It’s Happening! Dementia!
It’s happening! Dementia! The parents who loved, nurtured, protected, and provided for me are slipping away. Where are they going? How do I help them? What do I say? Why do I feel as if they no longer love me? Maybe I SHOULD give them the car keys. Maybe I shouldn’t worry. Who comes first, my parents or my spouse and children? If only someone could help me!
If you are experiencing any of these questions you are not alone. As our parents age and changes in their mentation and health occur we as their children have to move into the “parenting” role. This is a role we as adults are not prepared for, and this can be heart breaking and emotionally trying on the best of family dynamics.
Before we know it our Mom or Dad or even our Grandparents are slipping into the later stages of their lives. Their once vibrant personality and quick wit have changed and slowed over the years. The hands that once fed and bathed, guided and disciplined, and gave those meaningful hugs, are becoming a distant memory. The lips which gave good night kisses and spoke kind words of love are changing and speaking with a different personality. WHY? Who stole my Mom’s mind from her.
As the body ages unfortunately for some, the mind does to. The mind begins to erase from present to past. Therefore losing the recent memories of Grandkids and Kids, and ending with memories of old times. Such as, memories of their deceased parents still alive, or even a town once lived in years ago becomes the here and the now. Mom and Dad once young and full of wisdom now want to visit their parents who have been long gone. Hygiene changes occur. Refusals to shower or forgetting to shower are repeated over and over during the day. Loved ones in the middle of the night may find it necessary to go to work when they have since retired, or the grocery store to shop. Even a few calls to 911 may be made because someone has stolen the sheets off the bed or taken the milk from the ice box. All of these things and many, many more are experienced by caregivers. In summary this becomes caregiver stress.
So one day it happens! We are placed in the role of decision maker for our parents. We wonder how I can ever make decisions for my parents. How can I make my loved one plan for their safety. Thoughts ramble through our minds of, “I can’t be the one to tell them they have to move”, or “I can’t tell them they are forgetful”, or how do I explain to Mom it’s time to leave her home.
When we were children being raised by our loved ones they took the time and effort to love, protect, guide, nurture and keep us safe. Even when we didn’t know any better we were guided by those who loved us. Now it’s our turn to keep our loved ones safe. You have heard the saying, “Turnabout is fair play”. It’s our turn to give back.
How? Let’s start with a common problem experienced by many – driving. This is not only a safety issue for your loved one but for others. All of us don’t want to be the one on the road when Grandma comes down a “one way”, the WRONG WAY. When communication and redirection has been less than affective it is time to involve the Health Care Provider. The Geriatric generation follows the good doctor’s word first and foremost (most the time). Schedule an appointment with your Care Provider and he or she can better assess the ability to drive and can offer further information.
Next! Taking care of the chores. A house becomes a home when your loved ones live with you and chores and duties are completed as a family. As the children become adults and marry and go on their way they start their own lives with their own home. The house is no longer a home but becomes a chore. These chores include, cooking and cleaning, shoveling snow and mowing the lawn, paying the bills, picking up groceries and medications, maintenance and the list goes on and on. Due to our busy lives eventually we pay others to complete the chores and tasks our loved ones cannot.
Now let us say our loved one was living in an area without these worries. If family wants to come over for supper it’s as good as done and Mom and Dad don’t have to lift a finger. The driving is done by a chauffeur. No more worries about warming up the car or shoveling off the snow and possibly falling on the ice. Just hop in at the front door and you are off. Medications are monitored and dispensed without worry. Medical paperwork and appointments are all taken care of. Social interactions and activities are just down the hall or upon request. People with similar age groups are available to discuss the “remember when” time in history. Singing, movies, video bowling, and watching the sunsets are all possible. Special moments need to be important and without having the worries of being a care giver.
It’s time to make your whole family comfortable again. Make the house “Home” again.
By Kim Hershman, RN and Director of Nursing at Mountain Plaza Assisted Living