What 24 hours in your parents’ home can teach you


“Go see, ask why, show respect”

— Fujio Cho

Can Alzheimer’s really be as big a deal as people say?

After all, my parents and I talk on the phone every week, and Mom seems fine.  Sure, the last few weeks she handed the phone to Dad and walked away. But Mom’s always had her moods.  And sure, Dad does interrupt our conversations to tell Mom to put down the banana.  But I probably should have called at a better time of day.

When a Loved One is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s life changes for every person in the family.

Acceptance comes in waves, with the hush of denial in between.

Let’s say you are a family member who wants to support your Loved One and Caregiver through Alzheimer’s.  There is a technique you can use to speed up your acceptance.  The same technique helps you clearly see the new lives that your Loved One and Caregiver now live.

Here it is: Spend twenty-four hours in your parent’s home.

 Photo by Henri Picot via Unsplash

While you’re there, pay attention to the items listed below. Can you see differences between your parents ten years ago, and your parents today?  Notice each of your parents in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  Remember: this is a fact-finding mission.  The temptation is to jump into immediate improvement mode. Do your best to simply observe. Only when the visit is complete, and you review what you learned, are you ready to identify possibilities that may improve each of your parent’s new realities.

The good news is that even though there is yet to be a cure for Alzheimer’s, there are many ways to improve life for your Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s and your Caregivers. What’s important is that improvement possibilities address what is needed today, and when possible anticipate what may be needed in the next six to twelve months. This requires effort.  Observe the following.

                   Household Safety Checklist by Professor Robyn Gerson, UCSF                   Household Safety Checklist by Professor Robyn Gerson, UCSF

Twenty-four hours at your parent’s home will give you a fresh perspective on how Alzheimer’s has already changed their lives.  It will speed up your acceptance of the new realities of their lives and yours. And, twenty-four hours will help you identify things in your parent’s lives that you can explore with them as things they may consider improving.

Given all that you learn, this exercise may be the best return you will ever get on an investment of twenty-four-hours.  Plan now for a return visit in six to twelve months to see what has changed and what that can teach you.

Your friend on the journey,



WHO’S DOSING WHO? – Alzheimer’s, your parents and their medicine  Read

LUNCH WITH JACK & MRS. SPRATT –  Alzheimer’s, your parents and their diet Read

INDEPENDENT LIVING AND YOUR LOVED ONE – When is it time for a change?  Alzheimer’s, your parents and their safety  Read

What your caregiver really wants from you


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


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 at Lunch: Jack and Mrs. Spratt


“…And let thy gifts to us be blessed.  Amen.” 

The aroma of a big German hug of bratwurst and sauerkraut welcomes us to lunch.

Dad stands up and slips from the sun room to the kitchen. He has recently taken on host duties.  As he gains experience setting tables, he gets a lot of exercise during meals fetching missing things..

In Dad’s absence, a bowl of coleslaw is passed around the table.  Next, the sauerkraut. Then the salt and vinegar potato chips, Mom’s favorite.  I notice the first round of dishes pass by Dad’s empty plate. As he returns brandishing the brown mustard, I serve him a brat. 

Dad cuts and spears his first bite.  As he brings it to his lips, Mom says, “Please pass the brats, and the coleslaw.”

I lay down my fork and eye Mom’s plate. Yes indeed, it is already empty.  Randy passes the plate of brats to me, and I pass them to Mom.  Mom happily takes another.  Same thing for the coleslaw. I eat a few bites, and ask Dad about his neighbor’s health.

Dad barely gets to the neighbor’s diagnosis, when Mom interrupts his story, “Please pass the sauerkraut.”

I glance over.  Mom’s plate is spotless again.  I pass the sauerkraut.  This time when Mom accepts the bowl, she empties it directly onto her plate.  A quick glance at Dad’s full plate confirms that Mom is far ahead of all of us in lunching speed.

“Please pass the coleslaw,” Mom asks.

Dad passes the bowl and Mom accepts it.  To our surprise, Mom picks up her fork and begins to eat direct from the serving bowl.  When the bowl next meets the tablecloth, it is empty and sparkling clean. I blink my eyes in amazement.

Dad remembers something suddenly.  He jumps up and slips into the kitchen again. Quick as a flash Mom rises from her chair, reaches across the table, and stabs the brat on Dad’s plate.  With a swift and practiced hand, she drops it on her plate. In the time it takes Dad to grab a handful of napkins and return to the table, Mom has eaten every morsel of his entire brat.

Dad returns,  looks at his plate, and then at Mom.  Mom is busy searching the table for something else to eat.  Resigned, Dad picks up his fork and starts in on the remnants of coleslaw, kraut and chips that survive on his plate.

I catch Randy’s eye.  I think we’ve uncovered the secret behind Mom’s weight gain … and Dad’s weight loss.  

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that is different in every person it touches.  What unusual behaviors has Alzheimer’s brought out in your loved one?   How are you doing in your acceptance that this behavior is simply part of the disease?   How are you handling the reality that behavior changes due to Alzheimer’s are beyond your control?



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