Dear Dr. Archer,
My 74-year-old father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My family is still shocked, especially my 70-year-old mother. He seems to be deteriorating quickly. She feels like she can take care of him, and refuses to discuss the idea of putting him in a facility that can provide specialized care. My two sisters and I will be available as much as we can. We all live near my parents, but we do all work.
My worry is that my father will do something to hurt my mother, or that she will hurt herself by caring for him. He does become very agitated and hard to control.
How can I get my mother to accept this diagnosis and the changes it will mean in her ability to care for him?
This is an extremely difficult situation that all families with an Alzheimer’s relative face. This illness is devastating, not only for the patient, but for the family as well. There is no right answer as to when it’s time for the patient to be taken out of the home and placed into an assisted living environment.
What’s important is that an open dialogue be maintained at all times between the caregivers. A monthly conference is important, with all family members present. This will give you regular opportunities to discuss the division of care and concerns you all have.
Understand, though, that your mother will try to hold onto the care of your father as long as she can, and you need to be supportive of her, as well.
However, the eventual need for assisted living needs to be acknowledged as a reality by all, for at some point it will be necessary. Then your family can come up with a game plan as to when to take that step. One good intermediate step is in-home care by a professional for full or part-time duty.
In addition, at this time you may want to arrange for your mom to visit a good facility nearby to see how others are being cared for. Two good books on the subject that I recommend are: The 36-Hour Day, by Nancy Mace, and When your Loved One has Dementia, by Glenner, Stehman, Davagnino, Galante and Green.
Dear Dr. Archer,
I have a big family problem. I have a 13-year-old granddaughter, Kathy, who has lived with us most of her life. Kathy’s mother has just remarried, and wants her to move back home and start living with her. Kathy wants to stay with us. I agree, but my husband thinks that Kathy should move back home with her mother. This is causing a lot of problems in our home and our marriage. He thinks it isn’t good for Kathy not to be with her mother. What do you recommend? None of the people involved will agree to counseling.
The solution is to put Kathy’s needs first. Most states set an age at which adolescents can choose where they want to live, and I think Kathy is approaching that age. But even more important is that she’s 13 years old and a person. All of you should consider what she wants — not what you want.
You shouldn’t make her go and live anywhere she doesn’t want to be. Her mom needs to realize that her relationship with her daughter is for the long-term, and if she’s been missing from Kathy’s life, then she needs to slowly earn back Kathy’s trust and respect.
Thus, it’s a very shortsighted solution for anyone to make her stay with the mom. Mom can put out the effort to plan events and activities with Kathy over time, and should strive to rebuild the mother-daughter relationship. The ideal solution would eventually be to have Kathy happy in either home, and to have a strong relationship with the entire family. But, again, this takes time, so go slowly and involve Kathy in all of the discussions about her life. Again, she needs to come first.
Dr. Dale Archer is a board certified psychiatrist who founded the Institute for Neuropsychiatry in Southwest Louisiana. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN Headline News and other national TV programs and the author of the New York Times bestselling book Better than Normal. Visit him at DrDaleArcher.com.