How can I continue to deal with my dad's worsening Alzheimer's symptoms?

2 answers | Last updated: Mar 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I am about at my wits end. Dad is well into stage six Alzheimer’s. I go down that checklist and it’s like whoever wrote it had dealings with him. I moved him in with myself after my mom passed away and my marriage fell apart. It’s been thirteen months and I don’t think I can take it any more. He has completely lost touch with reality. He was a worrier all through life and now he worries about things that aren't even real. What a miserable existence. I try my best to "play along" but I always get to a point where I snap. My teenage daughters live with my part of the time and they tell me to just play along but it's constant, without a break, and I just can't take it and I snap. I am only 47 and I think I am going to stroke out before dad loses his battle with this illness. Does anyone have any words of wisdom?

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

There is wisdom in your cry for help. You have been too heroic! You can't side step the grief of your mother's death and the falling apart of your marriage by taking on the care of your ill father. It happens, but no one person should have to bear this burden. Let's find some help so that the end of your father's life won't also be the end of yours.

Alzheimer's is a disease that you cannot battle. It is an illness that affects the whole family. The opportunity from the experience is making friends with yourself. You must accept, appreciate, and come to terms with who you are and what you can do and what you cannot. If you want to be of service, you don't have to stand in the road and let a truck run over you.

Your father, approaching the end stage of Alzheimer's, may need specialized residential care. Is this financially feasible?

Does your father have medical treatment from a good geriatric psychiatrist or other physician? He may need the support of proper medication.

You need respite care. It would be wise to call your local Area Agency of Aging. Find out what is offered by the county in terms of respite care. Call the Alzheimer's Association to find out what kinds of support groups and other services can be found in your local area.

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Grief counseling would help you.

If you really want to keep your father at home, you will need more help. There is controversy about whether 'playing along' is really the best approach to working with dementia. It is hard to know. But it is not working for you.

At the very least you need someone who can give your father personal care and listen to his worries and repetitions every day. Each day you need to have time to go for walk, or meditate, or read, or what ever enjoyment restores your state of mind.

Also, your dear father needs to be on a schedule with regular times for sleep, meals and activity.. Again, he may need medication. Is there someone in the family who could take him for a drive each day, or out to a park, or a haircut, a coke, whatever it is that soothes his worried state of mind.

Get on the web and find the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers. Or ask your pastor or doctor for a consultation with a professional who can help you assess your options with a clear and objective point of view. Be patient with yourself. Sorting out your father will mean sorting out your life. It does not happen over night.

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Community Answers

Jeffsafe answered...

Thank you Ann, your answer is right on spot.  He continues to decline and I right along side him.  Do to an upcoming business trip that I must attend I sought respite care at the facility he goes to for daycare, its a great place that specializes in dementia care.  The problem I faced there was that the rooms were filling up fast and if all the rooms were filled with permanent residents by the time my trip was to occour I would be out in the cold.  After discussing the entire situation with my brother we decided to get him permanent residence there.  Now that the decision has been made I can already feel a sence of relief.  Even with the high cost that it is I feel the right decision was made.  AND ITS ONLY TEN MINUTES FROM MY HOME.  I can see him when ever I want and know that I can leave with peace of mind.