Your mother has Alzheimer's and has had it for several years now. The signs were all there in the beginning: forgetting food in the microwave, not remembering where the silverware drawer is, and forgetting how to start the washing machine. It was simple enough for your father to manage at first but now things are getting complicated. Now the disease is escalating. Now, it isn't as easy as it was in the beginning. Yet your father won't ask or accept help.
Why your parents need help
Too many parents want to manage their spouse's care alone. Although this is honorable, it may not be the wisest or safest choice.
Imagine this scenario:Your mother has Alzheimer's and your father is quite elderly and slowing down physically. On a cold, wintery day, your dad slips and falls while shoveling the walkway or falls down a staircase. Now what? Who will help your dad? What if he is unconscious? How long can your mom be left alone in the house? Is she safe? If your nodding your head as you read this, you understand why your parents need to ask for help.
Realistically, you can't be with your parents 24/7, but one option that can be invaluable is a personal medical alert device that your parent wears at all times. This would send an alert to a designated phone number and an ambulance would immediately be dispatched to their location. This kind of help can save a life.
Something else to keep in mind is that no two people with Alzheimer's behave the same as the disease progresses. Some people are mild mannered while others become more agitated and even violent as the disease progresses. This can present a different type of safety issue. Is your parent safe with someone who could potentially become violent? This is a difficult situation and may not have a clear cut resolution. The best case scenario here is to place the parent with Alzheimer's under the care of professionals. However, many spouse's would rather deal with the risk of their loved one's increasing violence than place them in a memory care facility. As the disease progresses, there may not be an option. It is worth mentioning that this should be approached with great care and respect for your parent's wishes.
The above mentioned situations are only a couple examples of why your parents need help. Certainly, there are many more situations and circumstances that can arise when your parents are managing their care alone.
Parents who won't accept help
Perhaps you can see the toll this disease is taking on your father as the caregiver. He has become more irritable, anxious, closed off and he's even lost quite a bit of weight. Yet he insists on handling your mother's care alone. Clearly, dad needs help but how do you provide it when he won't accept it?
First, you need to make sure that your dad stay's healthy at all costs. This is going to take some creative thinking on your part. For those parents who won't accept any assistance at all, you will need to find ways to “assist” while making it look like you aren't really helping out. How do you do this? Good question. There are no hard or fast rules for this. And, it is worth noting that every family is as different as are the dynamics within each family. What might work for one family, may not for another. Having said that, here are some suggestions for offering help to parents:
Either you can provide them yourself (or rotate with other family members) or have a service like Meals on Wheels bring meals on a regular basis. Meals on Wheels is a service that brings meals to your home for a fee. Many caregiver's of Alzheimer's patients can be underweight. Some of this can be due to stress but it could also be because the primary cook in the house is not cooking anymore. It sounds like a small thing to do but providing meals can take a huge burden off of your parents.
Parents who deal with this disease day in and day out can become closed off from their community and surroundings. Daily visits can provide your parents a sense of normalcy and stability in the middle of their daily struggles. Maybe you create a routine around your visit. You could stop by each day or often to say “hello” and visit or drop off some household items. Any time you spend with your parents will not only improve their mood, it will be a sweet memory for you to savor for years to come.
Ask questions and observe.
Do some probing and see where your parents might need assistance. It could be that their house looks like it hasn't been cleaned in a while. Again, here is another opportunity to help without being too direct. If your parents aren't open to a cleaning service, try to discreetly pick up, organize an area or clean a bathroom next time you stop by for a visit.
These are just a few suggestions that can help lessen the burden this disease places on your loved ones. These tips may make the difference in the quality of their lives together. Remember, as your parents navigate through Alzheimer's, keeping your parents safe and health will be a top priority.