertaking. But she felt she was uniquely equipped to handle it. She had experience with two other relatives who had dementia at the end of their lives, but perhaps more importantly, she was familiar with dementia and end-of-life care issues from her experience working as a nursing assistant in a memory care unit in a nursing home.

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Plus, she strongly believed—and still believes—that moving her father into her home was the best thing for Jim. “He’s not going to last as long in a nursing home as he would at home, where he’s comfortable,” she says.

Her family agreed. And just about six months ago, Kameron set up a special area just for her dad in her new home, taking his diagnosis into account.

“We set up his room in our house pretty much spot on to how his apartment was set up,” she says. “Change really throws most dementia patients for a loop, so it was important that we have the same furniture and the same set-up that he used to have—at least, as much as we could. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.”

Making Decisions for Future Care

Jim just turned 79 years old. What does the future hold for him? No one knows for sure. But we do know that Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease—a progressive disease that worsens over time, one that robs people of their memories and their abilities to live as their true selves as time passes.

Jim may reach a point when Kameron can no longer care for him on her own. A memory care unit may eventually become the best option for him, and Kameron says that the rest of the family has given their blessing to move him if Kameron decides she can no longer care for him in her home.

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But Kameron doesn’t have a checklist that governs her decision-making when it comes to her dad. “I definitely pray about the situation at hand, and I believe God gives me discernment,” says Kameron. “Goes along with trusting my gut.”

For now, the current situation is working out okay. With four kids, the house is full and Kameron’s schedule is hectic, but for now, she feels she’s able to care for her father. Jim’s physical health is pretty good, he often enjoys frequent visits to a local adult daycare center and he still has a sense of humor—he’ll even mug for Kameron’s camera.

That’s not to say there aren’t hard days—days when Kameron feels lucky to even get a few minutes to take a shower. After all, she’s parenting in addition to caregiving. Evenings can sometimes be tricky when Jim, like many other elderly adults, experiences some episodes of confusion, known as sundowning. Recently, Jim fell, and Kameron had to rush him to the emergency room, sending her pulse racing and upending all of her plans. He has also experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is like a small stroke, and a urinary tract infection.

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Taking It One Day at a Time

Ultimately, Kameron is taking it day by day, trying to enjoy the special moments with her father. Every day, she learns a little more about the best way to take care of him and advocate for him and his needs. She’s turned to online communities for information and support, and she even started a TikTok account to chronicle her family’s journal and receive support from followers. (You can meet Kameron and Jim on TikTok at @KameronSarah.)

“I really have a heart that wants to spread awareness of this disease,” says Kameron. “And not just Alzheimer’s but for caregiving and the support that’s needed.”

And she’s pretty sure her dad would be proud of her for doing so. “He always wanted me to spread awareness [about Alzheimer's],” she says.

Next up: From Journaling to Taking Time Off, Here Are 15 Habits Happy Caregivers Swear By