Jaclyn asked us for advice about her Dad, who was doing some things she didn’t understand. He had gotten lost driving home. He’s lived there for 50 years, and it seemed so odd. It’s happened more than once. And, he forgot how to make coffee, something he’s been doing for decades. He just couldn’t remember the steps. She knows something is wrong. When she asks her Mom, Mom just says Dad’s getting old and don’t worry about it. Mom covers for him and does what he forgets to do.
Dad is a brainy guy, who was a mathematician in his working years. He’s been retired for a long time. He loves to play cards and last week, he refused to learn a new card game. That really got to Jaclyn, as she knows he is having trouble learning things now, which is very unlike him.
Here at AgingParents.com, we give advice for a living. Jaclyn needed some. We offered her the possibility that Dad could, but may not necessarily have dementia. She needs to get information so that she and her Mom can deal with whatever is coming.
Whatever the cause of memory loss, it is a signal that things need attention. We gave Jaclyn a plan of action with which to move forward. Here are some of the steps to her plan:
- Persuade Dad to get a checkup from a reliable MD. Preferably, find a neurologist who deals with aging patients. Go with him or write a note to the MD with a list of specific things you are worried about. You need information. If there are symptoms of dementia, you need to find out what’s going on and how to provide care for his dementia. If other conditions are in play, appropriate care may make a difference. If you have to conspire with the doc in advance, do it.
- Locate and update all estate planning documents. Work with your parents on this. Trusts, wills, durable powers of attorney and health care directives are the most important ones you need to review. It might have been years since anyone looked them over. Urge your parent to see an estate planning attorney. Tax laws change, state laws can vary. Some aging parents have never actually gotten the necessary legal papers together. The time may come when Dad is no longer competent to sign anything. Waiting until “the right time” is not good strategy. It can be too late before you know it. If a parent has dementia, the time will come when he is no longer competent to sign anything. It’s inevitable.
- Plan ahead for Dad’s possible care needs. Who would look after him if Mom could no longer do this? He may go downhill in the future. If he does have dementia, it won’t remain the same over time. People get more dependent on help with their daily needs. Help is not free. Some source of payment for help with daily care should be in the plan.
- Discuss Dad’s situation with all family members. Call a family meeting. If Dad has memory problems now, everyone in the family will eventually be involved in the situation. Siblings may need to share caregiving duties when they have a parent with dementia. Some may need to make financial contributions to help with dementia care. Taking care of both parents as they age is no longer rare. An honest conversation about who can do what, and who is willing to help care for your aging parents can go a long way toward avoiding resentment and conflict later on. Take the first step. Be the leader. Someone has to do this, and it isn’t always an aging parent.
Trust Your Own Eyes and Ears if You Think Your Parent May Have Dementia
You don’t want to be the one lulled into a false sense of security because no one has officially diagnosed your aging parent with a specific kind of dementia. It doesn’t matter. Trust your own eyes and ears. If your gut tells you there’s something wrong here with your loved one, there probably is something wrong. Jaclyn already knows something is brewing with her Dad. She’s being proactive, and I applaud her.
We Can Help You Help a Parent with Dementia
You’re not alone if you have a parent with memory loss. Millions of people are facing this every day. They find a way to manage it and survive, and you will too. Be smart. Look down the road. Stand tall and do this last part of being a grown child of your parent. Take the basic steps to protect your aging parent and yourself and you will get through it without unnecessary stress.
If you, like Jaclyn, find yourself with a parent covering up the danger signs, as her Mom is doing, you will benefit from our advice at AgingParents.com. Contact us today to request your complimentary first strategy session on coping with parents with dementia. You’ll be relieved you did.