I often hear about elders becoming difficult and even abusive toward their adult children just at the time the elders need help. Mom and daughter always got along well, but suddenly Mom is telling her daughter she's too bossy and wants to run her life. Dad and his son had their bad moments, but their relationship as adults has been very good. Then when the adult son offers to help his dad with the yard work, Dad yells at him that he's "not an invalid!" Understandably, the son is hurt, frustrated and confused. He's jut trying to help. The same goes for the daughter who has offered to help her mother. What's behind this behavior in the elder?
Dear Carol: We are having problems making a decision. My father-in-law passed away and my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. She only remembers her husband when someone mentions his name. Otherwise she doesn’t talk about him or even seem to know about him. She’s more worried about her parents who, of course, are long dead. Do we take her to his funeral? Geneva
Dear Geneva: Sometimes it seems easiest, and even kindest, to not take a spouse with advanced Alzheimer’s to the funeral of their deceased husband or wife. However, my feeling is that to not do so would be a dishonor to the marriage.
For most people heavily involved in writing about Alzheimer’s, or working with people with the disease, there is an increased awareness of the fact that they could one day also be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I am no different. I’ve contemplated how I’d feel about a drug trial, if I knew that there were no other options. I can’t honestly put myself into that mindset, since I don’t (yet) have the diagnosis.
In my family, I was the default caregiver.Not only was I the one who lived in the same town as my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my in-laws, I was most suited emotionally to caregiving. It's always been in my nature. I was, however, fortunate to have a sister who lived 50 miles away. She did her best with our parents, driving in from the lake country of Minnesota nearly every weekend so she could visit them. We have a brother who lives in Kansas, but the journey home was a long one, so he wasn't as involved. We all get along well, so I really had no complaints about sibling help, even though their daily care was my responsibility.
People stare. Most aren’t unkind, they are just curious, but when someone “different” from the norm becomes part of their environment, they often stare – without intending to be unkind. Anyone who has cared for a disabled child knows this. Anyone who has a visible disability of their own knows this. However, caregivers of people with dementia may have more difficulty coping with the stares of the public because the person they are caring for is the person who was once their dignified father or magnetic mother. The pain of seeing others stare,
The fact that many elders don't get around to bathing or changing clothes, common as it is, may not be a health issue. It's certainly a social issue, however, and it's one caregivers are acutely aware of. Personal hygiene is rather subjective to begin with, so when people ask about getting their elders to be "cleaner," I generally ask about past habits. Many people in the older generation were not raised on a daily shower. Many people from Europe, and other parts of the world, think Americans are a bit nutty over the daily bath. So, keep things in perspective.
Most people find some satisfaction when a goal of some type, even a small one, is achieved. Why should people with Alzheimer’s feel differently? According to an article on Medical News Today titled, “Achieving Goals Empowers People with Dementia,” researchers at Bangor University, Wales found that “people who received cognitive rehabilitation felt their performance of daily activities improved. Carers (caregivers) of those receiving the treatment also noted an improvement in their own quality of life.” The results of this research were published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Human beings, especially loving human beings, seem to have a penchant for "beating themselves up" over imperfections. This isn't the place to go into all the various psychological issues that make us feel we need to do everything perfectly, but the most common and obvious issues generally stem from trying to please our parents by being very, very good, and not feeling as if we measure up. Just because we are all grown up, doesn't mean we are, well all grown up.
Dear Carol: My wife’s dad suffers from kidney failure, diabetes and has had two strokes. She is just 29-years-old and is his legal guardian. She feels very much stuck in her life and I worry that this will have long term effects on her, as stress can certainly make people sick. There is not sufficient money to cover the cost of care for assisted living or a nursing home, and I think he really needs that. We live in Minnesota. Where does she turn? Frank
Nearly anyone who has known or cared for a person with Alzheimer's has heard the heart-breaking plea, "I want to go home. Take me home." The caregiver often first responds with, "You are home!" Sympathy, mixed with frustration, can cause caregiver angst. It seems nothing we say or do works.