How can I handle the stress of my father's rapid decline?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 26, 2016
Sosaddeb asked...

Last week I really thought I had a handle on this but now I know better. I can not wrap my mind around how much worse this is going to get even though I know it will get MUCH worse. I did not think it would be so fast. For the past week my Dads symptoms seem to be going like a run away train. He can not remember something I said to him less than a minute ago. OMG all I want to do is cry and I know that will not help one bit. I am so afraid that I am not strong enough to get us through what's ahead.

Expert Answers

Deborah Cooke is a gerontologist specializing in dementia, delirium, caregiving, and senior fitness. She is a certified dementia care provider and specialist through the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. Cooke currently manages several multidisciplinary programs to enhance well-being for hospitalized seniors and other vulnerable patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She also serves on the board of NewYork-Presbyterian's Patient and Family Education Advisory Committee. She has 18 years of experience working with the aging and caregiver communities.

I can hear your sadness and anxiety in your words. You are not alone in feeling this way. Every caregiver goes through it. You have every right to feel the way you do. Never feel like you can't express your feelings. I wouldn't express these with your father, but find a confidant to listen, cry, or scream with you.

Think about the things that bring you pleasure. Walking, hiking, sitting on a porch, biking, etc. Incorporate these into your daily living. Do not try to; you must schedule them. If you don't ingrave it in your regular schedule, you won't do it. You must take care of yourself. If you don't, you won't be able to take care of your Dad.

If all else fails, indulge yourself in some good brownies and add extra chocolate chips. I wouldn't make a habit of it for fear of weight gain and heart disease, but a little goes a long way!

Breathe deeply and do so often.

Community Answers

Ca-claire answered...

Hi SoSadDeb - I am so sorry that your father is declining rapidly. My parents are 90 next month, and over the past 5 years, it seems like we are on a roller coaster. Sometimes we are going up a little hill, things seem better, then, all of a sudden, we are on a rapid decline. It is also a difficult transition to go from daughter wanting advice from daddy, to all of a sudden being the adult and having to handle things that daddy used to do.

One thing to remember, when your father cannot remember what you said less than a minute ago, it is beyond his ability to remember. Spite is out of the equation. There are ways to answer questions, especially repeated ones, that will make you smile. The first few times, answer the question as though you were the daughter, then answer the next few times as the mother, then answer them in the way you always wished you could as a child. You can also divert the subject to something else.

Above all, make sure that you have time for you - at least an hour a day with nothing 'to do'. Have friends that can help you laugh (it lowers blood pressure.

Prayers are with you.