Jul 29

Coping With Your Parents Decline. Strategies you need to know.

 My Father is 92 years old and he’s starting to deteriorate rather rapidly.
It’s shocking and disturbing and sad.


Me and my Dad

He’s led a very full life, not without it’s difficult moments. In Germany during WWII he was a gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator. On his 40-something mission his plane was hit and he parachuted into enemy territory and taken prisoner. He was held in Stalag Luft IV for a little over a year until liberated by the British.


WWII B-24 Liberator


He came home and not 2 years later was hit by a semi truck while mowing the side of the highway for the county road commission. He was badly broken from the waist down and spent 18 months in a body cast.

This is a guy who knows pain. The Army doctors told him that he probably wouldn’t live much past 40, so find something he liked to do and get fresh air. Ha! They didn’t know whom they were dealing with!

He has out lived my Mother (she died in 1995) and his friends. He has a remarkable ability to look forward and keep marching on, but he’s getting tired. And I don’t blame him, he can’t hear, he’s lost his drivers license because he just can’t see anymore (macular degeneration and glaucoma) and it’s getting harder to get around. He’s more forgetful and you can see his brain working to process the information. His hands shake when he’s bringing food to his mouth or lighting a cigarette ( oh yeah, he smokes ) but hey, lots of guys his age can’t do half of the stuff he can. And he still plays a mean hand of Rummy!


My Dad at his 90th Birthday Party

I think he’s more surprised than anyone that he’s made it this long.

I’ve done several video presentations and trainings for an organization (COPSA) that helps professional caregivers and home caregivers of dementia (mostly Alzheimer’s disease) patients understand the disease process and how to navigate and manage. I’ve learned a lot about what to do and not to do, but it still doesn’t make it any easier emotionally to see my Father, my Dad, my Daddy-o fade away. Mary Catherine Lundquist (Care2Caregivers Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care Coordinator) says, “We look at what people can do, not what they can’t do.”

That’s hard for the kids of dementia patients. We are only seeing and grieving the loss. Our parent is disappearing. It’s nice to have an outside voice saying, “They can still love and be loved.”

I’d like to share some of the wonderfully helpful tips I picked up while working with the COPSA crew and a few things I’m discovering (mostly the hard way) as I’m navigating this road.


  1. Stop thinking they’re going to get better. They’re not. The brain is damaged by the disease and we just don’t know how to fix it…yet. It’s not helpful to you or your loved one to continually correct them or demand them to remember something that just isn’t there anymore. It hurts both of you.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reminisce. Creating a scrapbook containing the people, places and things that mean the most can be a bridge to fading memories. Playing your loved ones favorite music is also a very powerful memory connection. If you haven’t seen the documentary Alive Inside/ A Story of Music and Memory, I highly recommend it!

  1. In the early stages of the disease your loved one is aware of what is happening and is very likely upset and disturbed by the changes they can see and feel. Watch out for depression. Hey, you’re depressed, how do you think they feel? They may need treatment. Talk therapy or even medication. You can talk to them too. About how much you love them and will be there for them as much as you can manage.

Same for you. Watch out for signs of depression and take care of yourself. You are no good to your loved one if you collapse from exhaustion or are so depressed you can barely function.


  1. Is there a living will? if they haven’t discussed it with you already, ask. I know, it’s not pleasant, but it is important. I have one and so does my husband. We are of the opinion that there are worse things than death.

A living will addresses how aggressive you want your health care providers to be if something catastrophic were to happen. Each state has forms that are easy to fill out.  http://www.doyourownwill.com/living-will/states.html


  1. Power of Attorney. That’s a big one. If your loved one is anything like my dad this is a big issue. He doesn’t want to let go. And we have one relative who keeps poisoning the well. My advice is to do this early. You are not taking anything away as long as your loved one is competent. Here is some information about Power-of-Attorney I found interesting. Each state is a bit different so when you’re ready, find out the specifics in your state.

There is wonderful, helpful, eye opening information all over the internet. Her are a few things I would recommend to inform you and help to keep you sane.

The documentary film I mentioned earlier is inspiring: Alive Inside/A Story of Music and Memory.

I recently became acquainted with the work of Teepa Snow, who has spent her career figuring this stuff out. She will arm you with knowledge and skills to make it through. Check out her website videos: Teepa Snow Videos

If you are looking for reputable Adult Day Care program in your area or just in depth information on Adult Day Care programs click here

This is something that we baby boomers are facing and will continue to face as we continue down this winding path. It’s better to know, understand and prepare… In my humble opinion.

I imagine many of you are facing this challenge and have wonderful insight. Would you be willing to share it in the comments?


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