How do I get my mom to change her every day life in order to care for my dad?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 11, 2016
Mommyx8 asked...

How do I get my mom to change her every day life in order to care for my dad? He has early dementia.


Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

Your question about how to get mom to take care of dad suggests that you believe your mom wants to do this but just hasn't changed her lifestyle. Perhaps she doesn't want the job. She may also be in denial, which is very common, and she may be pretending to herself that dad doesn't need taking care of because he's fine. People use denial to protect themselves against something so overwhelming or unpleasant that they can't otherwise cope with it.

Although we expect a healthier parent to care for the less healthy one, not all people are capable of or willing to be caregivers. It is a burdensome, sometimes thankless job that generally gets harder and harder over time. Early dementia inevitably worsens as years pass and can be totally overwhelming for the caregiver.

I suggest that you and any siblings work out a time for a family meeting with your parents. Dad's care needs to be the topic of discussion and advance planning. If you have trouble figuring out how to conduct a family meeting, get some help, either within the family or from a professional outside the family. An elder law attorney, geriatric care manager or geriatric social worker would be good choices for this kind of help with a family meeting. Plans must be made for keeping him safe, finances to pay for help,identifying others who can pitch in, and deciding who will be in charge.

Your mom is either going to step up and help with the caregiving job or not. No one can force her to do it. If she fails to do what is necessary to maintain dad's safety and quality of life, it will be up to you to take the next steps to be sure dad is properly cared for.

The next steps involve getting legal advice about whether your dad is being neglected or endangered in his current situation. Please don't wait for a crisis. If he is not safe, you need to discuss the feasibility of guardianship for him. This is a court proceeding that would allow a guardian to take over the decision making about what care dad needs and who would provide it.

Guardianship is expensive, personally burdensome for the conservator, and it can be very emotionally wrenching and upsetting. It is definitely a last resort. If mom can be persuaded to start doing what dad needs from her, that is a much better alternative. Perhaps if you offer to arrange supplemental help, such as a home care worker for dad, mom would feel more willing to be a better caregiver.

If your parents can't afford a home care worker, perhaps other family members, friends and religious or community organizations can volunteer to lend a hand with dad. Someone will have to organize the effort and be sure it is coordinated. Perhaps that will be a part you can play.

Whatever you do, it's good to act now, before things go downhill. Enlist the help of your parents' doctor, clergy, influential friend or neighbor to back you up in your request to mom to become a better caregiver. Your help may be needed to protect your dad from neglect if mom remains unwilling or unable to provide the care he needs.