I have the chance to meet and talk to a lot of adult children who are caring for loved ones with dementia. At a recent “Caregiver Academy” talk, I shared some of the major roadblocks I faced when trying to help my parents. I usually get a few open guffaws from other adult children facing the same issues.
I learned that reason doesn’t work when our parents still see us as their children. I imagine it’s kinda like how I still think I’m younger than my image in the mirror conveys (ouch, still hurts to admit that.)
When my dad was initially diagnosed by the psychiatrist in their Life Care Community, the doctor called and told me I needed to be with my parents for the diagnosis. He recognized that my parents weren’t accepting help and that they were both in a place where they were unable to make good decisions and at risk for fraud. After we had made plans to go to the appointment together, my dad calls me back and says “You don’t need to come. I’ve got a wife, damn it!” I knew that my mom made my dad make that call. It didn’t matter. I still needed to find a way to make sure he went to the appointment and to be there.
When my parents finally started to ask for help, I jumped at EVERY request. Then I realized that I might be enabling them more than I was helping.
It’s easy to understand now that I’m on the other side and working with other families who are facing the same issues. However, I will always advocate to find ways to allow a family to maintain their parent/child role, while keeping mom/dad safe. I wish I could have been more of a daughter and realize how many hours I spent at the nurses station, coordinating help, and following up on invoices and managing the finances.
One adult caregiver who attended the talk was at the breaking point and came up to chat. I suggested she have a Life Care Manager meet with her mom. She wrote me a week later to tell me it has made a huge difference. While mom was resistant to help from the family, and dismissed the family doctor recommendation, she agreed to meet with a local life care manager who helped her (mom) take control of her medication and invited her back.
What is important is to recognize that it’s important to feel control over your own life. Even when things are failing, you still want to have a say. In many cases, the person failing won’t recognize it.
While I hope I won’t be as stubborn as I felt my parents were being, I’m pretty sure I will most likely be. I continue to openly discuss it with my kids hoping that should/when the time comes, they know how to use what I have learned to make it easier on them.
Every family has a different set of circumstances. Some kids show up to help, some withdraw, and some seem to only create more problems than help. I am very lucky to have four siblings (and supportive and helpful spouses) that showed up when it was needed most — for me and my parents. Blessed.