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HORIZON BLOG

Dad Is Caring for Mom, But Not Himself

 

Question

"My parents, in their late 80s, live about two hours from me. Mom has Alzheimer's and Dad takes care of her, doing a pretty decent job. But I‘ve noticed that he no longer looks good. By that, I mean he looks tired and less well kept. His clothing is not always clean, and he looks like he’s going to fall over from exhaustion at times.

Truth be told, Mom is a handful. She can’t remember anything, like turning burners off on the stove, leaving Dad to be on constant watch. Mom is also a bit difficult, like when she fights us against stopping her from doing something potentially harmful. She even tries to hunt down the car keys and flee. While she might be able to start the car and drive, she could never safely get anywhere and back again. It would be a disaster.

I’m at a loss for how to help my father. He doesn’t want to place her in a facility, though I wonder how long he’ll last at this pace."

 

Answer

You have described a situation that, in my opinion, needs intervention. When a caregiver is visibly exhausted, they need help. You have already identified this, and you are right.

At a minimum, your father needs respite. That means he needs a consistent break from the responsibility of 24-hour care. In many ways, it’s as if he has become a parent all over again. Children grow out of the need for constant supervision, though. Alzheimer's does not usually offer that opportunity for resolution. 

I recommend you start with the Alzheimer's Association. They offer a plethora of information, and some support offerings. They are well-versed in this kind of situation. Start there, but don’t stop there. Speak with her doctor to collect information about her specific type of disease. Talk to your siblings and any associates who are experiencing the same thing.  

Your father needs support, and you may or may not be able to provide all that he needs. Your parents may require in-home assistance either to allow for him to sleep at night, get out during the day, or have longer breaks. It may be time to at least look at memory care facilities in their community or yours. 

Level with your father about what you have observed. Offer to help him find a solution. Without knowing him, I recommend you be persistent in seeing that he gets the support he needs. If he gets sick, your mother loses her support system. It’s not uncommon to see a crisis ensue when a caregiving spouse becomes ill themselves. 

The time is now to step up at this crucial junction. Your father may be too tired to explore his options without your help. Please jump in and help him figure it out. 

This is not a time to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar, for fear of meddling. Your father needs your advice, support, and skills. Do whatever you can to help in this time of need. It will be a journey that you take together--probably not your first or last.

 

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