How do I get my husband to cope with his father's Alzheimer's diagnosis?

4 answers | Last updated: Nov 30, 2016
Facing the facts in ga asked...

I feel my husband is in denial about his father's Alzheimer's disease. Even though this has been confirmed by a doctor and my father-in-law is on medications for the disease, there are still things my husband makes excuses for, for his dad. How can I help him to see that these things are a part of the disease, aren't going to go away and will not get any better?


Expert Answers

Paula Spencer Scott, contributing editor, is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

Denial is a common response to an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis. It's a kind of coping mechanism, a way to absorb the shock, grief, and fear of learning your parent has a disease from which there is no recovery, only slow decline. In fact the early symptoms of dementia often go "unnoticed" by family members in our subconscious eagerness to write them off as coincidences, normal aging, or misunderstandings. Where denial becomes a problem is when it interferes with proper care and planning for the inevitable (regarding driving, finances, housing, etc.). One thing that can help a great deal is learning about the disease. Often fears are crippling -- but it can be empowering to discover that life with Alzheimer's does not have to be entirely grim, and that learning ways to best meet the needs of someone with Alzheimer's can make life a lot smoother for everyone involved. Share literature with your husband that he can read at his leisure. (Your local Alzheimer's Association has many good resources.) Or send him links to online sites like this one -- Caring.com specifically addresses grown children caring for aging parents, just like him. Some people absorb information best from authority figures; you might ask your parent's doctor or a geriatric care manager to meet with him. Would he agree to visiting a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers? Comparing notes with others who have been where he is now may help him see how common his situation and reaction are. And give it time. Provided your father-in-law is safe and cared for, it may help your husband's relationship with his dad to see him in this light now, and eventually he will come to realize for himself which behaviors can and can't be written off as normal.


Community Answers

Pollytnjc answered...

Hi I understand the problem as I have a brother who lived within a few minutes of my mother while I lived 9 hours away, and who was not willing to accept the decline she was taking. In fact, he rarely even visited her so when he did see or speak to her, it was generally after a month or two of not seeing her at all. And he didn't see any problems at all. When I had to drop everything at work because the retirement center needed me to come and take the car away from her, and again when she seemed to be having problems taking her medications, my brother was nowhere around. Part of his reaction, I believe, was denial. Part was just laziness, but that's another story. In any case, he would still argue with me that she was "just fine" or maybe just repeating things "occasionally", and could not accept that she needed to move into assisted living or move in with me. We did the latter, and of course, I'm providing all her care and support - my brother will tell me he appreciates what I do, but at the same time, I think he is oblivious to the situation. I do not have to live with my brother however. You must live with your husband. It will take some time, but eventually he will come to recognize it for what it is - he may have already, but just can't bring himself to say it. When you are used to your parent being the "strong one", it is hard to see the weaknesses. I'm sure his dad is also making some of the excuses because that happens initially - "no one told me", or "someone must have moved that", etc. So he is probably hopeful that his dad is right or that he is just more tired than usual thus the momentary lapse. Yet this cannot last forever. And instead of pointing it out to him, you might just ask him from time to time if his dad needs help with this or that. You might suggest he go to a doctor's appt or two with his dad, just so "someone is aware" of his medical needs. But you'll need to prep the doctor ahead of time because they are busy and sometimes do not realize the situation themselves. Or that the son is there because he does not accept his father's decline. If this continues, I agree - have someone else talk to him. Another man, especially. When we see our parents decline it causes a great deal of fear - I don't care how old we are! And fear is usually behind most of the denial....we fear change, we fear loss, etc. But we also fear that it is going to happen to us too. And at the point he has to acknowledge that this problem is not going to go away or get any better, then may be ready to get involved in a support group, read some information about it, and even talk openly with you on the subject. Very hard. Best wishes.


Scarred answered...

You can't make anyone see what they for what ever reason don't want to see. The more you push the more they will. The going to doctor visits and helping what they will without accepting it is the best you can ask for. In time they will see, but so many people have a wrong ideal about the symptoms and time frame of alzheimers. I have battled till I have just gave up on tring to educate my children and in-laws. Thank goodness that my children after me loosing control spent more time with their father and researching the symptoms and own their own time frame came to believe and accpect it. Some in-laws still don't, but I can't waste time and energy on them. My husband was 59 years old two years ago when he was dianosged, he was in the early stage and it was very obvious till he started aricept. Just a few months on it helped so much, but he started in slow motion going back down hill. Now he needs to quit driving, but he gets viloent and I'm scarred he'll beat me up if i say anything.


Puzzles answered...

Some times it is difficult for us to accept the truth about ailing health of a loved one... until the writing is before our eyes.

I would urge him to spend time with him, get off his back about it. When you ease up his vision will be come clear.