Dear Older Adult Care Manager:
My parents live in another city and I am the only adult child caring from a distance. My Mom was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, and my Dad seems to be in denial. My parents live in the same home that they’ve lived in for 30 years. They do not have any help or support in the home even though I see more deterioration and an increase in my Mom’s symptoms. My Dad loses his patience with her and seems stressed out from taking care of her 24/7. I am so concerned, and I don’t know what to do or how to get help. Please advise!
A Worried and Loyal Daughter.
Dear Worried and Loyal Daughter,
What you have shared with me is typical in families where one aging parent is in denial about the other parent’s condition. Their lives will go a lot smoother if there is help in the home for them. At JFFS, our Older Adult Care Management program can help with providing support and referral, especially to reputable home care companies. The most important thing is that your Mom is safe – SAFETY FIRST! Your Father should be wearing a Lifeline necklace, in case he falls and cannot get up. That way, you are assured that both your parents’ needs will be met. (Phillips Lifeline: www.philips.lifelinesystems.com.)
Your parents’ home may not be the safest environment. Also, we need to make sure that she is never left alone by your father while he goes to the market, gas station or doctor’s appointment. I don’t believe she could respond to an emergency situation, and I am assuming that she no longer drives or has access to any car keys. She should wear a SafeReturn bracelet in case she wanders away and gets lost, which happens frequently with older adults with dementia. (www.alz.org/we_can_help_medicalert_safereturn.asp.) Your Dad can wear one too, which will help responders know that he is the caregiver to a loved one with dementia, should something urgent happen to him.
If your Mom is still driving, make sure that her MD is aware of this, and you can contact the DMV to send her a Cease-Driving letter. She can go to her local DMV to trade in her driver’s license for a Senior ID card. You can learn more by reading this site: http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20100413/when-should-dementia-patients-stop-driving
Being further away from them means that you need extra support to learn how to cope with these changes that you are seeing. I encourage you to contact the Alzheimer’s Association. It offers a wealth of information, classes and support groups and has a 24/7 hotline: (800) 272-3900. Go to www.alz.org and type in “Orange County chapter.” The local number is (949) 955-9000. Ask for support group info, and you can address your concerns with an intake worker.
You are welcome to come to JFFS for counseling to help you cope with the practical and emotional aspects of caring for your parents. A few counseling sessions with a professional at JFFS can ease your burden and arm you with some useful coping tools. We are here to support you! Please make sure that you are doing something each day for yourself, if only for 5 minutes, so that your needs are being met.
Each month, the online edition of Orange County Jewish Life will present an advice column from Jewish Federation & Family Services.
Nadine Durbach, MSW is the Older Adult Care Manager at Jewish Federation & Family Services. She can be reached at (949) 435-3460, x. 356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.