More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on euthanasia, suicide, near-death experience, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one. ___________________________________________

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Loving Parents Who Are Fading

By Marcia McGuire

If you have someone in your family who is fading with Alzheimer, you will relate to this article about my Dad. He has dementia. Some days he'll play the piano and sing, others he can't even find his bedroom. He repeats so much, your head is reduced to just nodding a smile because you've heard the same words over a hundred times. I can't count all the times I've heard how some men came over to hang his elk heads on the wall. (Actually, it was my sister and her son, but telling him otherwise, as you know, won't be a part of the next conversation.)

But this article isn't about my visits to see daddy. It's about his caregiver, my faithful mom. She has her own health problems and yet, she's the sole person to love and take care of her aging husband while at the same time, struggles to keep a hold of her own health.

How many couples are in that same situation, one taxing the other, both spiraling down? Our weekly visits and prayers that the next time we come, that they'll be doing just as good, aren't all that they need. What is to be done?

Here's some ideas:

1. If at all possible, have them live near one of the children, not necessarily in their home, but around the corner or in a small apartment on the property. This way they'll have someone there every day to check and give rides for groceries or to see grandchildren. It isn't the same when they live across town. If anything, it's important just so they know someone is nearby to give them security.

2. Have a church body or circle of friends help. We want to serve one another and what better way than to reach out to our elderly. It's amazing how having another person there can make both brighten up.

3. Make arrangements for the caregiver (mom in our case) to have time away from the Alzheimer one which gives them a fresh look and a breather. Arrange for a senior citizen bus to pick them up for a day out with others their age. There's caring folks working in these services that are great asset.

4. Cook meals ahead so you know they are going to eat right. Package and freeze in their meal proportions.

5. If they don't know computers, introduce the caregiver parent a simple way to get online. Show them how easy it is to shop online and have it sent right to their front door. Use as few of click as possible to enjoy Facebook, where they can meet friends. Set the screen saver to show pictures of family. We make CDs and installed them into mom's My Pictures in her computer. This way they can sit and see familiar faces. Dad especially recognizes his mom and for the time being, his children although that part is fading too, so keeping faces familiar is important.

6. Be careful how you tell either of them what they need to do. They've made decisions all their lives and taking away that thought process is detrimental to both. It's especially vital to have the caregiver spouse have space and an opinion. Suggestions, yes, but not "You need to...." Encourage both of them gently, never boss which quite often makes them balk and not cooperate. They both need dignity and lots of "yeses" especially the Alzheimer parent. I remember one incident where dad wouldn't get in the shower because he was told he had to. My sister came in and just said, "Dad, the showers on. Your turn," and he forgot he was arguing about getting in.

7. Call them often. My sisters have daily rituals to call mom on their way to work, and she watches like clockwork for their calls. I'm not a phone talker, so I send love letters in the mail. Mailboxes get way too many ads and bills, so I love picturing dad peering inside their box by the front door and carrying his treasure to mom to read. (You should see some of the silly treasures they get inside that box.)

8. Most important, remember, they've taken care and loved each other all these years and know they're married for better or worse. The worse is happening, and they're dealing with it. We need to be a safety net for them.

9. And when, and if, the day arrives they have to place their dementia companion in a care center, be even more keen for the one left at home. It will be empty and, after nurturing their "child" sweetheart for so long, they'll wonder what's next and how to fill their time. Add to this, all the memories that will fill their minds, acting like little ghost everywhere. Be acutely aware how they're coping with all the changes.

10. Talk with your siblings and other family members of ways you can help them. Hopefully they will realize their responsibility is to be there for them.

Think of this story that pretty much explains what is going on.

"It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 a.m., when an elderly gentleman in his 80's, arrived to have stitches removed from his thumb. He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00 am. I took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before someone would to able to see him. I saw him looking at his watch and decided, since I was not busy with another patient, I would evaluate his wound.

"On exam, it was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound. While taking care of his wound, we began to engage in conversation. I asked him if he had another doctor's appointment this morning, as he was in such a hurry. The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.

"I then inquired as to her health. He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer's disease. As we talked, I asked if she would be upset if he was a bit late. He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him in five years now.

"I was surprised, and asked him, 'And you still go every morning, even though she doesn't know who you are?' He smiled as he patted my hand and said, 'She doesn't know me, but I still know who she is.'

"I had to hold back tears as he left, I had goose bumps on my arm, and thought, 'That is the kind of love I want in my life.' True love is neither physical, nor romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be, and will not be."

And that's life for our family. Daddy has dementia. We deal with it because we love him. Many families have a parent that is fading and needs assistance, for us to be involved and loving them all that we can. They were there for us. We're returning. And the circle of life goes around until we may find we are fading and need our children to love us.

Marcia is married to Dennis and has seven children, is grandma to sixteen, a school teacher and has an online shopping mall with name brand stores. []
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For more information, you might enjoy reading my book, More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase paperback on It's also on Amazon as an e-book for those who have Kindle or Sony Readers. The audio book is now available!
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