When Your Parent Won’t Ask for Help

Occasionally, your dementia-caregiver Dad needs a hand.

He always resists asking for it.

Here’s a research-based approach you can use to 1) recruit support for Dad, and 2) follow up to let helpers know they made a difference.

Man driving open convertible with 2 dog
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Why Dad feels vulnerable asking for help

In her book Reinforcements, researcher Heidi Grant finds that we help others because we see ourselves as helpful. When we ask for help (and when we ask the right way) people say yes for their own reasons.
One thing stands in the way. Asking for help means taking a risk.

When Dad says he’s avoid asking for help because it’s easier to do things himself, he’s right.

The “I’ll do it myself” approach helps Dad avoid something called social pain. What Dad is yet to realize is that there are risks that come with a lone wolf approach to Alzheimer’s caregiving, both physical and emotional.

Imagine what a great gift you’d be giving if you stepped in and managed support for him.

How to get the help Dad needs

1. Make Explicit, direct requests for help

2. Be Reasonable

You are likely to find a helper to bring a hot meal on a specific night.

You are less likely to find a helper to bring a hot meal every Thursday night.

3. Take what you get

Maybe your potential helper is available at a different time of day, another week, or alternate month. Perhaps they are better at visiting with your loved-one than preparing meals. Listen. Consider if you can accept what helpers offer.

4. Respect your potential helpers. Know the reasons helpers help.

  • They help because it’s who they are
  • They help because they choose to help
  • They’ve been there
  • They’re there right now
  • They feel the same way

ALWAYS Let the helper know their help was effective

Helpers are most satisfied when they know their help was effective. You make this happen when you communicate with those who helped through thank you texts / emails / calls or snail-mailed notes.

  • Let the helper know the test they drove Mom to was successfully completed on time, and why that was important.
  • Let the helper know how comforting it was to Dad to have a hot meal waiting after a long day at the hospital.
  • Let the helper know that the get-well card campaign she started has lifted your parents’ spirits day after day.

 

To learn to effectively overcome social pain in order to ask for support, read:
Halvorson, H. G. (2018). Reinforcements: How to get people to help you. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

What your caregiver really wants from you

ALZHEIMERS, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR WISH-LIST


Dad has learned to cook. He’s learned to charm Mom into clean clothes. He’s learned to do laundry. Here are 11 budget-friendly gifts for your Alzheimer’s Caregiver Dad that will wrap him in love every day. After all, who deserves your love more?

“…a generous serving of love makes every gift better.” – Barbara Ivey

Brighten His Day

Life as a Caregiver means that your Dad is caring for your Alzheimer’s Loved one around the clock.  Along with preparing food and providing a safe home, Dad is the household source of love, laughter and joy. That means that Dad needs to be filled with joy enough for two. Here are some reasonably priced gift ideas that Dad and Mom can both enjoy together.

1.       A card – sweet, funny, or musical

2.       Recent photos, printed and mailed

3.       Old photos, printed and mailed

4.       A spare phone charger

Make Every Day Easier

Caregivers are on-the-job twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They take on household duties more and more as the Alzheimer’s Loved One becomes less able to remember the sequence of steps.  So a gift that makes a Caregiver’s day easier is always a great idea.

5.       Pre-prepared meals

6.       Sign Dad up for online grocery ordering, so he can pick up at the drive-through. 

7.       Clean laundry / laundry service

8.       A simplified wardrobe for Mom.   Having only this season’s clothes in the closet, helps her dress appropriately for the season.

9.       A clean, orderly living space that is safe for Mom

Visit

Before you visit, talk with your Dad to identify a convenient time to arrive. Your Alzheimer’s Loved One has good times of day, and better times of day. Remember that your Caregiver Dad needs a hug and a friendly face as much (or more) than your Alzheimer’s Loved One

10.   Try 2 by 2 visits.  Visit in pairs. This way, one visitor can talk, listen and laugh with the Caregiver while the other does the same with the Alzheimer’s Loved One.

When did your Caregiver last have a few minutes on their own?   The answer may surprise you. Getting a haircut used to be simple, fun errand.  So was getting the oil changed. Now, your Mom may come along on these errands (and others) because it is safer for her than staying home alone. Give your Caregiver Dad the gift of a free hour, an afternoon, or longer by caring for your Loved One yourself. Plus, you will learn a lot by walking in his shoes.

     11. Take a turn caring for your Mom

Whether you live near or far, whatever your budget, there are many priceless gift options you can give to your Caregiver Father that really will make life easier for him as he cares for your Mom.  And remember – a generous serving of love makes every gift better!

Alzheimer’s-friendly holidays

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND HOLIDAYS


Radio personality Francene Marie hosts this power-chat with me and Katherine Lambert.

Gobs of tips for happier holidays with Loved Ones living with Alzheimer’s.

(Link to recording is below the photo.)

 L to R, Katherine Lambert, CEO Western NC Alzheimer's Association, Barbara Ivey, Author and Alzheimer's Kid, Francene Marie, Radio Personality
L to R, Katherine Lambert, CEO Western NC Alzheimer’s Association, Barbara Ivey, Author and Alzheimer’s Kid, Francene Marie, Radio Personality

Accepting an Alzheimer’s-friendly holiday

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND NEW REALITIES


Will Dad ever concede? 

These days Dad is a sapling in an ice storm, twig-thin and stooped under his burdens.  Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s has appropriated Mom’s remaining joys.  

For five grueling days at Thanksgiving, Mom’s adult day program closes for the holidays.  On our call,  Dad sounds close to surrender.

To clear his head, Dad takes Mom for a walk in the backyard.  Mom trips, falls and sprains her knee.   The strain of loading a confused and hurting Mom into the car, coaxing her through a medical exam, and pleading with her to wear the knee brace is like a garden hose to the face.

Dad begins Mom’s application to a Memory Unit.  

A true romantic, Dad schedules Mom’s admission for January 15th, imagining a final family Christmas.  The dream passes quickly, and Dad awakens to the truth:  This Christmas is unique from all Christmases past.

Mom, to her credit, has done everything she can to help us see what suits her Christmas celebration best, given her advancing Alzheimer’s.  Mom wants to be home. Mom prefers quiet.  Mom’s is calmest in her routine.

After so many years of resistance, Dad surrenders.  We plan Christmas around what is best for Mom.   Dad decides they will stay at their home, in NC.  House guests being more than either can manage, Dad confides that my company, in small doses only, would be welcome.  Randy and I tally our hotel points and book a room nearby.      

Dad insists that the grandchildren enjoy Christmas at their own house ninety miles away.  My sister Diane invites my husband’s parents to join them.

And like that, the Acceptance Christmas plans are settled.

Up the mountain in NC with my parents, we take a fresh approach to Christmas. Dad, Randy and I calibrate all Christmas activities to Mom.  Christmas eve at home.  A duet of carols, my part with words, Mom’s part a hum.

It is a very merry Christmas.  Calm and bright. 

Your Caregiver needs to go to school

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR CAREGIVER EDUCATION


“Mom did really well while I was at Caregiver College last night,” Dad says proudly to me into the phone.

“Oh, that’s right,” I reply. “Your first class!  Did Mom go with you?”

“Better than that,” Dad answers. “You remember our friends Kay and Johanna?  Well, they really helped me out.  Kay stayed with Mom at the house, and Jo and I went to class together.”

“And how did Mom do with Kay?”

“She did great.  They played Rummikub, drank coffee, and sang together. Mom and Kay have always gotten along well.”

With a little trepidation, I dig deeper. “And how did class go for you and Jo?”

“There was a lot of information.  A lot of paper,” Dad says, revealing some underlying anxiety.  “Plus I was worried about your Mom.”

“Sounds like it took a lot of effort to concentrate on the class, Dad.”

“Yes. Lucky for me, Jo took all of the handouts home with her.  She is going to summarize them and mail me her notes.  You know, so I remember what I need to do.”

“Dad, you are blessed to have such good friends,” I say. (And I think to myself: so are we.)

Thank you, good Lord, for sending these dear friends to love and support both of my parents.

Often, friends want to help but have yet to know how.  Here’s a suggestion.  Encourage them to help make it possible for your Alzheimer’s Caregiver to attend caregiver education classes.  Caregiver education is critical for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver because this disease affects so many aspects of their Loved One’s life.  Caregiver classes present an opportunity for Caregivers to learn, accept and prepare for a future where their Loved One’s thinking, decision making, memory, emotions, hygiene, physical health, safety and more will be disrupted by this disease.

Can you encourage or enlist your parent’s friends to support the Alzheimer’s Caregiver in your life, as he or she prepares for the Alzheimer’s caregiving journey?

When your Loved One needs more care than they get at home

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR DECISIONS


“How did your annual physical go, Dad?”

“Dr. T. says I lost 50 pounds.”

I take a deep breath.  “Since last year?” I ask.

“Yes.”

Fifty pounds?  Dad was already skinny.  Did he even have that much weight to spare?  That’s why his belt was cinched so tight last time I saw him.

Refocusing on the conversation, I dig deeper.  “And what did Dr. T. say about that?

“He said that I need to make a change,” Dad explains.  “He says that it’s my responsibility to care for Mom, and that I can only do that if I take care of myself first.”

 I take a deep breath in.  “So what are you thinking?”

 “It’s time to look for a Memory Care Facility for your Mom.”

I exhale. 

After all these years. After all my other-than-perfect efforts to support my Dad – I have finally learned a few things.  I learned that ultimately, Dad will make all the decisions about Mom’s care himself.  I learned that there are better uses of my energy than trying to speed Dad toward a decision before he was ready.  My opportunity was to grow my patience and my compassion, as I learned to work on Dad’s timeline. 

Has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver finally agreed to accept help with caring for your Alzheimer’s Loved One?   If not, what role can you play in encouraging this, without forcing their hand?  By letting the Alzheimer’s Caregiver arrive to this conclusion on their own time, you may find that you will have grown in your own unique ways, too.

              

 

Support Dad with his support group

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR HEALTH


“This retired Pastor in my group…” Dad begins, with tears in his eyes. “This Pastor says that over his career, he advised hundreds of people how to handle loved ones with memory loss.  Now he’s caring for his wife who has Alzheimer’s.  And he says that now, for the first time, now that it is his wife, he really sees it.  He really sees what Alzheimer’s asks from a Caregiver.”

Six months before, Dad still was yet to be a “Support Group” kind of person.  But today, stories from his fellow Caregivers are the fuel that keep him going.

I find that I am so grateful Dad has connected with others – people whom he respects and who are walking the Alzheimer’s Caregiver journey alongside him.

I smile with my realization:  try as I might, there is only so much that I can be and do for my Dad.

Does your Alzheimer’s Caregiver have someone who truly understands their daily life?  Encourage them to ask their friends if they know of an Alzheimer’s Support Group nearby.  Make some inquiries into someone who can stay with your Alzheimer’s Loved One during the meeting so that your Caregiver can attend focused and carefree. Consider if there is a way that you can help them attend even just once.  After all, one meeting may be enough to convince your Alzheimer’s Caregiver to attend regularly. This could be a game changer for everyone involved.