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How can I get my father, who has progressing dementia, to accept help?

6 answers | Last updated: Dec 29, 2014
Sudie asked...

My parent has always been an independent , strong willed individual. At age 88, he now lives by himself with progressing dementia. We live 3 hrs away and try to visit every other week. However, he still drives and takes no meds of any kind. He works in the yard but he doesn't eat much except cereal for breakfast, and cookies and crackers through out the day. We are very worried about him and don't know what to do to help. He won't let anyone help him. His neighbors try to help but, he generally refuses. He has become very confused about finances, food, and day & time. He won't even let us get someone to cook for him. Any ideas what direction we should go with him?


Caring.com User - Joyce Simard
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A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She...
89% helpful
Joyce Simard answered...

It's a tough situation. Start by scheduling a visit to or calling his physician. Ask for his or her help. Describe what you see and what's reported by neighbors to See also:
Poll: How do you handle someone with Alzheimer's who's in denial?

See all 1039 questions about Alzheimer's and Other Dementias
help the physician make a judgment on how risky it is for your father to continue living alone. The doctor might send him a letter that it's time for a regular checkup. (Ask if he makes housecalls, especially for a longstanding patient; some still do.) Then accompany your father to the appointment if he will let you so you, too, can hear what that doctor has to say.

Tap into local resources, too. The local Alzheimer’s Association may be able to offer a volunteer to help check up on him and assess his ability to live alone. They can also tell you both about resources available to him in the community that can support his ability to live independently. Your local social service agency may also be helpful. If they feel the situation is critical, they can have him assessed even without his consent; this differs from state to state.

Sometimes the 'tough love' approach works: "Dad, I love you and don't want anything bad to happen, but I’m very concerned about you living alone. These are your choices: We can arrange to have someone help with the house and cooking or I will call Social Services to ask them to help us make a decision on how safe it is for you to continue to live alone." This is the least desirable course of action. However, every year someone with dementia causes an accident, or wanders away from home and is found dead. Emphasize that you don't want this to happen to your father.


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91% helpful
DDLmom answered...

You are in a very difficult situation. Hang tough-you can do this! Most people your dad's age will never admit they need help even when it has become obvious to all around him and especially you! My mom was living alone and has severe degenerative joint disease (wheel-chair bound) as well as progresive dementia. One of the last straws was... I found out she was COOKING from her wheelchair!!So dangerous! 2 yrs. ago, A very close friend of the family finally announced to the 6 adult children that he planned to take her home from the party that night and disable her car. I was the only one of 6 children that had the strength to finally tell her the car was permanently out of her use. Boy was she mad! even tried to throw me out of the house..but of course could not physically.('seems like decades ago and yet it was only a little over 2 yrs.) That was in fact the start of a difficult battle. When I had to show "tough love" it hurt but was the best thing to do for my mom's welfare. She had given me power of attorney 5 yrs. prior should she be unable to make decisions at some point. During this time, she had a stroke at home ,alone & we have no idea how long she laid on the cold floor unable to get up-was at least overnight. (this haunts me to this day!) and did not even remember she had a lifeline call necklace (hanging on her wheelchair) not her neck where it should have been!...this item does not replace people physically checking on your parent ever! A trip to the E.R., hospital stay and subsequent visit to her Dr. and Dr's formal diagnosis my mom could no longer handle her personal/business affairs (they now call it "handicapped" not incompetent) -was the catalyst that began the help she needed.Legally then, I could make decisions pertaining to her business affairs, health, home, etc. I handle the operating funds, health issues,& coordinate & interview anyone that works with her. We had her in a nursing home for 3 weeks,(she was so unhappy) then the hospital where she was diagnosed with colon cancer which due to her age, & other health issues,very high risk surgery involving a permanent colostomy, I opted to do no surgery.She is like the energizer bunny! that was 15 months ago. We then hired a live-in full time caregiver, which has been the best choice ever. Hospice comes in with the nurse, equiptment, etc. The worst thing for you is to do nothing and not avert a preventable tradgedy..could be house fire, could be serious fall, possibilities too nasty to think of. Hind sight is always 20/20. You can be the one who gives him a quality of life he can still enjoy. Now that's LOVE! He will at some point during the process most likely be relieved you were there to do it for him although may not verbally admit it. This is where the father-daughter connection comes in and you will become expert at reading his body language. You can do this. You have love on your side for your dad & if you pray... THAT has given me more strength than I ever thought I could have. My mom is on medicare & that is her only income. Her savings went within the first year so I put a reverse mortgage in place and she has been able to remain in her own home with her beloved kitty, Katie. These were her wishes. There have been tears and joy same as all of life. Check your area/city for senior services and many places offer housekeeping services, we toured at least 10-12 assisted living facilities/nursing homes and learned a lot. My mom would never go in willingly, that was hard. When I am old, I will have chosen a place already where I would like to hang my hat...when I can no longer tend my garden & place, I will not have an issue leaving all this work & burdens behind...take heart..there is growth , living and healing ahead for the both of you. My mom is in the end stage of her life now and we r bringing her home from her 11 day stay in the in-patient unit of hosice...she wants to be home but she is very weak...Mom gets what mom wants this time...


100% helpful
texas daughter answered...

I know what you are feeling and readding this has given me the courage to hang tough. My father was having lots of problems. The doctor said he could no longer live alone full time and should not be driving. We had "the talk" and he agreed that his dementia was getting worse and he needed to be closer to family. My daughter who is a home health care worker would be the one taking care of him and he would have to give up driving. We moved my dad from Florida to Texas. We thought everything was all agreed and set. He got to Texas and with family support, attention and monitoring he started to feel better. But he still has a great deal of difficulty with memory, gets very emotional and is very anxious. But he was better than in Florida so that is when the real problems started. He suddenly thought he was good enough to drive and didn't need home health care. It is so stressful to constently have the same conversations over and over. He gets upset. Then I feel guilty for having him be upset. He would remember bits and pieces of conversations but then say I didn't know that's what you meant. So we thought we would have all the coversations and information on his dementia and care provided in two ways. Once with talking and then follow up in writting. He can then refer to it and remember we did have the converations and he did understand and agree. I am hoping with this new method will work. My goal was to improve his quality of life ( and it has) but we are still arguing over the dementia and care going over the same issues again and again. It is exhausting.


80% helpful
Mami'sCareGiver answered...

If there is a doctor in the U.S. that makes "house calls" please post his address. At this man's age he should not be living alone, and this situation will not get better only worse. Tough love does not work because the memory either short term or long term is not working correctly. I lived this situation with my own mother, and after two visits from the police (neighbors called) and her screaming at EMT's, I was told the only way was to have her Baker Acted. My girlfriend helped me to get her into my car and drive 250 miles to a hospital close to me. I was not about to have her Baker Acted. Her doctor told me that since he had not seen her in 6 months he had no "LEGAL OBLIGATION" to act. What a guy... One key friend told me this....Remember NO ACTION is AN ACTION. My brother and sister have done NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING but criticize me, but Mom is now in a facillity close to me. I visit her every day, I take her to her appointments, and I do so with love in my heart. State laws do require adult children to step in and care for their parents,and believe me they will come looking for you, you can also be prosecuted. So it is time to step into the adult role, and stop being the child. When you know what you stand for making the right decisions in life is not so hard, as much as it is necessary. Get going and do the right thing.


CleoBu answered...

Wouldn't it be nice if our relatives with dementia would listen to the doctor? My MIL's doctor told her that she shouldn't be living alone, needs 24/7 care because of her memory loss. She said "I don't happen to agree with you". My husband had meet with the doctor before to advise him of what was going on. But she's stubborn and won't listen.


Mechele S answered...

When I debated about letting Mom take her driving test, knowing she really shouldn't be driving) my son made it easy for me do to the right thing in an instant. He said, "Mom, so on one of her good days she manages to pass her test. But on one of her bad days she goes to the store and hits someone in the parking lot or gets on the freeway and ends up who knows where. REALLY, do you even need to think twice about what you need to do!?"