Q: My 70 year old father is likely dealing with alzheimers. His wife, my step-mother, is bipolar and together they are shutting us all out. How do I help and make sure they are getting care?
My parents divorced when I was 12 and both remarried. My mom passed away when I was 23 but we still maintain contact with my stepfather and his now girlfriend. I have two older sisters that I grew up with and a step-sister from my stepfather’s first marriage.
My father has many health issues... heart conditions and melanoma. His mother died of alzheimers and he seems to be gradually goind down the dementia path. We do not have a clinical alzheimer's diagnosis yet and if he has it, it is in the early stages. He has always struggled with finding the right word for something, but now is forgetting long-time private jokes, how to use the computer, forgetting letters he has written, details about things he has always known... like what type of drinks he likes. He's constantly saying, "oh I NEVER knew that." Even though it's a subject that's been discussed a million times.
My dad’s wife has always been clinically depressed. She had a very rough childhood that could attribute to this - but now does not seem to be able to cope with everyday stresses. She quit her regular job about 20 years ago, did volunteer work for awhile and then just stopped working all together. She’s switched anti-depressents many times and a few years ago quit taking it all together. Around that time, she stopped coming to visit and always had a reason why she was unable to come. My dad also admitted that she was no longer helping with grocery shopping or things like that. He was working full-time and doing all of that himself. After one of my dad’s many health scares, she refused to visit him in the hospital bc she was convinced that “they would see right through her” and commit her. She tried to kill herself just over a year ago and blamed it on the fact that she felt like her issues were causing my dad to feel torn about coming to visit us. After that she was on court-ordered medication and therapy and seemed to be getting better - she invited us to Christmas last year and came for a few other events. She still was difficult to talk to because she seems to always have some major drama that she’s furious about. She’s let us know too that she thinks we haven’t been grateful enough to her over the years. She seems like one of those people that really needs to be the center of attention... And I feel that her gererosity isn’t really generous bc she only does nice things bc she’s expecting everyone to oooh and ahhh over how great she is. She has decided recently to write us off and no longer wants to have contact with any of us...
My dad is counting on her for reality. She is incapable of taking care of herself, or him... and they seem to be retreating into their own little world in the middle of the woods where they live. How do we help make sure they get taken care of if they are refusing help and angry with us for trying?
It is a very difficult situation and you are not alone. Often the elders with dementia or mental issue refuse to get help. I do hope your father will go see a specialist such as neurologist to determine his condition. His Mom had AD (Alzheimers) does not mean he will have AD but he may have other type of dementia. You need to find help for your father first so he gets a good caregiver in the future soon.
His wife has mental issue so maybe you can find someone she trusts like a pastor or a doctor who is a friend of the family to convince her that she and your Dad need to get outside help for your Dad's sake since he would depend on her for memory issue.
Perhaps you can consider some home care service first so a caregiver can help both of them part-time. Gradually the caregiver from outside will do more. Eventually they can use a nice assisted living facility for both to be safer. It is all up to the family. Usually a professional health care person can do better to persuade them using terminology or experiences and also comfort them at the same time about the advanced medicine such as medications to slow down dementia and medications for depression.
Either someone from the family/friends or from a professional home care service (such as a nurse) can do wonders.
e.g., my father-in-law in late 2005 refused home care service but the company was able to convince him to get help and now he is in a nice residential care facility after 3 years of 24 hours home care.
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