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Published November 26, 2012, 11:35 PM

Minding Our Elders: Kids urge father to hire help in caring for mom

DEAR CAROL: My mother is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. Dad is her primary caregiver, and it’s wearing him out. He can’t sleep because she doesn’t sleep. He’s worried about her wandering even though the house is secure. My siblings and I try to help, but we are all out of town and have jobs and families. Dad refuses to consider putting Mom in assisted living, yet he can’t continue life as he’s living it, either. We’re all worried sick that he’ll have a stroke or something while he’s trying to provide all of Mom’s care. How do we convince him to do things differently?

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

Editor’s note: The "Minding Our Elders" column by Carol Bursack was mistakenly omitted from Sunday’s SheSays section.

DEAR CAROL: My mother is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. Dad is her primary caregiver, and it’s wearing him out. He can’t sleep because she doesn’t sleep. He’s worried about her wandering even though the house is secure. My siblings and I try to help, but we are all out of town and have jobs and families. Dad refuses to consider putting Mom in assisted living, yet he can’t continue life as he’s living it, either. We’re all worried sick that he’ll have a stroke or something while he’s trying to provide all of Mom’s care. How do we convince him to do things differently? – Tom

DEAR TOM: Your parents vowed to care for each other until “death do us part.” Sometimes, people get so caught up in caregiving they feel that providing all of the spousal care personally is the only way to honor their vow. This is unfortunate, because in many of these situations, if the well spouse hires help to reduce the intense strain of constant caregiving, he or she can actually provide more relaxed, soothing emotional care for the loved one.

Since your dad is adamant about not moving your mom into an assisted living facility, maybe you can talk him into hiring an in-home care agency for part of each day. Build a case with facts. Your mom doesn’t sleep well at night. She’s at risk for wandering. She requires 24/7 care in order to stay safe. No one can work day and night seven days a week and stay well.

Try to convince your dad that he can actually help her more by taking some breaks himself so that he stays healthy. The in-home caregiver can help your mom with bathing and some of the heavier physical work, freeing your dad to have more emotional energy for life in general. He’d also be able to go out without worry and refresh himself by visiting with friends or participating in activities he’s enjoyed in the past.

An alternative or complement to in-home care is adult day care. With ADC, your mom can have a social life and appropriate activities while your dad runs errands and spends time with his friends.

As I see it, you and your siblings have a mission to somehow convince your dad that he’s not abandoning his wife if he gets help caring for her. Whether that help comes from an in-home care agency, adult day care or a move to assisted living, he needs to see that his own health will decline if he continues with the 24/7 routine. Then where will your mom be? She needs him. You all need him. If he won’t make these changes for himself, maybe he will for his wife and his children.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com.

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