Parenting a Parent
Sadly, there is no treatment that will make Alzheimer’s go away, no guarantee that some drugs will make life better or even delay symptoms. Most physicians write scripts for Aricept or similar drug should help the brain waves and delay symptoms but whether they actually do– I don’t know.
If you have a parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and accept the calling to become their caregiver, you will become their parent, for sure. That’s not to say that you will treat them like a child. That is never required. But as memories fade and daily living becomes a fog in their mind, they will need you as much as any child needs their parent.
In the earlier stages of Mom’s disease, my brothers and I thought the problem little more than bouts of forgetfulness. Unknown to us, Mom was telling friends and neighbors who would listen how neglectful her adult children had become. We had reduced our visits to little more than several times a year, she would tell them.
Only later did I understand some of the angry stares given by her neighbors when I came to visit.
Back then, before the diagnosis, Mom still lived alone. It was not a secluded lifestyle as she resided in a senior citizen community surrounded by numerous friends. At that time, she vowed to remain independent for the remainder of her years, never to set foot in a nursing home. She took her vitamins and supplements and ate a balanced diet. Even in her 70’s, we expected her to live for many healthy years.
As we heard the discrepancies between Mom’s view of her lifestyle and her neighbors view, we struggled for a better way to keep a constant eye on our aging mother. Mom was nearing her eighties and as bossy as she’d ever been.
As siblings we found it daunting to “Parent our parent.” In hindsight, I can see where we allowed Mom to stay alone for too long, drive for too long, and do her own shopping for way too long.
But she was the Parent! And she didn’t let us forget it!
For all of our life our parent has been the Boss of themselves and us. Though I was 50+ and making my own choices for decades, I had never told my mother what to do.
So it’s fairly understandable that when she became so confused and unable to take care of herself, my brothers and I faltered. We were forced to become her caregiver, parent, guardian. We had to make decisions we didn’t want to make, we had to tell Mom to do things she clearly did not want to do. It is a most difficult transition to make.
In the beginning, I failed often, caved-in to Mom’s demanding tone. She spoke like my parent and looked like my “Mommy,” but her behavior was often irrational and sometimes dangerous.
Later, as Mom was less and less able to have her own way with me, she would become agitated, confrontational and depressed. It’s a difficult proposition to tell your parent they can no longer drive, shop, write checks or live alone.
The transformation from child to “Caregiver / Parent” has a period of adjustment. It’s more complicated to “parent” another adult than a child. Yet, “time-outs” can work as well as they do for the child/parent relationship.
My parenting skills for an adult mother certainly had some rough edges in the early days of Mom’s disease. In my desperation to “parent” Mom, I laid down the law and told her how it would be. Not the best way to handle the situation I found out later!
No more driving. No more walking (she’d wandered to far once too often.) No more paying her own bills. (I was still recovering from a $300 neglected gas bill afterall.)
We both needed an attitude adjustment soon enough! It’s a harsh reality when a child parents a parent without sounding condescending. My brothers visited, but Mom stayed with me more and more often before she finally moved in and I became her full-time caregiver.
When I spoke to Mom’s doctor’s about her agitation, aggravation and constant complaint that I was “bossing” her around, his first suggestion was anti-depressants. Within a couple days, I knew I preferred mom a little agitated and cranky to the the sleeping zombie she became on anti-depressants.
The prescription for myself was a bounty of learning, learning about Alzheimer’s and Caregiving and parenting with love and kindness, even when the one being parented was my very own “parent.”
More than medication, my Mom needed constant love and supervision, healthy meals, caring love. All things that can be done easier and soothe better than any anti-depressant:
A few Comfy Loving Treatments!
- Smooth hand lotion on their hands and feet in a soothing massage
- Wash their hair in a sweetly scented shampoo
- Sit down and color a picture with them in their favorite coloring book
~~I’d love to offer Rose Milk–Does anyone besides me remember that wonderful hand lotion? It was so soft, not greasy, and kept your hands creamy soft all day long with one small swirl of pink stuff! I’m telling my age now, I don’t think I’ve seen Rose Milk in 30 years or so, sorry to regress.
There are lots of other nice lotions, though. Try to make a point of clipping their nails regularly. Sometimes we forget and they’re difficult to clip when they’re extra long. It’s much easier if you do it on a weekly basis.
- Create a photo album of family members in their younger years with identifying name-tags beneath each one
- Allow them to have a discarded necklace or broach, they will cherish it –Mom had a set of beads that she wore everyday
- The Gentlemen often like a big bulky watch – They love puzzles, (fewer pieces are better) – or any type of cards that need to be kept in order–alphabetically or numerical
- My Mom always carried her favorite purse that held 8/10 pages of bank statements from many years ago. She would sit and shift through those pages for hours. Often during late stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia the patient may have a paranoia or suspicion that their caregiver is stealing from them; taking money, or home, or automobile or some other item that has value to them.
- Mom’s purse full of bank statements reassured her that she was still in-charge of her own valuables, property and future. It made her happy and that’s the best part of life.
- The new Kitty cats and Puppies that appear to breathe. The gentlemen particularly love the dogs. The ladies love lifelike baby dolls.