Dear francy; My mother and I took my dad (who has early dementia) to Texas to have a family Thanksgiving. It was simply the worst event of my life. Dad was confused from the moment we got in the car. The check- in at the airport was awful. He was mad and angry at the TSA check through. Then on the plane, he simply got rude to the flight attendant and everything went downhill from there. He did not want to be at our relatives, he did not want to eat. Oh my gosh; it was simply one moment of embarrassment after another. Dad had shown little signs of dementia at home, but we had no idea of his decline until we went on this trip. Should we get him into the doctor for a checkup or is this a normal event that we simply missed the signs?
I think it’s really both. Your doctor should hear that he was so moody and had what they call an “event” on the plane. That is common, the oxygen changes in the plane and it affects the brain. But the doctor needs to know the different things that happened. So, first write it all down in simple terms like an outline. Fax that letter into your doctor or take it with you for the next appointment. Ask for an appointment as soon as possible. Christmas is right around the corner and if the stress of change is beginning to affect him – you need to get it handled.
The doctor will read the letter that you outlined the problem and be able to assist you in a mood type of drug that will help your dad cope with the pressure of change. It will mean that he will be less upset and that is the goal for all of you as a family. These medications are designed to just calm him down, not make him tired or unfeeling. As the dementia progresses; your doctor will increase this medication as needed. This is what your doctor and medications are for so do not feel like you are doing something wrong to report his behavior and ask for help. Doctors are trained to help you and so you will become part of the health team for your dad. You, your mother, the doctors and your dad; all together working to make his dementia progression as slow as possible = Health Team.
Have a talk with your mother and really allow her to express herself. She may be shocked and upset at his behavior, or she may have been looking the other way on all to many occasions when your dad has been moody before this “event”. She has to talk about it, if she is covering for him – as many loyal wives do for their spouses – that has to be talked about. His health means being very open and out there with the different ups and downs of his behavior. He will go downhill on a fast track if he is allowed to just go on emotional upsets without any attention being given to them. So, your mother is the front push of the Health Team. She has to get used to talking to you honestly about the daily ups and downs in your dad’s behavior. Then you both can decide when that behavior is not acceptable and needs to be reported to the doctor. Dementia/Alzheimer’s patients can get angry and not know how to express their needs and will lash out with words and with physical fighting. If that happens; the doctors need to know so they can medicate and keep the patient calmer. Your mother has to be protected from any harm during her care giving. Honesty between you and your mother will be a key to giving your dad good care.
Alzheimer’s/Dementia Spouse care givers have to be giving all the knowledge they can have to understand the steps in the decline of the senior. That way they know how to express their own needs and what to do to keep their own spirit and health intact.
Here are some ideas to help the spouse or the family care giver:
- You may have to make plans for your dad to have a pro care giver brought in once a week to care for him while your mom gets rest or an outing.
- You may need to take him to a day care for dementia patients once or twice a week – or just a few hours – so he can get some interaction with others and your mother gets a rest.
- Maybe once a week you and your family can come over for a Saturday night movie and bring dinner…so your parents can have family interaction and feel like they are still connected and not alone.
- You may want to call five of your dad’s old friends and ask if they would commit to calling him once a week in the early afternoon, or coming over to visit once a month for no more than 20 minutes. That will give your dad a touch of friendship and connection with others.
- You may want to have a bath lady come and do the personal bath each week. That way your mother does not have to argue about a bath. It keeps dad clean and keeps mom calmer.
- Maybe you can have a neighbor/sibling come over for two hours each week and you take your mom shopping with you. Then stop for a quiet coffee time and then back home. This break means your mother gets a boost of energy from you and your dad gets a separation from routine.
- Make sure your dad gets an out and about at least every other week. Even if he gets uptight. It can be a car ride to get gas and coffee and never really leaving the car. Or a ride to your house for dinner. Keep the event short and simple. Try not to include a big crowd or strangers.
- Sunday services may not be on the list any longer. You can ask the pastor to visit the house each week. Or you can attend a quieter mid-week service. These large crowds of people, even though he knows them well – can set him off to a place of insecurity and that means opening him up for another “event”.
- Get the doctor on board with information and updating medication
- Make sure the main care giver understands that the senior is changing and they will both need more support
- Get professional support for just a few hours each week, so the cost is within budget and the spouse has a relief from care
- Get family and friends to assist you in their own way to keep your dad connected but calm
- Keep your senior out of the house but within boundaries of their own comfort level
- Change things around for the senior like heavy holiday stress or large faith or family events into smaller doses to keep comfort level calm
- Holidays can be any day that has friends and family around the senior with a light dinner. The stress of thinking you have to have a big event with all the trimmings is now going to change. Do not think “This may be his last Christmas for him to remember.” He has already changed, his holiday has to be less of everything, with more love and happy up energy.
This whole adventure through care of loved ones at holiday time– is a bum. I am learning step by step as I go forward with my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Our Thanksgiving was way too much for him and I was to blame. I wanted him to be happy…but I forgot that his happy has changed. A simple good meal and a good movie would have been much better. I have learned and I will not be doing a big push for Christmas. Keeping things down and calm, but still celebrating is the ticket. I guess we are all going through this journey and learning together and I thank you for all you are doing for your parents.
Blessings on your holidays may they be quiet, calm and filled with the real love that you and your family have for each other…
Francy with Missy Come and enjoy more info at www.SeniorCareWithSpirit.com