Alzheimer’s and your parents’ home at sunset

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR EVENINGS


“Hon, where are you going?” Dad asks Mom. 

As the afternoon melts into evening, Mom is on her feet.  Minutes ago, she had settled into her chair after a trip to her bedroom to change into a warmer sweatshirt.  Now she’s back on her feet again, trying to steady herself.  She turns toward the sliding door that leads into the dining room.

“Hon?” Dad tries again.

Dismissively, Mom brushes away Dad’s question with her right hand and an unmistakable ‘stay-out-of it’ expression on her face.  She begins her walk.

Ten minutes later, Mom returns to the sunroom, dressed in her light blue track suit.

“You look pretty, Mom,” I tell her.  She walks to her chair, sits down, and picks up her crocheting.

“Guess I’ll start dinner,” Dad says, rising and moving toward the kitchen.  “You stay with your Mom.”

On cue, Mom stands, steadies herself, and turns again toward the sliding door that leads into the dining room. 

Since I’m in charge now, I decide to follow Mom. I keep my distance.  I track her to the bedroom. Peeking in, I see her lay out a pink sweat suit.  I maintain my covert status by ducking back into the hall.  Finally, I hear Mom’s steps moving toward me, so I double-time it back to the sun room.  Mom enters, dressed in her favorite warn pink sweat suit.

“You look pretty, Mom,” I say.  Mom walks to her chair, sits down, and picks up her crocheting.

Exasperated, Mom asks to anyone who will listen: “Is it time for bed yet?”

Minutes later, Mom stands, steadies herself, and turns toward the sliding door that leads into the dining room. 

Has your Alzheimer’s Caregiver mentioned that your Alzheimer’s Loved One gets more restless, confused and unpredictably moody around dinnertime? If so, your Loved One is likely experiencing “Sundowning.”

Imagine the Alzheimer’s Caregiver in your life trying to manage these behaviors while preparing a meal at the same time. Every night.

How can you help? When proximity permits, bring them evening meals or invite them over to share a meal.  Our geographic distance called for another approach.  For years I ordered frozen, pre-made healthy meals and gave them to my parents for Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And I made sure to never call during dinnertime.

How might you support your Caregiver through the challenging phenomenon of Sundowning?

Finding a good time to chat with your Caregiver

ALZHEIMER’S, YOUR PARENTS AND THEIR CLOTHING


“Your blue eyes look so pretty when you wear this blouse, Hon.” Dad sweet-talks Mom as I wait on the phone.

“These clothes are fine.” replies Mom

“Honey, it’s laundry day.  Time to give this outfit a bath,” Dad teases.

“I wore this to bed, so it’s already clean.  Just leave me alone,” says Mom.  I hear her footsteps, loud at first, then fading as she walks away.

“Dad? Are you there?,” I ask.

“Oh for goodness sake!,” Dad snaps. “The oatmeal is burning.” I hear the click of the stove dial and the clang of the pot. “Look, I’ve got to go,” Dad says.

“I love you Dad. Talk to you soon.”

“Bye.”

I glance at the notes on my computer screen.  Today I wanted to continue our conversation about visiting the local Adult Day Program with Mom. Three years of notes on just this subject stare back at me on the screen.  Three years of phone calls with the Director, three years of planning.

Clearly, I need to put even more effort into finding a good time to have this conversation with Dad.

Does it require a lot of effort to find the right time for the important discussions you need to have with your Caregiver?  When there are only so many opportunities to be with a Caregiver in person, the list of critical conversations grows. 

The process of elimination helps. During meal preparation, meal time, and meal cleanup remember that your Caregiver is juggling chores and Caregiving, so they are twice as busy.  Try to call afterward.  Perhaps they take walks or naps every day.  Respect that.  Show your support and love for your Caregiver by putting effort into finding a good time for them to have the conversations that need to happen. 

When can your Caregiver be present for a conversation?