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HORIZON BLOG

Can Dad Still Babysit My Kids?

 

Question

"My father has been babysitting my children since they were born. He watches them for an hour or two, here and there. The kids love it because Grandpa has very few rules and is so much fun.

The challenge I face is that my father has shown signs of memory problems lately. At 75 years, he has been very healthy and quite able to this point. Recently though, he forgets things. One day, he forgot to pick the kids up at school until I called to check on how things were going. Another day, he and the kids were out having lunch, and he got lost on the way home. The restaurant was in his town. 

I also notice spoiled food in his refrigerator for far longer than I would have in the past. He doesn’t seem to remember events I tell him about, or appointments. 

While these occurrences are few and far between, they worry me. Is it time to supervise him when he’s with the kids?"

 

Answer

You have good reason to be concerned based on the incidences you’ve cited.

Indeed, we all forget things at times and it’s not uncommon to blank on a password or forget a name. That type of memory lapse is common to everyone. Most of us use tactics to help, like using a calendar or storing passwords in a safe place. These are usual practices to help busy people avoid forgetting something important.

Getting lost on a frequently-travelled path home, though, is the most concerning example you gave. This is not common, nor is it seen in healthy adults. It should be explored with a medical provider, as it’s a problem encountered in many forms of dementia and in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Please arrange for your father a medical appointment so a doctor can evaluate his cognitive function. This incident should not be ignored. 

Regardless of the outcome of your father’s medical evaluation, please do not limit his time with his grandchildren. He needs your love and support more than ever. Restricting access to his grandchildren would be heartbreaking. For future visits, an older child or adult will need to be nearby so that grandpa’s activity can be monitored. It’s unfortunate that this is now necessary, but until you know for sure what is going on cognitively, it’s important for everyone’s safety. 

If your father lives with your mother, include her in the plan and use her as a possible solution. If your father lives alone, you’ll have to help decide how he’ll live as independently as possible. First, though, consult a medical professional. That’s your starting point.

You have uncovered some jarring behaviors that need intervention. I wish you a smooth journey with your father.

 

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