My father with Alzheimer's is coming for a visit, what can I do to make his trip and visit as smooth as possible?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father has Alzheimer's and is coming for a visit in my home (2 hours away from his home). At times he becomes beligerent and uncooperative and has taken to urinating anywhere and throwing his Depends wherever he wants. He asked to come and my mother needs a couple days away from home and be around someone to visit with. (She handles the situation mostly by herself and though she has care givers come in a couple times a week, she has very limited contact with other people.)

What can I do to make the trip as smooth as possible?

Expert Answers

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

If there's still time, it would be wise to cancel this visit. There's no question that your mother needs respite, but it's time for your family to rethink how to give your mom a break. Many assisted living facilities and Alzheimer's homes offer "respite care." If this option is not realistic, you may have to stay with your father rather than his coming to you. In any event, his visiting you is counterproductive for both you and your father. His trauma will likely have lingering ramification, making your mother's task that much harder once he returns home.

Based on your descriptions of his behavior, your father's at a stage of his Alzheimer's where his world has shrunk and he no longer copes well with changes. Help your mother understand that his request to visit you is no longer a rational one. Tell your mom to make a vague promise of a trip in the future.

At this stage of the disease, your father actions are not on purpose. It's the effects of Alzheimer's disease amplified by his apprehensions. They're a good indication that he's totally overwhelmed and unable to process his feelings. People with Alzheimer's can no longer articulate themselves so often their anxieties are conveyed through their behaviors. If he doesn't exhibit any of these behaviors at home with your mom, he's trying to tell you that he's lost at your house, even if he's been there many times before. Your environment feels strange and unfamiliar to him now. It's important for you to understand that his behavior is his disease "speaking." What you call belligerence may be your father's only way of expressing his insecurity and anxiety.

If your father is already at your house by the time this reaches you, here are some tips: don't correct him, argue with him or tell him what to do; it will only increase his anxiety and aggravate the very behavior you're trying to stop. Ignore his belligerence and instead find something positive to compliment him on. Make up some purposeful activities for him. This will help him relax and his behavior may actually improve.

Community Answers

Geri hall answered...

Jyette is right but you might consider trading houses with Mom for a few days. You come to stay with Dad while Mom comes to you. Have his caregivers work while you are there. This will minimize any change for him while giving your mom a well-deserved break.

We have families do this all the time and it can work wonderfully well.

Geri Hall, PhD, ARNP, GCNS-BC, FAAN Banner Alzheimer's Institute