How can we help a parent with dementia?


#1

Hi,

First of all, I want to confirm that I am not looking in any way for medical advice! My father has great doctors and he's all set there.

What I'm hoping for is advice and shared experiences on helping a parent who has dementia. My father's memory has been failing and the process seems to be accelerating. He is 84 years old and it started a few years ago when we'd ask him for directions to various places and he'd say, "Oh, I used to know but I don't anymore." Then more and more things left his memory, and now he sometimes doesn't recognize relatives. He doesn't know the grandkids' names anymore, and he definitely doesn't recognize people that he only occasionally sees.

His driving is ok, although we only let him drive to familiar places. He goes to AA meetings regularly. He used to do the grocery shopping for my mom but if he goes to the store now, I know he has to ask people to help him find things because he often is not even sure what the product is. He has had trouble using the ATM lately. And probably the worst sign of all is that twice lately he has gotten dressed into a pajama top - once he put on a pj top and a tie, and just the other day my mom said he needed a jacket so he went and put on a pajama top over his clothes.

So... things are definitely getting worse. My plan right now is to help out by stopping over and taking my father out to the grocery story a few times a week, making dinner for my parents while I'm at their house. I'll bring my two youngest with me, as we homeschool. I think it will be good for all of us - my parents for the help, and my children and me for the extra time we'll spend with them. I would need to get back home in the late afternoon for my older kids and for evening activities.

If anyone can share the path they've experienced in this situation, including what to expect if the dementia gets worse, how to be prepared ahead of time for further declines, anything at all, I would really appreciate it! Thanks so much!


#2

Your decision regarding taking your Dad shopping is a good one as your dear Dad will only become more lost. That will work for a while but not indefinitely. Unfortunately your Dad will eventually get to the point where he can't take care even of his own hygiene, so if your mother can't cope there will need to be further decisions made. My Dad reached the point at around 86 that he could no longer care for my step-mother at home. She couldn't remember anything for a few minutes at a time, and she'd hide things like his house and car keys and wander off.

As she became less able to take care of her basic needs my Dad had to have her put in a home. He struggled about it, but he was old himself, and he was told that my step-mother was better placed in a home before she lost all her faculties, as at least she could form some bonds there and feel at home. Dad used to bring her home regularly until she only felt comfortable at the home. At first she was in a more open housing, but had to go into higher care as she kept taking things from others' rooms in her confusion. My Dad has now died, in June, but his wife is carrying on, recognizing few people and only occasionally. She seems happy, but some people do do through an aggressive stage of Alzheimers. Every instance is a little different so you can only assess how things are for your mother and Dad as you go.

But I'm truly sorry that you and your family have this great sadness.

alzheimer.ca/english/disease/progression-intro.htm


#3

[quote="momof8, post:1, topic:221387"]
His driving is ok, although we only let him drive to familiar places. He goes to AA meetings regularly.

[/quote]

I would put a stop to the driving ASAP! Do this before his hurts or kills himself or someone else.

If he gets lost at the grocery store, how much more tragic would it be to get lost on the road? Or forget that red means stop, and he goes through the intersection?


#4

[quote="Catholic90, post:3, topic:221387"]
I would put a stop to the driving ASAP! Do this before his hurts or kills himself or someone else.

If he gets lost at the grocery store, how much more tragic would it be to get lost on the road? Or forget that red means stop, and he goes through the intersection?

[/quote]

Yeah, that was my first thought too. If he is losing his judgment about how to dress himself and to pick out items at the store, he is past the time of driving. Driving entails too many decisions and too many things to keep track of: other cars, pedestrians, signage, stoplights, flow of traffic, etc. Not something an impaired person is safe with.

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. We just lost my mom 3 weeks ago. She required total care, from being logged rolled side to side to clean and change her, to spoonfeeding her pureed food. I know she is with God now, and that her mind is restored. It gives me comfort. I've missed my mom long before she died.

My mother in law lives with us. She is not nearly as far down the road of decline as my mom, but then, she is 12 years younger.

The best advice I can give is, anticipate his needs. As he becomes less able to make decisions and relay his needs, you will need to step in. He may not recognize hunger or think to tell you he wants something to eat. Just make meals routine. He may not be able to express being cold. Make sure he is dressed warmly. My mother in law can't tell us she is in pain, but grimaces and groans as she tries to walk, so we assume she is in pain and added a couple Advil to her routine morning meds. He will be able to express his needs less and less as time goes on, so learn to step in and just do for him.

Thats all I can think of right now. Hopefully you will get other good ideas.

Good luck,

Arlene


#5

[quote="Catholic90, post:3, topic:221387"]
I would put a stop to the driving ASAP! Do this before his hurts or kills himself or someone else.

If he gets lost at the grocery store, how much more tragic would it be to get lost on the road? Or forget that red means stop, and he goes through the intersection?

[/quote]

This is definitely something we've been struggling with. Strangely enough, I read on our state's website that if someone complains about an older driver, or if an older driver has three accidents (!) within 18 months, the driver can be required to take a road test. But under these circumstances when there is obviously some concern about the driver's abilities, the test only consists of a drive around the block, or perhaps a bit more. The tester will also ask a few basic questions such as, what is the date, can you identify a certain well-known person (such as, do you know who the President is) and I think one other question. My father could answer those - but probably not anything more difficult - and could certainly hold his own in a drive around the block. Frankly, while I am surprised at how easy the test is for an elderly driver, I feel that as far as our state laws, he is ok to drive..... but... I think the law is weak.

In fact, if anyone can share how to take driving privileges away without taking a person's dignity away, that would also be helpful. If you've been in this position with a family member, I think you'll know what I mean.


#6

[quote="Arlene, post:4, topic:221387"]
Yeah, that was my first thought too. If he is losing his judgment about how to dress himself and to pick out items at the store, he is past the time of driving. Driving entails too many decisions and too many things to keep track of: other cars, pedestrians, signage, stoplights, flow of traffic, etc. Not something an impaired person is safe with.

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. We just lost my mom 3 weeks ago. She required total care, from being logged rolled side to side to clean and change her, to spoonfeeding her pureed food. I know she is with God now, and that her mind is restored. It gives me comfort. I've missed my mom long before she died.

My mother in law lives with us. She is not nearly as far down the road of decline as my mom, but then, she is 12 years younger.

The best advice I can give is, anticipate his needs. As he becomes less able to make decisions and relay his needs, you will need to step in. He may not recognize hunger or think to tell you he wants something to eat. Just make meals routine. He may not be able to express being cold. Make sure he is dressed warmly. My mother in law can't tell us she is in pain, but grimaces and groans as she tries to walk, so we assume she is in pain and added a couple Advil to her routine morning meds. He will be able to express his needs less and less as time goes on, so learn to step in and just do for him.

Thats all I can think of right now. Hopefully you will get other good ideas.

Good luck,

Arlene

[/quote]

Thanks for the advice, Arlene. I am very sorry to hear about your mother so recently passing, but I think the same about my father - when we do lose him, he will almost instantly have all of his wonderful mental abilities back again. He was a lawyer and knew so much history, and law, and especially knew so much about the Church. My mother is very afraid of what will happen when he starts to need the care that your mother did - she knows she can't do that on her own. We will deal with that when we come to it. At the same time, I know that as I spend more time helping with him, I will miss him that much more when he is gone.

I will share your advice about anticipating his needs to my siblings as well. Thank you!


#7

[quote="Trishie, post:2, topic:221387"]
Your decision regarding taking your Dad shopping is a good one as your dear Dad will only become more lost. That will work for a while but not indefinitely. Unfortunately your Dad will eventually get to the point where he can't take care even of his own hygiene, so if your mother can't cope there will need to be further decisions made. My Dad reached the point at around 86 that he could no longer care for my step-mother at home. She couldn't remember anything for a few minutes at a time, and she'd hide things like his house and car keys and wander off.

As she became less able to take care of her basic needs my Dad had to have her put in a home. He struggled about it, but he was old himself, and he was told that my step-mother was better placed in a home before she lost all her faculties, as at least she could form some bonds there and feel at home. Dad used to bring her home regularly until she only felt comfortable at the home. At first she was in a more open housing, but had to go into higher care as she kept taking things from others' rooms in her confusion. My Dad has now died, in June, but his wife is carrying on, recognizing few people and only occasionally. She seems happy, but some people do do through an aggressive stage of Alzheimers. Every instance is a little different so you can only assess how things are for your mother and Dad as you go.

But I'm truly sorry that you and your family have this great sadness.

alzheimer.ca/english/disease/progression-intro.htm

[/quote]

Thanks, Trishie. I will check the link you sent. Do you know with your stepmother, was there a point when her decline really accelerated? My mother is very fearful of reaching the time when my father will need more physical care. As you know, this is a time of both fear and grieving for her. I just try to remind her that we don't need to be too worried about what may happen in the future, that we should deal with what we have now. I'm just afraid that we are under-dealing with it now - not the physical component just yet, but the mental component.

I also have heard about people with Alzheimer's becoming aggressive and the cute thing with my dad is, he used to be somewhat gruff but he is just so sweet lately! In fact, the only thing he wants to talk to my mother about is how wonderful she is! She just wishes they could have a conversation about something else sometimes.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your advice. I really appreciate it.


#8

My parents are divorced (neither remarried and they, thankfully, get along fine. They divorced YEARS ago). They are in their 80s and both are getting forgetful. My fahter lives with us and so it is much easier to observe and help him.
For my mother, however, it is tough. My sister and I went to a free 'session' at the local hospital regarding elder care in general. Here are some things we took away from that which may help you...

  1. Call your local DSS adult social services department. Find out what services and programs they have for the elderly. Middle and upper class folks often forget about these services as an option. We found that, for instance, my mom can get an in home aid to come by once a week to help clean and do some household things for free. This person also can all us after each visit and let us know how mom 'seem to be doing'.
    They also have services to do things like roll down their garbage can, provide transportation to appointments and the store, etc. All are based on AGE not financail need.
    We may use the above if mom will agree. It would be great, for instane, for me to be able to meet her at the doctor and drive her home rather than her driving herself (esp. given her forgetfulness and the poor weather to come) or me having to get her first.

  2. Consider NOW what you will do if they cannot/should not live alone any longer. Research and visit assisted living places. Consider making a room available in your home and figuring out who could be home with them, etc. Do this before there is an incident and a doctor tells you not to leave them alone anymore.

  3. WATCH THEIR FINANCES. Learned this this hard way. My mom gave several thousand dollars to a young man we know to invest in his business. The business never got off the ground, she can't find the paper he signed and he has not paid back the $. See if you can work with them each month to go over what money is coming in and out. Again, plan for the future.

  4. Put grandchildren to use. Their relationship to your parents is different and also better in these situations. Let the grandkids, age 12 and up, go over once a month and help clean up and just spend time with them. Again, this is a way to keep tabs AND for you your children to accept that grandma/grandpa now need their help. (This was GREAT advice we took right away. The grandkis now babysit their grandparents, though of course no one calls it that!).

  5. Have a family meeting first with you and your siblings, even if by phone. Plan who is best suited to talk to mom and dad about the above...who should run the bigger meeting to come which ideally will be with your parents and all siblings and spouses. Have this meeting soon. Don't wait for a crisis.

Hope this helps--
Taben


#9

Prayers for you.

We’ve gone through this with my grandfather…and supposedly my Godmother.

(although with her, I’m not sure if she had alzheimer’s or if it all was reaction to chemo/morphine, she had cancer as well:()


#10

Taben,

These are all very helpful. It is hard to get people thinking ahead of time about all of this, probably because we just don't want to imagine it. It's also the first time any of us has had a parent or in-law in this situation.

I especially did not know that Social Services would provide these services for free based on age, although maybe that varies by state. Definitely worth looking into, though.

Thank you!


#11

[quote="Mary_Gail_36, post:9, topic:221387"]
Prayers for you.

We've gone through this with my grandfather....and supposedly my Godmother.

(although with her, I'm not sure if she had alzheimer's or if it all was reaction to chemo/morphine, she had cancer as well:()

[/quote]

I know, you can't be sure it's Alzheimer's when there could be other causes. My mother had my father checked for everything else he could possibly have before deciding it must be dementia, if not actually Alzheimer's. My father's hearing is very bad, even with hearing aids, and my mom wanted to believe that that was the only problem but at this point that is obviously not the case. Thankfully, he does not also have to deal with cancer.

Thank you for your prayers, Mary Gail!


closed #12

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