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Worries about my Father’s ability to care for my Mother - advice welcome

mcc9

New member
Dec 24, 2021
2
0
Hi all,

My mother (71) was diagnosed with dementia a year ago following a gradual decline of her short term memory over the last five years or so. Throughout this period her short term memory has become gradually worse to the point now where she often forgets earlier interactions and conversations end up going round and round in circles. She is fully mobile and can carry out tasks around the house off her own back but does get easy confused when asked to do anything that involves more than one step. She also struggles to remember recent events that have happened and says things like ‘I haven’t even left this house in weeks’ despite going on a trip to town the day before etc.

The challenge is that she is completely unaware that there are any issues with her memory at all and is therefore reluctant for any kind of help. She also has regular mood swings and it is not uncommon to walk into a room to find her on the verge of tears claiming that she feels hopeless and unloved. She also regularly shuns family occasions (she has two step children- my half sibling from my father- who have recently had their own children) saying she feels nothing more than an accessory and that no one wants to see her which couldn’t be further from the truth. I have told this to her many a time but she always forgets these conversations.

She lives with my father ( 72) who now does most things around the house (weekly shop, cooking, her finances, organising trips out, inviting people round etc.) but is completely oblivious to this believing that she does all the cooking, cleaning, house care etc. My father does well in general with all this but finds it incredibly tiring and also rather hopeless knowing that things will only get worse. He does an awful lot to help her but as someone who has been fiercely independent her whole life, she often feels he is treading on her toes and gets frustrated with him which really upsets him. I have had many a phone call with him where he has sounded completely deflated and in despair as my mother has had yet another moodswing either claiming that she is trapped in her own home or asking him the same thing over and over again saying that he never tells her anything.

My father is a serial worrier and has struggled with high blood pressure for the past 20 years or so from stress. I know that caring for my mother puts a huge amount of pressure on him and further stress which greatly worries and upsets me. I live with my girlfriend in London (my parents are based rurally in Sussex) with quite an intense job so moving closer to help or visiting often (more than every few weeks) is a challenge. I have spoken to my father about getting support however neither he nor I know what that might look like since day to day chores are fine- it’s more the emotional side of worrying about what my mother might do next that is the trouble.

Has anyone had a similar experience or any advice that could possibly be relevant or help?

Apologies for the long post- this is first time I’ve ever written about this and thank you for getting this far!
 

lollyc

Registered User
Sep 9, 2020
800
0
Hi all,

My mother (71) was diagnosed with dementia a year ago following a gradual decline of her short term memory over the last five years or so. Throughout this period her short term memory has become gradually worse to the point now where she often forgets earlier interactions and conversations end up going round and round in circles. She is fully mobile and can carry out tasks around the house off her own back but does get easy confused when asked to do anything that involves more than one step. She also struggles to remember recent events that have happened and says things like ‘I haven’t even left this house in weeks’ despite going on a trip to town the day before etc.

The challenge is that she is completely unaware that there are any issues with her memory at all and is therefore reluctant for any kind of help. She also has regular mood swings and it is not uncommon to walk into a room to find her on the verge of tears claiming that she feels hopeless and unloved. She also regularly shuns family occasions (she has two step children- my half sibling from my father- who have recently had their own children) saying she feels nothing more than an accessory and that no one wants to see her which couldn’t be further from the truth. I have told this to her many a time but she always forgets these conversations.

She lives with my father ( 72) who now does most things around the house (weekly shop, cooking, her finances, organising trips out, inviting people round etc.) but is completely oblivious to this believing that she does all the cooking, cleaning, house care etc. My father does well in general with all this but finds it incredibly tiring and also rather hopeless knowing that things will only get worse. He does an awful lot to help her but as someone who has been fiercely independent her whole life, she often feels he is treading on her toes and gets frustrated with him which really upsets him. I have had many a phone call with him where he has sounded completely deflated and in despair as my mother has had yet another moodswing either claiming that she is trapped in her own home or asking him the same thing over and over again saying that he never tells her anything.

My father is a serial worrier and has struggled with high blood pressure for the past 20 years or so from stress. I know that caring for my mother puts a huge amount of pressure on him and further stress which greatly worries and upsets me. I live with my girlfriend in London (my parents are based rurally in Sussex) with quite an intense job so moving closer to help or visiting often (more than every few weeks) is a challenge. I have spoken to my father about getting support however neither he nor I know what that might look like since day to day chores are fine- it’s more the emotional side of worrying about what my mother might do next that is the trouble.

Has anyone had a similar experience or any advice that could possibly be relevant or help?

Apologies for the long post- this is first time I’ve ever written about this and thank you for getting this far!
Hello @mcc9 , I care for my mother, and I'm 20 years younger than your dad. It is very hard at my age, so I can well imagine it is wearing him down.

In our area Age UK offer "personal assistants" (there is a charge, and not available in all areas), who can offer companionship, as well as help around the house. Perhaps your dad could invesigate this option - maybe someone who could take mum out for a walk / coffee / etc. and allow your dad some time to himself.

Prior to Covid, my Mum went to several clubs which provided lunch and activities, and gave me a few hours break. Obviously most of these services have been very reduced, but it may be worth finding what is avaialable for the future. Not all were dementia specific, but could cope with some memory loss. Their local council probably have a directory of old age services.

2 tips:
1. I never asked Mum if she wanted to go to these things - dementia standard reply is NO! I insisted that she always gave something a try, and then we would review (don't say they don't have to go if they don't like it, that's asking for trouble!)
2. Try as many things as possible - not everyone wants to sing...Not everything was successful, but many things were.

If your dad is able to access this forum - the most useful support in my opinion- he can rant, ask questions, or just see that he's not alone.
 

mcc9

New member
Dec 24, 2021
2
0
Hi @lollyc, thanks for the quick reply- I know xmas eve is a weird time to be on posting about this!

I think the idea of a personal assistant for companionship is a good one and the kind of thing I had in mind. My concern is that mum would be very dismissive of the idea and be very awkward but definitely something to explore.

I think a challenge of the clubs is that my parents have always been quite young for their age- my mum had me at 45 and so a lot of her friends (mums of my friends etc.) have always been a lot younger- and so they don’t really consider themselves in the same age bracket as a lot of people in their seventies. I can quite imagine mum saying she doesn’t want to spend a morning trapped in a room full of oldies!

I’ve only recently started looking for online help etc so quite new to this but I definitely think I’ll point him in the direction of this forum. He’s fully computer literate and I know he could do with the feeling that he isn’t alone in all this as I know he often feels isolated.

Thanks!
 

MartinWL

Registered User
Jun 12, 2020
2,026
0
65
London
Absolutely vital to build some help for your father into your planning. his health will suffer if he is worn out and then what good will he be to your mother? It is best to prepare in advance, not wait for a crisis.
 

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
884
0
There are a lot of people with dementia in their 70s, even in their early 70s. Many people start to display symptoms of vascular dementia in their late 60s and of Alzheimer’s Disease in their mid 70s and so your mother would not inevitably be sitting in a room surrounded by people in their late 80s.

That’s the thing about dementia. People think that it’s only very old people who have it but that’s not the case. Life expectancy may have increased, and people can be treated for all sorts of conditions which would previously have killed them, but people are still developing dementia in their 60s and 70s and there’s little treatment to slow its progress.

I agree with Martin that it’s important to get help for your father. Others on this forum have started with a cleaner and built up from there.
 

silkiest

Registered User
Feb 9, 2017
667
0
Hi @mcc9,
as time goes on and you need to get more involved will be easier for you to help your parents if they have POA for both health and welfare. If these have not been set up yet for both of them it would be wise to organise this as soon as possible before your mum looses capacity to give consent. You do not need a solicitor, all the information you need is online at : https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney
My father (90) cares for mum (87) , he says he wants help but is not too keen on visitors. They both accept their cleaner but both complain constantly about the carers who come in to give mum her meds ( despite him not being able to see if she has taken then out of the dispenser as he is blind. I find it a very hard balancing act giving them the help they need and what they think they need.
Mum still wants to be involved with meal preparation and household tasks, but like yours is not capable of carrying out tasks with several steps. Rather than actual ready meals they have things like meat in gravy, moussaka, lasagne, pre prepared kebabs etc that need vegetables or salad adding to make a meal. Mum feels involved and it helps a little with her frustration.
 

lollyc

Registered User
Sep 9, 2020
800
0
Hi @lollyc, thanks for the quick reply- I know xmas eve is a weird time to be on posting about this!

I think the idea of a personal assistant for companionship is a good one and the kind of thing I had in mind. My concern is that mum would be very dismissive of the idea and be very awkward but definitely something to explore.

I think a challenge of the clubs is that my parents have always been quite young for their age- my mum had me at 45 and so a lot of her friends (mums of my friends etc.) have always been a lot younger- and so they don’t really consider themselves in the same age bracket as a lot of people in their seventies. I can quite imagine mum saying she doesn’t want to spend a morning trapped in a room full of oldies!

I’ve only recently started looking for online help etc so quite new to this but I definitely think I’ll point him in the direction of this forum. He’s fully computer literate and I know he could do with the feeling that he isn’t alone in all this as I know he often feels isolated.

Thanks!
Maybe you need to think outside the box, and look at more "active" activities ? - for example: nearby we have a horse based charity (also has people on autistic spectrum), a farming based one, and a gardening based one. People do as much, or as little, as they are able. Perhaps mum could take up Nordic Walking with a companion, or something similar? There is an organisation called Men in Sheds - a branch of which locally has now become a Community Workshop open to both sexes.

I have to say that the dementia groups Mum went to weren't too "dumbed down". They had quizzes / word wheels and discussions about a particular theme - say holidays or school. My Mum (80's) too, never wanted to sit around with a group of "old fogeys", but, sadly, as dementia has progressed the options have become limited.