McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

My Dad and Alzheimer’s - a personal perspective

In recognition of Dementia Action week and following the announcement of Barbara Windsor’s Alzheimer diagnosis I thought I’d share my experiences and tips.

My Dad has suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years. When my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years ago, the family reluctantly arranged for my dad to become a resident at a lovely care home in Westhoughton.

I found it heart-breaking to take this course of action. Even knowing that it was the best long-term care we could provide I still agonise over the decision. However, with the support of my employer and my husband, I spend two full days and one evening a week with my dad hopefully helping to make his final years more fulfilling.

This means that I don’t spend every hour of each day with him and if you are a full-time carer to someone with Alzheimer’s you have my complete admiration.

Every Alzheimer’s sufferer has very different needs, the following are a few of the ways we’ve supported my dad:

Car trips

Dad has always been somebody that was very busy, not spending much time indoors at all. Having succumbed to Alzheimer’s and care home life, Dad really seems to benefit in getting out on a car trip.

We’ve found that this works best with Dad in the front passenger seat, avoiding motorways with a journey length of around 25-40 minutes.

We can have some great in the moment conversations and we find that it takes the first 10 minutes or so for Dad to acclimatise.  A few weeks ago when we collected him he was obsessed with the thought that some men had been trying to kill him.  Within 10 minutes I had convinced him that it was a bad dream and we were chatting about the busy car park at Asda and the “crazy speeding drivers” as he calls them.

Travelling by car for us is particularly poignant as my Dad was well known for instructing the family on how to get from A to B by car, these used to be known as “Ray approved routes”.

Avoiding “do you remember when”

It’s taken us some time to get used to the fact that Dad has little or no recollection of our shared memories. This means that we avoid saying “do you remember when” as this can confuse him and his default answer is to apologise.

We do however have some really good “here and now chats”. Dad always listens and whilst a response may take a while for him to think through he really does engage with the conversation. Whether it be about something I or my husband have done this week or some of the things we can see out of the car window, it really does seem to give him a good mental workout.

What has been a surprise to me is that Dad has just as good a sense of humour now as he did before and can laugh at some of the silliest things. A recent example was on one of our regular Wednesday night walks we popped into McDonalds for a coffee - a sign on the wall stated “toilets and baby change”, Dad thought it hilarious when I suggested that’s where you go to change your baby for another one if you don’t like it!

I like to think that in these exchanges he feels a bit more “with it” instead of the confusion he generally has about who he is and where he is supposed to be going.

Use music

We also sing quite a bit either in the car or round the kitchen table.  The Ipad is great because you can play a tune on YouTube and it has the words displayed.  “How great thou art” is a particular favourite at the moment and we can sing along together.

We also like Country Roads by John Denver and In my Liverpool Home by the Spinners.

Agree with them and don’t worry about the repetition

Agree with them, what’s the harm?  The memory plays tricks and sometimes Dad gets a thought in his head that is hard to shift e.g. wanting to go home to Salford where he hasn’t lived for 70 years. Rather than disagreeing we suggest that we’ll go later or tomorrow, knowing that he’ll settle down to a cup of tea and a biscuit forgetting about Salford. In the course of a few hours we can often have the same conversation many times, Dad clearly doesn’t mind so why should I?

Hugs - you can’t go wrong with a hug!

Growing up I don’t remember my Dad being that tactile. Now that he’s 83 he really likes a hug, it seems that the physical contact reassures him.

PWandDad.jpg

Putting arrangements in place for my Dad has been made much easier as my Mum and Dad arranged Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA’s) with my help a few years ago.

As a Solicitor specialising in Private client matters such as these, I can recommend just how valuable they are from my own personal experiences. The really important thing was that we sorted out LPA’s whilst they still had the mental capacity to do so, before it was too late.

If you need some help with this please call and ask for Philippa Wright on 0161 928 3848 or email philippa.wright@mchaleandco.co.uk

 

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