Is Your Elderly Parent Driving You Nuts?

By: Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R. N., Attorney at Law

Care giving can be a beautiful, though difficult experience. We love our parents, and want to help as they grow frail and less able to do for themselves. It is our last chance, at this part of their lives, to show love, to be loved and to help them as they once helped us when we were babies. But can they drive you a little crazy (or a lot) in the meantime? You bet!

For those who are caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia, the memory loss problems can lead to complete contradictions, irrational changes in behavior, and many repetitions. The parent may ask you the same question over and over, until you run out of patience answering it. She may accuse you of taking her money, her purse, or anything, until you pick it up from where she left it and show it to her. Then, maybe she’ll ask you for it again a few minutes later. This kind of problem faces most care giving adult children who are trying to manage an elderly parent at home. How do you keep from blowing up?

Maybe you can’t and you lose patience sometimes. When you do, it’s a sign of your stress level, and part of your internal “guidance” that you need some relief. Where do you get it? Family, friends, and care giving agencies are good sources for many. Even if you have a sibling who seldom helps, you may be able to persuade him or her to take Dad for a weekend, or a day. It won’t happen unless you ask, as the reluctant–to-help siblings never volunteer, do they? Many assisted living facilities offer “respite care”. That is, they will take care of your aging parent overnight, or for a few days, for a daily fee. The elder typically receives all meals and can participate in social activities offered. Arrangements must be made in advance, to be sure there is a room available.

Many homecare agencies will also place a worker with your aging parent for a day or even a few hours, to enable you to get a break. You need to research agencies in your area and find out about short term services, if long term help is not in the budget. When the budget is too tight to pay for help, seek relief through your local volunteer organizations, senior centers, churches, synagogues or community service groups. Asking for a volunteer to stay with your elderly parent can relieve the feeling of being overwhelmed, and allow you to take care of your own needs that so often get pushed aside in the caregiver’s life.

The National Family Caregiver Alliance, a nonprofit organization, is also a helpful resource, among many other resources on the internet. It provides support groups and even local retreats for caregivers through its offices in many cities across the country. The most important thing is to ask for help. Admit that this just gets to be too much sometimes. We all have limits. It may seem hard to get away, but it is as necessary as caring for Mom that the caregiver take time out to refresh and recharge those batteries.

© 2009,, Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R. N., Attorney at Law

Author's Bio: 

Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, is a registered nurse and an attorney with over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. She has compiled her nine volume series into a Complete Guide entitled "The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents". It touches on dangerous older drivers, choosing home care workers and nursing homes, understanding assisted living, and knowing how a care manager can help you. She talks about the specifics of handling money for aging parents, and delves into ways to manage sibling conflicts about elders. She gives advice from a lawyer about how to choose a lawyer when your parent needs one. Finally, she gives solid advice about how to stand up for aging loved ones in the hospital, in nursing homes, or in situations where you dispute Medicare or insurance decisions about your loved one.