Coping when Both Parents Have Dementia
“My mom and dad both have dementia. I am all alone taking care of them since. I have no one to help me. I get sad and frustrated with them both. How do I deal with my feelings?”
These are powerful words from one Caregiver Forum participant. It is a cry that is all too familiar for many family caregivers and one which will touch the hearts of most readers. Many of us feel alone when we are trying to care for our aging parents and there are no siblings to help, or our siblings won’t help. When we have one parent who has this disease, it is hard. When we have two, it is often nearly unbearable.
The Impact of Dementia Care on a Caregiver
There are many different kinds of dementia. My dad’s condition resulted from surgery, while Mom’s developed more subtly—the type they used to call “senile dementia.” Now it is called “organic brain disease.” Whatever the type, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular, Pick’s disease, Parkinson’s-related or just plain “organic brain syndrome,” it is painful for the caregiver. Sometimes the pain is so raw and isolating that the caregivers become more ill than those they are caring for.
Statistics vary, but upward of thirty percent of caregivers die before the people they are caring for. Some of those are adult children, lonely, depressed, isolated, frustrated, and often torn by guilt. These caregivers can develop cancer, commit suicide, or have heart problems and other ill health that can likely be traced to the stress of caring for their loved ones.
My Experience Caring for Parents with Dementia
For a while, my mom’s disease consisted of minor memory loss, and she was able to be a fairly active part of my dad’s care team after his surgery left him demented. However, as is to be expected, her condition worsened and I was soon coping with both of my parents’ odd and forgetful behaviors.
For example, their wedding anniversary was the day after Christmas. I would always bring…
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