Should I try to bring my 88-year-old parents, including my...

6 answers | Last updated: Sep 15, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

Should I try to bring my 88-year-old parents, including my mom with Alzheimer's, to my daughter's wedding?

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Congratulations on the upcoming wedding of your daughter. It's a great time for family, and usually everyone likes to be included. But when one of those family members has Alzheimer's disease, the rules change.

There are several questions that must be answered by you before my advice can be applied to your challenging situation. First, does your daughter want her grandmother there, knowing that this is her big day?

Second, what stage is your mother at regarding her Alzheimer's disease? I like to use a scale of from 1-10, with 10 being end-stage, and 1-3 being moderate in symptoms. If your mother falls into the 4-8 categories, with behavior issues, poor communications skills, inability to feed herself, anxiety in crowds or noisy situations, having her attend may not be a great idea. Also, will your mom be aware that she is missing the wedding if she is not included on that day, and will it bother her?

Third, if she does attend, with you as the mother of the bride, who will be with her the entire time and take responsibility for making sure that she is okay, gets fed, is taken to the bathroom, and receives any medications she is supposed to take during the time she is at the event.

I'm sure you're beginning to see the many issues that are involved here. While your heart may say yes, the pragmatics of the situation are that Grandma may be overwhelmed, confused or frightened by so many people, and the bottom line is that you don't want to take away anything from your daughter's very special day.

Having said all of that, if your mom is still social, able to be left alone at a table with other friends and relatives, does not require close medical or personal supervision, and is aware of her surroundings and the importance of the event to you and her granddaughter, by all means, include her. Here again, this is a decision that you and the bride-to-be have to make.

If, based on her level of debilitation, you decide not to include your mom, she will most likely not be aware of what she's missing, and it's possible that she won't remember anything about the day. For her, it will just be another day of the week, and remain within her normal routine.

Don't feel guilty if you decide not to include your mom. This is about your daughter, and if there is any chance that Grandma may take away from the spotlight on your daughter and her wedding, she too would tell you, if she were able to do so, to go ahead without me.

Remember, you and your daughter can always show your mom the photos and videos of the wedding and let her share in the joy of the event after the fact.

Good luck.

Community Answers

Redhatprincess answered...

My mother-in-law had Alzheimer's and, for the last few years of her life, was frightened to be away from "home," home being the nursing facility. It took us a while to realize that the visits to our house were for us and were an ordeal for her. When we accepted that and contented ourselves to visit her at the nursing home, she was much more sociable.

Olympia gal answered...

Thank you for the replies here! My mother is in the intermediate stages of Alzheimer's: she can still feed herself and use the bathroom on her own, but her behavior has become an issue with our family. She now refuses to bathe or change her clothes, and when I've tried to persuade her to get into the bath or shower, she's hit and kicked me and one time threatened to kill me. She shows no concern for her appearance and appears not to notice how inappropriate her wardrobe choices are for the event or weather: she'll wear a heavy winter coat on an 80-degree afternoon, or a stained, tight t-shirt with no bra (!) to church. She also has wandered off and gotten lost in public places, which has been frightening for my father and me.

So I can see not bringing her to my daughter's wedding, which is being held at a country house 300 miles away. But my father, who doesn't have dementia but is stubborn as a mule, refuses to go without her. He also has told me I must attend to Mom while they are at the wedding, which of course is impossible. I'm already the "field coordinator" for my daughter and am dealing with the caterer, the florist, and all inquiries and complaints from the guests. My brother and sister refuse to step up and help, as they always have these past ten years. Both have said they are not coming to the wedding, not, I suspect, because of "prior engagements," but because they don't want to deal with my parents or me. (Yes, we've had fights over my parents' care, and they've always ended with me shouldering most of the work.)

I know Mom will be upset about not attending the wedding---for about ten minutes. She barely remembers she has grandchildren, much less that one is getting married. Dad however will be angry and will blame me if I don't personally get them dressed and drive them to and from the ceremony. But it just isn't possible under the circumstances! So I'm trying to get over my guilt and focus on my daughter's happiness. But thank you so much for letting me vent!

Workerpriest answered...

Is it time to stand up to your Dad no matter what it takes? Seems he is completely insensitive to your rightful needs and excessively demanding. I know it would be hard to do this and very hard to do it alone. Doesn't sound like any family members would support you in doing this either. But this just might be the one time when he catches on to his unreasonableness in his expectations of you. Could another male talk to him and help him see what he is doing?Or is there anyone else who could reach him?

I apologize if this all sounds unlikely to do. I am in similar situations with no family support and I would be hard pressed to find a solution to his requirements yet the importance of the occasion and the focus it requires of you might present an opportunity for him to see the light as it were in his expectations of you. That just might yield more reasonableness on other issues later.

Olympia gal answered...

@workerpriest- Thank you for responding, and kudos for your own caregiving. I have stood up to my father a number of times since I began looking after him and my mother. The dynamic hasn't changed, unfortunately. He's always been a domestic tyrant, making unreasonable demands on my mother and me. (He still expects Mom to cook and clean for him, which she obviously can't do.) I've lost count of the number of arguments we've had over the years, though they've lessened now that Dad knows I'll fight back.

I readily admit, my father's behavior is one reason why my siblings refuse to pitch in and help with his and our mother's care. My brother has come very close to punching Dad. My sister has always been passive-aggressive, saying she doesn't like conflict; but after a run-in with Dad, she'll take off and will refuse to call, visit, or even send a card to him. Obviously this isn't helpful for any of us in the long run, and I feel that both my sister and brother are being immature in their responses to Dad's behavior.

Anyway, I don't think Dad will change, no matter what sort of behavior modification tricks I try on him. Several years ago when I was on the verge of a breakdown, I went to a therapist, who told me the things I did have control over were my behavior and feelings. I didn't have to let Dad make me feel guilty or angry, especially since his demands were irrational. This has worked for me: I've been looking at Dad the same way I would look at a child who's throwing a tantrum, and I respond with a mixture of compassion and firmness.

My daughter's wedding however has brought in a rush of different, conflicting feelings---joy for my daughter and son-in-law to be, anxiety over the glitches that come up over simple things like ordering the cake (baker won't deliver on weekends, cake will have to be carried to the site in sections, mother-in-law now says she doesn't like chocolate in a wedding cake), anger over ridiculous demands made by relatives and guests. Having my father order me to help him and Mom get ready for the wedding and then look after them the entire day is almost the straw on the camel's back. I'm fine with saying "no" to Dad. But my emotions are a whole different story.

Workerpriest answered...

Olympia_Gal, When I responded yesterday, I had serious doubts because your Dad is like the Mom I am caring for. She expects my complete responses to all her needs including companionship and conversation, taking her for drives...everything 24 hours a day. She had these expectations all her life I think of her family but in her illness and now with brain mets they are intensified and she is in such denial about it currently that she rants and pouts that because she needs a brain scan people will think she is a moron, whereas what she is doing is interfering with the accomplishment of intellegent care on my part and the part of home support and nursing people.

Her daughters would like to be involved but they live far away and for involvement what they mean is receiving accurate information which will not hold because Mom will not tell them the truth. If she is unable to report they do not believe me and criticize my truth telling hanging me out to dry in a heartbeat. I believe they do not come because they cannot deal with their Mum's obstinancy and irrationalities regarding sensible care although they tend to feed into her denial mechanisms through lightheartedness that doesn't face up to anything.

So I am a bit stranded but have other networking and now I am here and we are not far from end of life caregiving and her inevitable removal to palliative care if she does not die at home first.

I continue to do my best in knowing that I will emerge with wisdom and knowledge I could not otherwise have gained but it may take me a while to re-condition myself physically and emotionally. Nevertheless, in knowing this I am doing my best in severe confinement to go out when home support comes and at least for an hour or so at other times when I know she will not get into trouble in my absence and if she does...well so be it. She could get into just as much trouble with me here all the time.

I relate to everything you said in your response to me and understand your dilemna. My hope and prayer is that you may enjoy the day of your daughter's wedding as much as possible and that you should find a team of helpers and not have to undertake everyone's whims all by yourself.

All the best to you, workerpriest