It’s been an interesting few months for me. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
My mother is still independent and capable. However, this diagnosis is overwhelming for her. She’s determined to remain a caregiver to my father as long as she is able to handle it.
They have been married for over 50 years. Their relationship is all my mother knows. She has no close friends. Her life revolves around my dad, his family, and his friends.
While she’s still processing my father’s diagnosis, I gradually discuss important items with her. I try not to give her too much information at one time as I don’t want to add to her stress.
Here are some things I do to help my mother through this difficult time:
1- Talk with more patience and empathy. I find myself reframing my attitude with my mother. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for her since her life revolves around my father. When I speak with her, I listen and do not judge. My role is more of an advocate with patience and empathy.
2- Check-in more frequently while respecting her time. My parents live seven hours away. In the past, I would hear from them infrequently. Given the change of my father’s health, I reach out to my mother several times during the week. I don’t call too much as she’s preoccupied with helping my father. If he’s having a good day, it’s easier for her to have a phone conversation. If he’s having a bad day, she has no time to talk. Thank goodness for text and email.
3- Send helpful resources. When my mother first shared my father’s diagnosis with me, I knew she didn’t know much about the disease. I sent her a helpful book I found on Amazon, “Grace for the Unexpected Journey: A 60-Day Devotional for Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia Caregivers,” by Deborah Barr. It’s helped her come to terms with his diagnosis and continues to help her daily. Additionally, via email, I share with her links to other helpful information. She saves these emails and reads them when she has time.
4- Encourage volunteering. My mother has no outlet from being a caregiver. For this reason, I encourage her to get out and meet others. It’s a way to keep her healthy and escape from the difficulties of being a caregiver. Through her church, she’s started volunteering. She doesn’t commit or take on a large role. She does small tasks and goes when she is able to depending on my father’s health. Through volunteering, she’s met other women who are also their husband’s caregiver.
5- Promote caregiver support groups. It’s taken time before my mother was willing to seek out a support group. Through meeting others while volunteering, she’s come to understand the benefits of a caregiver support group. The group she attends has informative seminars and provides care for my father while she attends them.
It’s difficult watching a parent’s health deteriorate. It’s even more difficult seeing the stress it causes on the parent providing care. Many people talk about being a parent to their parent, but it should really be being an advocate with patience and empathy. During difficult times, no one wants to be or deserves to be treated like a child. Stay positive and respectful toward your parent who has become a caregiver.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, RICP®, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include developing spending plans, comprehensive financial plans, divorce financial reviews, retirement plans. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me.’”