Suggestions please on what my Father-in-Law can do to help

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Marc kaplan asked...

Father-in-law has mid stage dementia--living with his daughter and I--often he asks "what can I do to help." He is tired of sweeping and pulling weeds--any suggestions? He does not like to read or watch TV much--I think he is starving for conversation and he gets a lot of it with visits from his grandchildren (5 of them) and great grandchildren (7 of them) all who live nearby and are very friendly to "grandpa." Grandpa thinks he gets no attention and always thanks the person when they do anything for him. Except for his extremely short time memory 30 seconds unless he is working on a repetive task he seems normal. His temperament and abilities (except for short term memory--long term is getting hazier very slowly) seem to me not to be the typical alzheimer's or dementia--once the diagnosis was made 3 years ago (has been going on since 2003) we just live with the diagnosis. We had him checked for carotid arterial blockage and he is fine--his blood pressure typically is 116 over 60. Anything ring a bell of what really is the cause of memory loss?


Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Marc, how wonderful that you are helping your wife care for your father-in-law.

When one asks "What can I do to help," he wants to feel involved.

Think of all the things that need doing around the house. Marc, start a TO DO list, NOW!

  1. Wash the car.

  2. Help make meals.

  3. Help clear the table after dinner.

  4. Go for a walk with the grandchildren.

  5. Fold the towels from the laundry.

  6. Organize tools (or screws, nuts, and bolts) in the garage.

  7. Give a back or neck massage. Hands on contact allow for conversation and connection through touch.

This leads to the importance of sharing stories. When Grandpa is no longer here, his grandchildren will wonder:

*How did Grandma and Grandpa meet?

*What was the most mischievous thing Grandpa did as a child?

*If he is an immigrant...What was life like in Grandpa's native country?

*What did Grandpa think about his parents? Were they strict?

Some of what Grandpa shares may be factual. Other parts may be made up. However, the stories will be family treasures to remember--especially, once dementia takes its toll. Until then, repeat the questions. He may experience a moment of lucidity and the facts will shine through!

As for his thankfulness...WOW! Can you loan him to me for a week?

In answer to your second question at the end of your post...

Given how much progress dementia research has made over the past decade, his diagnosis of "dementia" may be due to a specific cause--such as Alzheimer's. I recommend getting him reassessed at a geriatric assessment center. This will give you greater insight as to his condition and what you can do to help him and what you may expect.

Community Answers

Cbs answered...

Brenda had some great suggestions. If your father-in-law can still read and follow directions, make lists of how to do fairly simple or more complex things as his ability allows: how to make a sandwich, and let him prepare his own lunch; how to do laundry and let him do a load or two; how to wash out the bathtub; how to wash windows; how to scrub down the shower; vacuum; mop the floor; fly a kite with the grandkids; walk the dog with someone along; wrap Christmas packages; cut out coupons; open mail; make beds; change sheets; put out fresh towels. Just think of all the things you and your wife do each day, make a list of the things that he could do - even if you might have to redo them later when he isn't around to see.