helping a parent with demetia grieve a spouse

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I am writing to ask for suggestion and help for my father, who has early stage alzheimer's disease. My mom died two weeks ago, and though I knew he was have some memory troubles, I did not know he was diagnosed with this disease until now. His doctor has made a few suggestion, such as getting power of attorney while he is still able to grant it. He is still living at home alone, and refuses to consider any move for now. He is starting to show signs of depression and I am at a loss as to how to help him with his grief. Please feel free to email me, and thanks for any resposes in advance.


Posted on 2002/7/21 22:31




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From: Rowlett
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Dear ElderHope Reader,

Please accept my condolences regarding your mother's recent death. It seems as though this is a very difficult time for you right now, as you are also trying to care for your father. Does your father live nearby? If not, does he have any relatives and/or friends that can stop by and check on him? How is his level of dementia affecting his ability to care for himself? For example, if he has been prescribed a medication regarding his Alzheimers disease (AD), such as Aricept or Exelon or Reminyl, will he remember to take it as prescribed? It sounds as though his dementia is very early, though, as you mentioned that you did not know about his memory problems until recently.

I ask these questions because many of my suggestions depend on how his memory and thinking problems are affecting him including his ability to drive (if this is an issue). Maybe ask your father's doctor about how she/he believes your father is currently functioning - it may be that your father is basically able to care for himself, even with his AD. If the doctor believes that your father should not be alone all day, maybe hire someone from a companion service to prepare his meals, make sure that he is taking his medications, provide socialization, etc. As already mentioned, it is important to complete the paperwork regarding Power of Attorney, making sure that your father is paying the monthly bills, etc. You might want to contact a geriatric care manager or a lawyer experienced with elder issues for help with all this. The link for the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers is: www.caremanager.org and our Ethics and Law page may have several links that may be helpful for you.

Lastly, about your question regarding your father's grief - this may be the hardest one to address! Because your mother died only 2 weeks ago, your father may be experiencing many of the feelings associated with early grief - a sense of numbness, confusion, sadness, etc. All of these feelings may be related to depression, however, this is not to say that he is clinically depressed. When was the last time he received a physical exam from his physician? This may be a good time for a thorough evaluation to determine his general well being, in addition to his AD. If he is clinically depressed, a doctor may prescribe medication to help him get through this time.
If your father's dementia is such that he keeps forgetting that your mother has died, you may hear him asking repeatedly about where she is . . . this can be very difficult for everyone. Simple responses that address his questions without causing more agitation is oftentimes the best route. He may need extra support during this time, especially if he is more confused and disoriented because of your mother's absence. Again, many of these considerations depend on his level of dementia and his support system. There are many books about grief relating to the loss of a spouse and you may find something helpful on our Death and Grief page - Books and Links pages. Also, contact your local Alzheimer's Association for more information relating to grief and dementia.

This is a very long response to your simple question but I had so many questions come to mind as I was reading your message . . . when you get the chance, I would like to know about how your father and you are coming along. Also, if you want some feedback about the questions I asked you, please let me know that too! We will sure try to help during this difficult time, if we can. Please take care - Barb


Posted on 2002/7/22 15:54




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Dear Barb,
Thanks for your thoughtful and quick reply to my post.
My father went to his doctor last week because he fell during the night and hit his head. His doctor had spoken with us prieviously and said that he felt Dad was starting to get to middle-stages, but still had the capacity to make legal decisions. Unfortunately, he only mentions things like 'memory loss' or 'impairment' to my dad. We are wondering if he has ever explained the degenerative nature of the disease to my dad like he did us. Dad lives at home, alone. I live about 12 minutes away, and I have been spending most of the day with him since my mom went into the hospital ( over a month ago). My circumstances allow this for now, but my sister works and has small children, so she can only help out when she is free. Dad will not consider a move to a health facility, nor allow someone to stay with him at night. This worries his doctor and our family. He has been told not to drive, and has been accepting of this so far.
I would like to find things for him to keep active and involved in, he has mentioned feeling worthless. He says he wants to be with my mom. This has caused me much anxiety. Any suggestions you have are greatly appreciated.


Posted on 2002/7/23 0:53




normal Your father's grief

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From: Rowlett
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Dear Reader,
It's good to hear from you again. I'll try to be a little less wordy with this response to your message Regarding your father's unwillingness to have someone stay with him . . . if you feel, as well as the doctor, that it is unsafe for him to stay by himself, could he stay with a family member or friend for a brief period of time? Maybe your father would be more inclined to stay with someone or have someone stay with him if you explained that, for right now, this would be helping you to feel less stress about him being by himself. Or maybe hire someone to come in for a few hours a day to help with the cooking and house cleaning and driving your father around town for errands, thereby slowly letting him get used to another person around him. This person could become your father's companion, helping him with his activities of daily living.

Because of his dementia, even if his doctor explained about the degenerative nature of the disease, your father may not be able to understand or remember what the doctor is saying. It really is more important that you and the rest of the family understand about dementia and how to best care for your father during this time. Again, contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and ask them to send you as much information that you think would be helpful for you. This is an awesome organization with tons of information and resources that they will be happy to share with you and your family.

Regarding your father saying that he feels worthless and wants to be with your mom - well, as painful as it is to hear those kind of thoughts, it sounds understandable considering his grief. Simply "being there" for your father, listening to his pain, allowing him to talk if he wants to and listening to what he is trying to express, can really help him with his grief. Again, if you feel that he may be experiencing true depression, a visit to the doctor is warranted - especially if he really starts talking about taking his own life . . . If you feel that you would like some professional intervention from someone in your area about grief, contact a hospice and ask for some info about the grieving process.

Lastly, trying to keep your father "active" during this time may be very difficult - especially considering his dementia and grief. When you contact the Alzheimer's Association, ask them for specific ideas about activities for someone with AD. Generally, interests that were important to your father before will probably have more meaning for him - for example, if he enjoyed gardening before, ask him to help you with some gardening in the back yard or if he liked working in the garage, ask him to help organize some things into boxes in the garage. The point is to pick activities that your father used to enjoy doing, but now, try to offer these activities in a simple and safe way!

Sure hope that these suggestions help in some way . . . keep in touch and you all will be in our thoughts.
Barb


Posted on 2002/7/23 21:28




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Dear Barb,
Thanks again for your help and ideas. We have contacted the Alzheimers Foundation and received their information packet. It had been a lot of help.
Unfortunately, Dad will not consider any other living arrangements, he has a dog and he insists that he must stay at home with her. He won't let us have anyone come in to help him, so I have been doing most of the household chores, and my sister helps out when she is able to do so. My house is not air conditioned, and has several sets of stairs, so it really is not practical for him to move here anyway. He really wants to stay home, and we are hoping to at least get him to consider meals on wheels for the winter, when I may not alway be able to get into town ( I live in a rural area) We still have to find a way for him to take his medicines, but we hope to figure out something. I think I will buy him a memory phone, and I am looking into med-alert too. His doctor tells us he may have to call adult protective services if Dad does not cooperate, but he has really kind of side-stepped all of this when he talked to Dad.
Dad retired 22 years ago, and his only hobbies have been going shopping with Mom or reading books. I have been trying to find some good books that are mostly pictorials with captions. Maybe he will enjoy these.
Thanks again, I appreciate your help very much.


Posted on 2002/7/24 0:58




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Dear Reader,
Your message really reflects a lot of what I hear from adult children of parents who have some sort of dementia. As much as we would like to help our parent, unless he or she is declared incompetent and unable to care for themselves, all we can do is devise ways to "work around" the problems with their thinking and remembering. This can be frustrating and difficult, to say the least. It sounds as though you are really doing all you can right now - deal with the present while preparing for the future! I truly respect and admire your desire to try to help your father -

You mentioned that your father has a dog and wants to stay at home with her - well, one thought to consider is that some assisted living centers allow pets in the resident's rooms. It mostly depends on the facility, the size of the pet and how well the resident can care for the pet . . . you may want to start looking over some of the facilities in your area that specialize in caring for those with dementia, in case your father should need to move in the future.

For the present, however, it sounds as though you and your sister are taking care of your father as well as anyone could . . . please remember to complete the paperwork for his end-of-life decisions - meaning the Power of Attorney, living will, advance directives, etc. And, don't forget to take care of yourself, too!!!!!!!! Please take time out for you and your needs - because you really can't take care of your father if you don't take care of yourself too. Looking forward to hearing from you again -
Barb :P


Posted on 2002/7/25 20:29




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Thanks so much for the suggestion of assisted living that allow pets. I will definitely chek into this. We got the legal papers finished last week, now we are checking into payable on death bank accounts as the attorney suggested. Dad has good days and not so good days. Thanks so much for all your help and words of encouragment!


Posted on 2002/7/28 11:47




pam 

none Re: helping a parent with demetia grieve a spouse

my dad is 85, fell down a flight of stairs. fefuses to go anywhere. we have all day care. wakes up in the middle of the night and calls me /my sister, what time is it? am i home/ what can we do? to comfort him


Posted on 2009/3/17 16:02




none Re: helping a parent with demetia grieve a spouse

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From: Rowlett
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Hi Pam,
Regarding your Dad - you said that he calls you in the middle of the night, being confused and disoriented. . .does he live alone? Does he have a dementia like Alzheimer's disease? Also you said that he fell down a flight of stairs - how is he doing since that fall - is he mobile - can he walk by himself? During this time, can he live with either you or your sister?

I guess I have more questions than answers, but my suggestions will be based on if he does have Alzheimer's disease, how he is doing physically, etc. - if you could send us a message back answering those questions we will sure try to offer some options while you are trying to help your Dad.

Looking forward to hearing from you, Pam!
Barb


Posted on 2009/3/18 9:47 | Last modified




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