How to get through a life crisis and still give care to an Alzheimer’s senior…by francy Dickinson
Dear Francy; My mother died 3 months ago and I have a very big problem. My dad has early stages of Alzheimer’s and his emotions and memory loss have blown-up since mother has passed. I am a single mom of three and have no place or money to keep dad and my brother’s wife does not want him in her home. He has his home, paid for and he makes a small income each month, but his life is going down fast and I don’t know how to help him?
Yes, we have some work to do. First, let’s just have a quick review of the brain for Alzheimer’s from a lay-person. Any person, with any kind of a jolt to their lives is going to have a loss of brain power. If you have a bad fever, a fall, a big argument or a death within your close circle of loved ones – the brain takes a hit. A person that is younger and has full function of their brain, will grow back the brain functions over a short period of time…and although they may feel a little loopy or tired, or experience some feelings of being ‘out of focus’, the repair takes place and the brain will once again function. For a person that is older the brain repair is on ‘slow’, and it will take a few months time to recover all of the brain functions up to par and then move forward. For a person with dementia/Alzheimer’s it really sets them into a ‘swim of things’ and takes a great deal of time for the brain to even ‘try’ to recover.
Auction 2 help bit.ly/QEY6j0 I experienced this early in the Alzheimer’s process with my husband, George. He had pneumonia and it was not diagnosed. So he went in and out of hospital within a one month time frame losing his body’s ability to fight the infection and finally just having a mental check-out. When they found out his problem and gave him medications he was able to return home from hospital…it took another six months for his mind/brain to recover. Even after that time, he never came back like he was before the onset of pneumonia…it put a quicker movement into his Alzheimer’s decline and it was such a sad thing to have happen.
It took a long talk with George’s neurologist to get an understanding of what was happening to him. So, you need to know that even on a good day of your dad’s Alzheimer’s he is not functioning like he would…he is grieving both the loss of his wife, life partner and friend. He is in the midst of that and that pressure is going to cause him to express his own thoughts in a confused way.
As always; a trip to his neurologist that specializes in Alzheimer’s care should be done right away. The doctors that give this care specialty are very savvy and will be able to help you understand where your dad stands in his Alzheimer’s progression. He can adjust his medications and help him with diets, exercise and social interaction suggestions for you to follow.
I would suggest that you try to keep him in his own home. He can not be alone and be safe…so my suggestion is that you either hire someone to come in during the day to keep him eating and moving and establishing his own routine again. Or you get someone to come in and live, in the house. This is a very common thing to do in the senior care field. You could find an adult student that needs a place to live and is willing to provide simple services for your dad; in return for free rent and food.
Or you could go into the community and look for another senior that would like to be in the home. I would go to the nearest senior community center or faith facility and ask if they know of a senior that needs a place to live and would be open to giving your dad his meals and making sure he takes his medications and gets to his doctor appointments. To be there for him so he can have six months to a year to move through his grieving and re-establish his life. It is worth your time to find just the right person. That will give you and your dad time to adjust and then face a move into an Adult Family Home.
I like the Adult Family Home…they are usually a house that has a few bedrooms that have other folks with Alzheimer’s in each room. The owner is a trained health care professional and provides a more family type of atmosphere for the patients. This place may be their forever home, or a place to stay for a few years and then transition into a care center that will provide more advanced care.
What I like about the live-in help is way to give you and your brother time to heal and adjust to the huge change in your family dynamics. You can both stay close to keep an eye on things and still afford his care by exchanging a place for the person to live and eat…in turn for their time giving attention and ‘light’ care to your dad. Usually the house work is left to you or an outside person to do once a month. Then, when your dad has the time to repair from his grief and adjust to his mental loss…it will be time to give him more care and protection with an Adult Family Care Facility.
You can hire daily in-home care that is done by professional services…or you can go the private live-in help, which will give you less trained people. If you do this, you will have to set the rules and outline the chores to be done each day to help your dad.
The professional in-home services have their routines all down on paper. The company comes in and does an assessment and then puts a plan of care together with you. It is a very well run organization, but it is pricey. You can often set your budget and then pick and choose the care services he needs the most. The care that is given from the service is bonded and done according to a pre-agreed on program of care.
The private hiring of an in-home resident can also be very pleasing for all around, if they are interviewed and required to provide a reference and any one younger would have a drug test. That way you can know your dad is safe. The point here is – your dad can no longer live safely on his own. He needs to be cared for and if you can not do it…you will have to get someone to step-in. Keeping your dad in a stable situation is what will allow him to extend his mental abilities as long as possible without a big drop in his functions. If you allow him to just be on his own, and he is unable to remember his medications, eat well or interact or exercise…he will be in a downward spiral that will not be able to be repaired. His mind is not going to heal it will only go downhill…so this is a must..you have to keep him as calm and comforted as you can — as soon as you can…or he will take a dip.
The sale of your father’s home will pay for care in an Adult Family home…so I would keep that in your mind. As you go forward this next year…be sure to make improvements to his home to get it ready to sell in the near future. You can lay out the landscaping so it can be taken care of with bark and a lawn mowing. If your brother goes over a couple times a month to mow the lawn it will look tidy. The inside of the house will need new paint and cleaning and maybe updates to small things to give the house a good sale position on the market. It is best to do a little of this prep work each month…so the expenses can be budgeted during the year. Then when the time comes that your dad is in need of more care, the sale of the house will go easier.
You do need to take over his doctor visits. You need to be in the office with your dad to hear the doctors and understand the medications, food and exercise needed to keep your dad’s brain functioning at its peak performance. That performance will be a slow dip but good care can keep your dad in a bubble of calm and love for a long time.
Once again, if you can not do any care for him…then an Adult Family Home from day one is your goal. But I think with the help of you and your brother, hiring a service or a live-in help would be the best answer. This could keep your dad in his home and allow him to adjust to a new type of life for a year or so…then as he changes his routine’s a move into an Adult Family Home would be easier for him to make and not cause him a total melt down.
I understand the upset that a big change can make to an Alzheimer’s senior. We have to move out of our family home. We have lost it and will need to find a new place to live. I am really trying hard to absorb all the sadness and fuss myself…to keep my husband in a protected bubble. My husband’s Alzheimer’s is moving ahead and I do not want him to go into a severe decline over the move. So, this is a very hard time on me. I am asking friends to help and making plans to keep him calm and protected with a family member during the move. It takes a lot of planning to keep the pressures away from my husband, but in the end…we will be in a new place and he will have his things around him and he will feel safe.
I appreciate all you are doing for your dad…I know how hard it is to make these decisions for your parent. It’s an odd thing to be a child/daughter one day and a comforting care giving daughter the next. You have my appreciation for your love and time that you are giving to your dad. I understand that being a single parent on top of it all…is quite the undertaking…but you can do it! Blessings, francy