This experience is constantly teaching me new things. I am learning to appreciate that aspect of my journey since I believe you either expand your mind or it begins to contract. Every day I see my parents, I stretch my grey matter.
Three things I’ve absorbed and practice with my parents include:
- Always smile and patiently answer questions … until you can politely redirect the conversation
- Don’t say “Remember”
- Explaining only creates more confusion
After lunch with my parents at the retirement community, my whole family goes to visit in their apartment. My mom has written up several questions she wants to cover with me: “Have all the kids claimed the items they want in the townhouse?”; “Should they put up the wall between the two townhouses?”; “Can we pay you to drive us instead of calling a cab?”
My mom asks me the questions, but doesn’t take notes. We go through each item and I work very hard to avoid using “Remember?” I also keep my answers simple and short.
When my mom hits the last question on her list, she goes back up to the top.
By the end of the second cycle, my dad starts to get agitated. He’s slapping his hands on his legs in what feels like “hurry up” in his own sign language.
I work very hard to keep a smile on my face and remain patient. My husband and son are watching this entire exchange and I can feel their eyes on me. I know in their heads they are begging me to end this conversation, but they are both sitting still and quiet.
My brother told me over a decade ago that when you want someone out of your office, stand. I’ve used it for many years in the working world. Today, I used it at my parents house.
I wait until my mom takes a breath and before we enter the fourth round, I stand and thank them for the lovely brunch. My dad, husband and son all immediately follow my cue and we move into the good-byes. Celebrated.
7 thoughts on “Three Important Things to Practice When Visiting a Parent With Dementia”
I feel your pain. I have 3 family members now who’ve done / are doing alzheimer’s (mum, grandfather, grandmother inlaw). The fear almost cripples me, and if it’s not me, it’s my partner, or my sister or my daughters (that one is the worst). It’s on both sides, it’s like playing russian roulette and waiting for your number to come up, and if not your’s someone else’s and it’s going to make turn your life upside down which ever way the dice roles.
I’m trying to learn from this and do some things differently, but it does still feel like russion roulette!
When my dad was diagnosed with dimentia, my family was his safety net as he had been for all of us growing up. He became very sweet with him holding our hands, rubbing our arms, being very tender. When he became agitated, we knew it was time to leave and let the care be turned over to the professionals at his “new home.” That was the hardest part in letting others take over, but it was the right thing to do for his safety.
Thanks for sharing. We are working toward bringing in professionals to help us – and thankful that might be an option for us.