The challenges people face dealing with Alzheimer’s in their aging parents vary depending on where the elderly parent is found along this long battle with dementia. As elsewhere those parenting parents have a cycle of different challenges.
1. First: insisting your parent goes to a qualified professional to be diagnosed (with Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia we used to call “senility”) as soon as you or others close to your parent get concerned with their forgetfulness or other behaviors. This is especially challenging when your parent is hiding the extent of their mental and other disabilities, called “compensating,” or you live at a distance.
2. Next: obtaining the appropriate medical interventions for your parent (this includes getting the right medications, making affordable and wise decisions about caregiving and residential choices) and setting up your parent’s desired “preventative measures” legally and financially.
3. Next: getting your family members educated to the long, slow, progressive nature of this disease and then “on board” with each other to provide what your parent will need as they become more dependent and then more childlike during the average 11 years between diagnosis and death.
4. Next: responding responsibly and lovingly when your parent becomes increasingly demanding of you and your resources, asks the same questions over and over (called “perseverating”) and exhibits increasingly erratic behaviors like wandering, fading in and out of being present, acting aggressively during states of confusion and rebelling against your family’s attempts to keep them safe.
5. Last: keeping heart when you feel hopeless and helpless to stop the devastating decline of those who raised you, watching those you love forget you and the life you shared together and “losing” your parent while they’re still alive.