My father is struggling with depression. He is caring for my mother who has dementia. Any suggestions for him? - AgingCare.com

My father is struggling with depression. He is caring for my mother who has dementia. Any suggestions for him?

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My 74 yo father is caring for my 79 yo mother who has dementia. On top of everything else, right now both of them are dealing with severe cough/colds. I try to help before and after work, but I am running on empty myself and can't be over there as I'd like to be. We have family who stop in for a few hours a few times a week but it's mainly him that has her care. She gets very confused and some days very belligerent but other days is very mellow. But now with her cold she needs more help and is more agitated. He gets stressed out so easily over everything! Dr appts, keeping meds straight, telephone calls, caring for pets. I try to make things as easy as possible for him, then I get accused of enabling him. He does not want to put her in a home, and balks at hiring outside help. This morning he told me he feels like giving up. What can I do to help him? My MIL has advanced Alzheimer's and we will be out of town this weekend visiting her. I hate to go away and leave them while they are both so sick. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Get paperwork in order for both your parents i.e. Durable Power of Attorney ASAP. Taking on this responsibility without written authority will end in disaster.
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Thanks to each of you for your responses. This is the first day I've been on to reply and comment. They are both getting over their sickness, and seem to maybe be doing better. Getting out of the house a few days this week has definitely helped! When you are sick and cooped up inside for weeks at a time, it is difficult to keep a positive outlook! I haven't been able to speak with him about getting help, but I've been trying to talk with a few family members to get their input. I want to have a definite idea of what it will cost and how it will work before I try to talk to him. For now, we will just keep doing what we've been doing. I am glad I found this forum and for the advice and suggestions and support that I find on here. Thanks to each of you for reaching out to a stranger. This girl appreciates it! :)
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About the depression you see in your Dad: Depression is not uncommon in the person who has dementia and in the person who cares for them. If your dad has true clinical depression, I don't think there is a do-it-yourself fix. It is treatable, usually with medication and counseling. If he resists counseling, I suggest joining a local caregivers support group (and also taking a medication).

Of course, relieving some of the stress by getting help will be good for Dad, whether it impacts his depression or not.

It is entirely possible that at least part of what you are seeing is not actually depression, but mourning. He is losing the love of his life. The person he was proud to protect and support is now beyond his sole capacity to care for. Caregivers of persons with dementia, especially spouses, start the grieving process early, because the dying process goes on so long and is so apparent. And there is no social acknowledgement of this mourning. No one is sending cards or flowers or dropping by with hot dishes and apple pie. It is a very lonely kind of mourning. And it can look a lot like depression.

It might be a more valuable use of your limited time to sit and talk with him, instead of mopping the kitchen. Look through old photo albums with him. Talk about the good ol' days. "How did you meet Mother?" "What was the most unusual date you went on?" "What was the hardest thing about becoming parents?" "What do you admire most about Mother? Has that changed over the years?"

It might also be good to acknowledge with him losses as they occur. "I see that Mother's attention span is getting shorter. That is very sad, isn't it?"
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Oh, hugs to you Lynn! This is sooooo hard. Good for you for recognizing that your father needs help. I cared for my husband with dementia for 10 years, in our home. I was younger than your dad is now, and I think that makes a big difference, but some aspects of caring for a spouse with dementia are universal.

Of course your father is overwhelmed. He is now doing everything he used to do around the house, everything your mother used to do, and on top of that he's expected to do new chores of caregiving. Of course he needs help! He can't suddenly triple his capacity to get things done. And the real kicker is that he is gradually losing his life partner. He is mourning.

With dementia things are going to get worse. It is not unlikely that Mother will need to be placed. Doing it sooner rather than later allows her to get settled and familiar while she is somewhat better than she is going to be. So that is definitely an option that should be discussed again. Even if it doesn't happen now, it is likely to at some point.

How did I manage the triple whammy for 10 years? I got help. This is not a role that can be filled by a single person alone. Can't be done. It is great that you are able to provide some help, but obviously you can't help anybody if you are burned out. Pace yourself.

One of the most helpful thing a daughter did for me was fill her dad's pill box for two weeks at a time. Managing the medications is a huge stress. It was so good for me to be able to just open the Tuesday midday compartment and know that is what he needed then.

I had cleaning help, who also washed the sheets and changed the bed. It is usually easy to find a competent clearer. Since your parents will be home while this person is in the house, that may make it a little easier to accept.

I love to cook, but we often had carry-out from nearby restaurants, meals from the freezer section, and very simple meals. Sometimes my sister would prepare a hot dish for us. This approach was more expensive than doing all the cooking myself, but less expensive than hiring a cook! Your parents should consider Meals on Wheels.

I also had some free time by sending my husband to an Adult Day Health Program a couple of days a week. He was picked up and brought home. He had a hot meal at noon. He had other people to interact with. It was great for over two years. When he needed more one-on-one attention than the program could provide, I hired a personal care attendant to help in our home.

This caregiver role REQUIRES help. Help is not optional. It is only a matter of figuring out what tasks can easily be filled by others and delegating them. Of course Dad feels like giving up. What he is attempting to do is impossible.

I have to go out right now, but I also have some comments about his depression I'll share when I get back.
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Sometimes, seniors refuse to see the reality of things. It sounds like you really are the advocate for your mom, due to her dementia. I know it might be uncomfortable, but, I'd kindly explain to dad to either she would be placed or outside help has to come in and help. I'd kindly explain that I would not let it rest. If you could get her doctor on board, that might help too. And then I would make the arrangements. If dad flat out refuses, I'd get a legal consult to get info on how to proceed without dad's consent. It's unfortunate, but, I'd ensure my mom got proper care. Plus, with dad going at that rate, something has to give. It could be that he's suffering too. Do you think that his doctor would help you in what you are suggesting?  Getting him treated for depression would be great, but, I'm not sure how he would recover having such an overwhelming job facing him 24/7.  Maybe, he just can't manage to accept help.   I hope you can make some headway. 
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I would call an agency tomorrow and get a daily visiting nurse lined up. Then I would call my Dad and tell him - not ask him - that I'd arranged for someone to come in, check up on them, and help out with any simple tasks they needed doing. And I would tell him this is for *me*, not for them, because I have to be out of town; and it is a temporary measure because they are both under the weather and I'm not taking any chances.

Then when you get back - bit of a busman's holiday for you, isn't it? - go round and have a sit down conversation about where to go from here. Remind him what happens to little old ladies with dementia whose husbands have died before them (it's not pretty - they can't understand what's happened, and they get terrified as well as heartbroken and believe they've been abandoned). So, he needs to take care of himself, and that means more hands to the pumps at home, or a move to a community where the help is built in. His choice.
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Hard choices must be made. Your father must decide between either placing your mother in a nursing home or allowing you to help him hire outside help. There is no other way. Make a list of daily tasks that he needs help with like meal preparation, getting your mother out of bed in the morning and ready for bed, medication management, cleaning. Your father also needs time for himself and get out of the house.
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