Having one parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is difficult for family caregivers but when both of your parents have Alzheimer’s, the burden more than doubles. The help you were receiving from one parent is replaced by the challenges of caring for both.
Here is some advice on how to manage the often-overwhelming task of helping two parents with Alzheimer’s:
When it is no longer safe for one or both of your parents to live in their home, the time may come to consider such options as assisted living or memory care. You and your parents may have to grapple with some tough decisions. For instance, does the parent in the milder stages want to remain at home while the other parent lives in a memory care community? Or would they rather move into assisted living or memory care together?
One possibility might be for one parent to move into assisted living while the other moves into memory care in the same community. Though they would have separate rooms, they would be able to see each other during the day while receiving the specialized care they need — and an added bonus is that it would be more convenient for you to visit.
When focusing on two parents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you may find yourself with little time for self-care. However, it’s important not to neglect your needs. Develop a support network to alleviate caregiving-related responsibilities. Among those who can help are clergy, family members, friends, healthcare teams and resources in your community like the local Area Agency on Aging.
If necessary, see a counselor or mental health professional to help alleviate any stress or emotional trauma you may be experiencing or join a caregiver’s support group. Also, make sure you stay up-to-date on medical exams to maintain your physical well being. Keeping yourself healthy is one of the most important things you can do to fulfill your desire to help your parents.
Familiarize yourself with the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease, from mild to severe, so that you can tailor your assistance for each of your parents accordingly. For instance, Dad may be in the moderate to severe stage, whereas Mom may be just beginning to experience mild cognitive decline. While your dad will obviously need more attention, you should be careful not to overlook your mom’s needs as she begins to experience the effects of cognitive decline.
It’s possible that you previously counted on your mother to keep your parents’ household functioning, but now that she’s been diagnosed, she may no longer be able to do so. It’s important for you to check in with your parents more frequently and be attuned to even small changes that may alert you to an increased need for help. Perhaps it’s something as seemingly innocuous as the house being less tidy or mail piling up in the foyer, but if this is new behavior, you may wish to step in to offer more direct help.
As the needs progress for both parents with Alzheimer’s, you may find it appropriate to advocate for enlisting a dementia care provider to help out a few days each week with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, grooming and dressing.
Diane Franklin is a freelance writer and editor who writes regularly about senior living and healthcare. She has also written hundreds of articles for business and trade publications, including leading magazines for the credit union and retail paint industries.
Are you caring for two parents with Alzheimer’s? What are some of the challenges you face and the lessons you’ve learned?