This article is reprinted with permission from the Alzheimer’s Association of the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Calif. chapter, and is excerpted from their quarterly publication Side by Side, Spring 2002. Deborah Dunn MFT, is the director of patient and family services at the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Calif. chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Q: My dad was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. How can I get my mom to understand that it doesn’t work to correct dad about his memory lapses?
A: I imagine your mom is frustrated and sad that your dad does not do well with his short term memory and that her “correcting” may be a misguided effort to have him improve his ability. Of course, it doesn’t work that way; mom’s efforts will continue to end in frustration and dad will no doubt feel bad for his inability to remember.
Your mom and dad would benefit from education about the changes that Alzheimer’s is bringing into both their lives, and support and guidance on how to better cope with these changes. There are education classes for your mom, as well as support groups for both your mom and dad. The education classes and workshops provide a foundation of understanding that will serve your mother well throughout the course of the disease. The support groups provide not only good information, but they also provide a safe place in which to express all the feelings each is going through and to realize that others are experiencing similar feelings.
Q: My dad thinks he can handle my mom’s care himself and won’t accept any outside help. How can I get him to agree to get some help?
A: You can be a resource by getting help for yourself right now. Attend an adult child support group; take an educational workshop; go for a consult with a social worker at your local Alzheimer’s Association or similar agency. In this way, you will be taking care of yourself and gathering information and understanding that you can slowly introduce to your dad. It is common for there to come a time when your father will let you know he is not coping as well and this will be an opening for you to introduce him to the resources and help available.