Dad Has Dementia

Week 16: Time to Call in the Cavalry

Last updated: Apr 30, 2010


Since before Dad moved in with us, Lee and I have been certain of one thing: We wouldn't be able to care for him by ourselves forever. The question that has arisen frequently over the ensuing four months has been, "How will we know when it's time to hire a caregiver?"

As it turned out, the answer became crystal clear over the past couple of weeks.

First was the fact that Dad's confusion deepened significantly last week. One day, when I arrived home after work, he didn't immediately know who I was. He also mistakenly believes that my employer, a physician, owns our house and plans to turn it into a medical clinic "“ a scenario that understandably causes Dad great agitation. For several days in a row, he was unable to manage his home oxygen. (He did subsequently regain his ability to do so, but we realize this ability will slowly evaporate.) He cut himself while using a knife to pry open an "easy open" package of cold cuts. He frequently confuses night and day.

Secondly, this past Tuesday, my body finally said "enough is enough" and temporarily shut down. I became ill and couldn't get to work. Whether this was due to allergies, a virus, or pure exhaustion is hard to say. But I will tell you that it's rare for me to go back to bed in the middle of the day. And last Tuesday, I had no choice but to do just that.

That night, Lee and I had a confab. Mentally distancing ourselves from the situation, we asked ourselves what advice would we give another couple in our situation. And the answer was easy: Call in the cavalry.

When Dad first came to live with us, we approached him about hiring an in-home caregiver. And we made a complete hash of it.

We started by springing the assessment visit on him without warning. We didn't bother asking him for his opinion about the subject beforehand. We used an authoritarian approach instead of a cooperative one.

Not surprisingly, the whole thing was a bust.

It turned out all right, since Dad has been taking care of himself just fine for the past few months. But it's now clear he needs supervision while we're at work. The problem is that he doesn't see things the same way.

How do you negotiate with someone who's delusional? How do you convince him of the sensibility of hiring someone to help him maintain his independence when he angrily believes we're hiring a "babysitter"? How do you deal with a person whose explosive temper is legendary "“ and not something you want to be on the receiving end of?

I'm dreading the prospect of confronting Dad about this. The last time we discussed the subject, he blew up. How is he going to react this time? I guess I'll find out soon: We're meeting with the caregiving service on Monday.