Ask Miriam – September 2022

Published On: September 1st, 2022Categories: Ask Miriam
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Dear Miriam,

My father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He is 79 years old and lives on his own in the house he and my mother lived in for their entire marriage. She died two years ago, and I am worried about him living alone. I have access to his bank accounts and I have set up automatic payments for his bills. But I think he is really isolated and unhappy. I live about a half hour away and whenever I go over, even though there is a housekeeper once a week, the house is a mess.  He doesn’t remember what or when he ate if I ask him, and he is always wearing the same clothes. I don’t know if he is even taking showers anymore! His doctor doesn’t think it is safe for him to live alone any longer; the problem is he has a fit whenever I bring up assisted living. What do I do?

—Wondering Son

Dear Wondering,

Thank you for writing in – you have described a very common situation that many adult children face as their parents grow older. There may be varying reasons why a parent is reluctant to move from his home including fear of change, anxiety over how he will adjust to a new environment, and fear or sadness regarding leaving familiar places and people.

However, when Alzheimer’s or another dementia is affecting the person that you care about, you need to consider the fact that the changes in his brain mean that he may not be able to process information logically and rationally. He may not have the insight to understand that his disease will lead to needing more and more help as time goes by. And even if you have a conversation with him in which he agrees to move, because of his memory loss, he may not remember either the conversation or the fact that he agreed.

It may help to consult with his doctor to see if you can try some other options before moving your father out of his home. For instance, you might arrange for him to attend an adult day care program in the community. You could also bring help into the home; this help can be from friends, relatives, or paid caregivers. If he is resistant to these interim steps, let him know that you understand his concerns, and perhaps you can be there with him for the first few days so that he is less anxious.

If ultimately you and the doctor decide that assisted living is necessary, try not to argue or convince your father that it is for the best. Allow time for him to adjust to the new place, and you can even explain it to him as a “temporary stay.” Make sure that his room is filled with familiar objects from home and talk to the staff about ways to help him get used to the new routine. It is also important that as a caregiver, you take care of yourself. Talking to a friend, attending a support group, or doing an activity you enjoy can help reduce your stress.

For more information about options for getting help in caring for someone with dementia, please contact our Helpline at 844-435-7259.

Best,
Miriam

Questions for Miriam can be sent to askmiriam@alzla.org.

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