Can clothing choices can impact a Loved One’s health?

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR CLOTHES


Mom walks out of my guest room dressed for Christmas Eve service.  She’s wearing a big smile.  And her favorite red summer dress.  It’s 30 degrees outside.

“Who made this wardrobe choice?” I wonder.  Dad says that Mom chose the dress herself. 

During the service, the church heat kicks on, and the temperature rises to beach conditions. As I fan myself, the congregation stands for prayer.  Suddenly, Mom leans on me.  Heavily.  Then she crumples. Mom? Mom! What is happening?  My heart stops.

As I panic a young man from the congregation rushes over to help.  He’s a paramedic he tells me, and before I know it, he revives Mom.  Mom is perspiring heavily, so the paramedic and I each take an arm and walk her into the narthex.  Together we help Mom out of the linen jacket of her dress.  I search for something else that I can to remove to cool her off.  Then I see the insulated undershirt I gave her four years ago.  Mom is wearing it under her summer dress.  I guess this wardrobe choice was Mom’s, too.

It occurs to me that my Dad has yet to ever dress a woman for Christmas Eve church service.  Even if he had, he is impervious to weather –  cold, heat, rain, snow it is all the same to him..  I remember Dad getting in the car for church when I was a child.  Snow a foot high. Me shivering in the back seat, watching my breath.  Dad wearing just his Sunday suit.  I wonder, does Dad even know that women have different summer and winter wardrobes?  Can he tell the difference between a summer dress and a winter dress?  Has he ever heard of “layering”?

Before bed, I consider what I can do to help.  Maybe I just need to rotate Mom’s clothes twice a year like I do mine.  I can make sure that her closet only has clothes that fit, are in good condition and are the right weight for the season.  This way, whoever makes the wardrobe choices, chances are good Mom will be wearing something seasonally appropriate.

What wardrobe or fashion challenges has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver experienced with your Alzheimer’s Loved One?  What suggestions do you have for helping Alzheimer’s Caregivers make appropriate clothing choices?

Alzheimer’s and dental health – Dad looks for the root cause

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR DENTAL HEALTH


“Your Mom is definitely going to need two new crowns. And we’ll need to scrape her gums again in a month or so.” I am here today, at Dad’s request, to get answers to the questions he has yet to be able to ask Mom’s dentist.

“What’s causing Mom to need so much recurring dental work?” I ask.

“It’s the plaque,” the Dentist says.

“Plaque?  What plaque?”

“See?” he says, showing me Mom’s gums. “Due to poor brushing.”

Dad goes pale for a moment.  As a genuine, grade-A, dental hygiene advocate, Dad brushes his teeth three or four times a day.  And he tells Mom to brush her teeth three or four times a day too.  He even bought her an electric toothbrush and a timer to help her keep brushing long enough for all her teeth to be clean.

A prior conversation with the doctor at MemoryCare comes to mind. Dad had voiced concern that Mom had yet to help him clean the bathroom sink anymore. 

“Dad, remember the Memory Care Doctor said Mom probably forgets what she’s doing in the middle of the chore?  Mom wants to help…it’s remembering the steps and the sequence of the steps that’s the challenge.   Could it be the same thing with brushing her teeth?”

Dad is silent.  In time, I say out loud what we’re both thinking:

“From now on, Mom is going to need you to keep her focused while she brushes.”

Dad sums it up. “So now I am a tooth-brushing monitor.”

Have you thought about the impact on your Alzheimer’s Caregiver of becoming a hands-on care provider? What would it be like to get involved with a mate’s “activities of daily living” like brushing teeth?  Has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver shared any stories with you of moving from helpmate role to caretaker role?  Consider ways you can help your Caregiver cross a milestone like this, and move forward with acceptance.  Is there a space for joy and humor in it all?