When a Parent has Alzheimer’s – Part 1: When Signs First Appear

Imagine for a moment a parent who has cared for you, was the best teacher you ever had in life, was an example as to how to be a spouse/parent to your own family, was self-reliant and never asked for any help.  Today she cannot take care of herself or even recognize who you are.  This is a reality many families face every day and there are decisions they need to make to ensure that their loved one receives proper care.  This is also the hard reality my family has faced when my mom received her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We all have been living with the subsequent progression with this dreadful disease.

As is often the case, the family is the first to recognize when there is a problem.  We noticed small things at first and tried to dismiss it as nothing but then things progressed from there.  What made it more challenging is my mom did not recognize that her behavior and memory had changed.  My dad, a hero to us all, always held out hope it was not something more serious.  However, as things deteriorated, there was no denying the behaviors we observed could not be dismissed offhand.

Even though we work with seniors daily, we were not prepared for what was going to happen.  With a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, many questions came pouring in.  Who will care for mom when she cannot care for herself? What treatments are available to reverse the effects?  Is my parents’ home suitable for someone with this diagnosis?  What happens if my dad fell ill and could no longer care for my mom?  What services are available and how do we get my parents to accept the help?

These were some of the questions we faced and many more.  Here are some learnings as we have made this journey with my mom for the past seven years:

  • When signs first appear, get your Primary Care Doctor involved. If appropriate, request a referral to neurologist.  With the advancements made in the last several years, there can be a host of reversible issues that is causing the problems with your parent.  The earlier you see a doctor, the better.
  • Get educated about the disease – Alzheimer’s Association has a hotline for any type of memory-related questions that anyone can call at any time: 800-272-3900.
  • Reach out to your support network – or create one for yourself and your loved one
  • Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and your loved one
  • Accept help

An elder law attorney can help ensure your loved one receives the care they deserve. Founded by a nurse attorney and with offices in Acton, Burlington, and Sudbury, Massachusetts, Generations Law Group helps families navigate the complex areas of elder law to inform and protect loved ones of every generation.