In the weekly support group meetings I host, one issue comes up more than any other.
Adult children are often not in touch with the needs of their aging parents, especially when Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia is involved.
I attribute this to the three D’s: denial, deception and disinformation.
The phrase is rooted in military tactics, where an armed force denies their adversary of information, but also may seek to deceive them or to somehow lead them to believe that something that is not true. In the case of adult children, the result is often the same.
Denial—It’s human nature to procrastinate when facing something uncomfortable or that we may have never done before. Denial is on our side, encouraging us.
“The carpet isn’t all that terrible.” “The check engine light isn’t really affecting anything.”
With aging, specifically when dementia is concerned, this is more common than not.
Acknowledging Dad’s declining mental capacity means having to do something about it. That’s where fear of the unknown kicks in. Making matters worse, medical professionals don’t offer much hope.
When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, there is are often medical options. With Alzheimer’s, there is no cure or hope of remission.
The best drugs do little to address the causes and have limited effect on symptoms. No wonder denial is such a powerful weapon. If it’s still manageable, “not that bad,” we don’t have to face reality.
Deception—Mom also has tricks up her sleeve, notably what’s called masking.
Faring the loss of independence, or not wanting to bother her adult children, Mom doesn’t complain about her condition, even though fully aware of it.
As memory begins to fail, she develops techniques to help herself. Simple devices like routines, attaching keys to her purse, or keeping numbers and birthdates next to the phone can help the dementia sufferer but also mask the progression of the disease. To the casual observer, Mom is only a little more forgetful than before. In reality, her short-term memory may be seriously compromised.
Disinformation—When we do figure out that Dad needs help, we head for the Google for tons of information, basically everything we ever wanted to know.
It’s almost too much, and too quickly. There is no guide to identify the best advice for Dad’s specific situation. Google hasn’t assessed Dad. Google is just finding all that is available and doing its best to sort the results according to your search terms.
Those holding this information often only provide it in exchange for some key information: the name of the person needing care, their location and your contact information.
This part of the three D’s irritates me the most. Once in possession of this information, it is traded with those in the area who provide services.
From what I hear in my support groups, everyone, to a person, has been besieged by phone calls and offers of services to the point they are frustrated and angry, having no idea they brought this on themselves. It’s overwhelming and pushes all but the most desperate back into denial.
There is a way out of the cycle, and that is to find reputable help.
Support groups are located in many parts of the country and are typically free. More information is available from the Aging Life Care Association (ALCA, aginglifecare.org), the Alzheimer’s Association, and others without subscribing to a mailing list.
If you want an honest assessment more tailored to you, I suggest using ALCA to locate a care manager who specializes in dementia care. You should receive a no-obligation consultation from a professional, not a web-based robot. It may change your life, for the better.
Lauren Mahakian is a certified care manager and offers a free podcast, "Unlocking the Doors of Dementia™ with Lauren." Visit familyconnectcare.com for more information.