ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Is Dad's slipping memory due to dementia or stress?

In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol says it's important to recognize when a caregiver is under a lot of strain.

Carol Bradley Bursack updated column sig for online 10-21-19.jpg
Carold Bradley Bursack, "Minding Our Elders" columnist.
The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

Dear Carol: My dad’s 79 and I’ve been worried about his memory. Mom’s got Alzheimer’s and he’s been her only caregiver for six years, so that pushes him to the limit. I know that’s part of his problem, but I’m worried about him getting dementia. I kept after him until he finally said that he’d talk to his doctor about his memory.

Well, he did that, and the doctor did an office test but said that he’s fine, just stressed. I’ve read where in-office tests aren’t all that good, so what do I do now? Dad’s healthy but I hate to see future deterioration in his functioning if that can be prevented with early medication. How do I get him to another doctor for a diagnosis? — GW.

Dear GW: You’re being an attentive adult child and your suggestion that your dad see his doctor was a good one. Now, I’d give the doctor credit for taking the request seriously and recognizing the fact that your dad is under a lot of strain. Unless your dad’s memory and decision-making seem to worsen significantly, there might be better places for your focus, at least for now.

What he most likely needs to do is to recognize that nearly all dementia caregivers will eventually require help if only to protect their own health. I keep repeating this concept, but many caregivers need to hear it applied specifically to them before it hits home. So, put it to him plainly: If he doesn’t take better care of himself now, he may not be around to be your mom’s advocate in the future.

Sometimes, it’s easiest to start with in-home caregivers because that doesn’t seem like such a drastic change. If he hired someone to help half-days, he could at least go out if he chose or just get some sleep if that’s his biggest priority.

ADVERTISEMENT

RELATED COLUMNS:

  • How can I help Mom give Dad a wonderful last Father's Day? In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol says it's important to be gentle but realistic.
  • Social anxiety may have worsened for people with dementia In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol says the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic may have make those with Alzheimer's more anxious about social gatherings.
  • Stressed caregivers can make people with dementia more anxious In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol hears from a reader whose father refuses to get any help with her mother, who is living with Alzheimer's disease.

The other choice, which could be considered now or after he tries in-home care for a while, would be placing your mom in memory care. I’m thinking that in your mom’s case, memory care might be the best choice from the start, but your dad would have to decide what he thinks would work best. COVID isn’t a big issue in care homes now if your parents are vaccinated, so that concern is manageable.
If your mom goes into memory care, she’d have expert care and more socialization. Also, your dad could once again become her husband rather than her overworked, overstressed caregiver. That means he could visit with her, comfort her and have some fun with her while the staff does the ongoing, hands-on work.

Unfortunately, these changes are expensive. You could help by taking him to see an elder care attorney to see how to make some outside care feasible considering their financial situation.

If after changes are made and he has had time to rest and recover he still seems to need more cognitive assessment, then you could consider asking him to see a memory specialist.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.

Related Topics: WELLNESSNEWSMD
What to read next
Bebtelovimab is designed as a treatment option for those newly diagnosed with COVID-19 who cannot take Paxlovid and are deemed at high risk of severe outcomes. It replaces a series of monoclonal treatments that no longer are effective against virus due to mutation.
The JRMC Cancer Center, which was fully funded by donors in the community, started seeing patients in June 2019.
For decades, the drug industry has yelled bloody murder each time Congress considered a regulatory measure that threatened its profits. But the hyperbole reached a new pitch in recent weeks as the Senate moved to adopt modest drug pricing negotiation measures in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Sanford Health’s Program for Addiction Recovery provided Tanner Lene a way to connect to a heritage he’d left largely unexplored, as he began to learn Ojibwe and join classes taught by elders and knowledge keepers on traditional medicines and art.