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Are you the Boss when Mom or Dad get Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Posted Oct 19 2010 7:23pm

Author: Frena Gray-Davidson

Well, let me put it this way. Do you remember how much you enjoyed that sex and virginity talk with Mom when you were fourteen and she was suspicious? That’s pretty much how much your parents want you to talk to them about age, health and self-neglect.

No-one wants to have interference from their kids. Certainly no one wants to admit that they aren’t aging well. And inevitably, they probably hear criticism in you even raising the topic. So, that is why you must approach this subject gently, kindly and without reproach. And did I mention tact? Oh yes, and taking stuff on yourself.

Some parents are such open people, so self-aware and unafraid of admitting their life circumstances that there will be no problem at all.  “Why, son, we’re so glad you mentioned your concerns about us. We were just going to talk to you about what we need and can’t do any more.” But those are a couple of sentences rarely spoken in the inter-generational talk realm.

No, you need lots of soft-soaping here. One reason is that your parents may actually not be aware of their loss in function. Two is that, if they are, they even more don’t want to talk about it. The underlying feelings here are often their shame, their fear, their growing awareness of becoming more helpless. None of which you enjoy as feelings either, right?

So the best approach is to find a way to build them up, not tear them down. It’s true when they are stubborn, disbelieving and dismissive, then adult children often do feel the urge to take them down a peg or two by proving everything they’re afraid of. So, since someone has to be the grownup, that would be you and your siblings.

You might want to share your concerns with them first. To get a reality check of what you’re seeing and to see if they are aware of any memory loss or problems in that area. Then you could usefully get together with siblings and any other family members or even neighbors if they’re very close to your parents. That way, you can figure out the major, immediate concerns and begin making a plan.

Unless your parents are in real danger from incompetence to stay safe and live healthily, then start with a few extra nice inputs into their life. Take meals around, have someone help in the house. If they protest, here’s a way that often works.

You say,”Gosh well gee, Mom and Dad, I know you say everything is okay, and it probably is, but I just worry about you guys. You’ve done a lot for me and I want to do things for you now. “

You can choose your own words but here you are emphasizing your love, your desire to be a good child and you wish to enable to have a great style of living, blah blah blah. Why? Because they will only accept your help when they feel safe with you, respected by you and loved by you.

Otherwise, they will fight you all the way.

Author:  Frena Gray Davidson– Alzheimer’s caregiver and author of five caregiving books, including her latest book “Alzheimer’s 911: Hope, Help and Healing for Caregivers”

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