My father remarried, and lives in another state. He was just diagnosed with dementia. How can I still be involved?

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His wife has to get guardianship, to put him in a facility. I feel so guilty for not being able to share the process with her, and him. I am financially strapped, and travel is costly. How can I still be involved?

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Learn all you can about his disease.

Stay in contact with his wife. Be supportive. Of course you'll want to know how he is doing, but be careful not to sound like you are quizzing her to judge her caring skills. She is in a very challenging role. Tell her things like how glad you are that Dad has her in his life.

Stay in touch with Dad as much as you can. Can he still converse on the phone? You might ask her advice. "What is the best time of day to call him?" or "I'm thinking of sending Dad pictures of me once in a while, at work or in my garden, things like that. Do you think that would be good?"

A good way to support Dad now is to support his primary caregiver, his wife.
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I agree with everything that Jeanne has said; and I am sure that your moral support will make more difference than you realise to your stepmother.

But shed the guilt. You didn't move to a different state, he did.
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Yep, I agree too. Support his wife. Send cards, pictures, short notes to let your dad know you're thinking of him.

If your dad's wife mentions having to research something, medications or facilites or things of that nature offer to do the research for her and send it to her via email or snail mail. But only offer if she mentions something. You don't want to be overbearing and I know it wouldn't be overbearing but a gesture to help her but she may not perceive it that way so tread lightly when offering to help long-distance.

When my grandmother had Alzheimer's my mom and her 2 sisters were in touch. The one sister lived out of town and she frequently sent newspaper articles and books and other things of that sort. It was because she lived far away and wanted to be supportive but it drove my mom nuts because my mom felt that if she didn't read a book my aunt recommended or utilize suggestions from a newspaper article she would be discounting my aunt's attempts to help and my mom didn't want to do that. My aunt was trying to be helpful because she lived out of town but her help put more stress on my mom. My mom understood that my aunt was just trying to be supportive but it was too much support that added to my mom's already full plate.

So be helpful and supportive but not pushy. :-)
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I also would agree with sending cards, as well as books primarily containing soothing photos....baby animals, beautiful scenery,.... subjects like that. Country and Country Extra magazines are great for this, as are some NatGeo specials (the basic regular magazines are often as well, but there's too much text for someone with dementia to navigate).

And send them to both him and his wife. She can benefit from the "pick-me-up" cards provide. I also would agree to ask her what you can do to help, such as research. And call periodically to ask about her health. Caregiving is lonely, and knowing that someone actually cares can make a world of difference.
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I suspect that instead of guilt what you are feeling is that "you" have an expectation in your own mind that you are supposed to be doing more. Well here it is...reality....you live too far away. In my case I’m the sole caregiver with 2 sisters who love too far away to help. However...they do give me their moral support which is much appreciated. So just like the others said..keep in touch with her...listen to her and don’t give advice where it’s not asked for. She needs support of the listening, loving kind. Ask her to share with you maybe in a weekly phone chat what’s going on, her feelings etc. lastly encourage her to join this forum so she can get support from the group. You sound like a loving daughter.
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Praying is totally free - and I do believe it helps.

Let his new wife know that you care - that means the world! Out of DH's 3 children, only one calls every week. The other 2 don't even call once a month.

Be the one that calls and cares.
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A new book came out for and about long distance caregivers, and you can get it on Amazon. amazon.com/When-Family-Calls-Long-Distance-Caregiving/dp/1936449765 Great book!
An occasional gift certificate for a massage or pedicure is a nice way to take care of her or a gift card to a restaurant or movie theatre she enjoys. A pretty journal is a nice gift.
Meanwhile, knowing that your father will be living in a facility must be very difficult for you. Make sure that you take good care of yourself, as well. Keeping a journal and exercising is very beneficial.
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- Skype or FaceTime (if everybody’s Apple) with her regularly
- digital photo frame for dad of images from your childhood that his current wife would not have or know who / what is in the images. Include a description of what’s what for her too.
- baked goods you send to her for dad and bake extra so she can leave some with AM/PM staff at the facility. She likely won’t have time to do stuff like this.
- dad will have an about every 90 days a “care plan meeting”. For my mom, the NH sent me a letter around 3 weeks in advance with a block of times & days for my moms that could be options. Work with her to try to arrange for the meeting to happen when you can schedule in advance time off to go. CPM are brief maybe 30 minutes tops but everybody from different divisions are there..... nursing, dietary, activities, social work. CPM were to me priceless as you found out things you’d not ever know... like my mom was the ribbon cutter at activities as she was ok on arthritis to do and could still be cognizant to measure and understood kid scissors. Also if you take a snack to the CPM you get more time as everybody finds reasons to linger a bit more.....

Don’t judge her or undermine decisions made, its a heart wrenching situation for her. Have her back if others in the past family carp on her and what dads situation is. Hopefully folks don’t creep out from the past to make problems but you never know what motivates folks. Be there for her & your dad.
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Consider joining a support group for caregivers whose loved ones have dementia. The group I belong to had family members drop in whose father lived several states away. On their first visit a son and his half-sister came. The next time son came again and a step-sister came with him. The third (and final time) all three of them came. It was an extremely large and very blended family. The father had been widowed twice, remarried, and had children from all three marriages. They were scattered all over the country.

It was clear that coming to these meetings was very educational for them. Sometimes you could practically see the light bulbs go on over their heads. One of the caregivers would be explaining difficult behaviors and another caregiver would be nodding and others would talk about their experiences with that behavior. And Son would say to half/step sister, "ahhh ... that's what Mom was talking about." At the second meeting one said, "this is what the brother that lives nearby told us over the phone..." and we could react to that with them. They said on their final visit that they had a much better understanding of what their caregiving parent was going through, and better ideas of how to support her.

Coming here was very smart of you, Dadgurl5. You are hearing from people who are or have been in your father's wife's position. I hope you are finding it helpful. If you can locate an in-person support group near you, that might be educational, too.
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You've received excellent advice on working with your stepmother, and how to make this a partnership in which you can complement her activities. This may even bring the two of you closer together, which would be beneficial not only for both of you but for your father as well.
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