My mom will have been will have been gone 24 years this October, my dad has been gone just a little over 10 years. My dad and I kind of co-parented my mom. I did it for my dad, as mom and I never really had a good relationship. It was difficult at best. She would do the strangest things and she became mean and combative and boy did she cuss! She had early onset Alzheimer’s. We watched her lose herself bit by bit for about 11 years. Our saving graces were, each other and The 36 Hour Day by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins. What a great resource. I would highly recommend it if you are parenting a parent suffering from any kind of dementia or memory loss.
When your parent is showing signs of dementia, or memory loss, it’s hard to know what to do. You may try to pretend there is nothing wrong, but that won’t last very long. You love them and realize you have to step up and do some hard things. For instance:
- convincing them they need to leave their home
- taking away their driving privileges
- setting boundaries
- having to help with finances or taking them over entirely
This new role you must play will be stressful and uncomfortable. Most parents will put up a fight. Of course they will, the things you suggest are threatening their dignity and identity. (Remember when they set boundaries for you or took your keys away? Talk about putting up a fight!) However, it can be done and you can do it.
Here are some hints and coping mechanisms.
- Do not hesitate to ask for help, of any kind, whether it be physical, moral, emotional, financial, legal.
- Start checking, sooner rather than later, around to see what services are offered in your area such as support groups, adult day care, assisted living, home health care, Meals on Wheels.
- Listen to what others, in your situation, have to say but remember what works for one doesn’t always work for all.
- Don’t feel like you have to be superwoman or superman. Do what you can with what you have, make your decisions and move on.
- Find ways to ease into the conversations about big changes.
- Remember you are their champion.Your concern is that they get the best care available, regardless of where they are.
- Remember you are not dictator. When possible, discuss things with them and let them give their input. Make suggestions in such a way they think it is their idea.
- Continually remind them that your goal is to help them be independent for as long as possible and it’s okay if they need help.
This circle of life stuff isn’t for wimps. This is hard stuff. It’s important to be firm and honest. Try to be compassionate and not condescending. Your parent is going to feel like they are losing control and indeed they are.
Most importantly, be mindful of your needs. Talk to your friends, find a support group, ask for help. You don’t have to do it all by yourself and you shouldn’t. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for your parent.
image courtesy of Barnes and Noble