Dementia and Family Care Giving

Dear Barbara, My mom was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. She has Dementia very advanced. We have her home and Hospice has been called in BUT what we are dealing with is her Dementia interferes with her taking any meds. She is so hard to deal with to HELP her with the pain and to get her to take any meds takes HOURS of pleading and convincing that we are not trying to kill her. She, of course, does not have long here and my daddy is having the hardest time with her unwillingness to let us help her with meds plus he is dealing with the fact she will die soon. He is now not eating like normal and very withdrawn. What can we do to help him not loose his will to live now?

First, let’s talk about Mom. At this point in her disease process really the only medications your Mom needs to be taking are for pain. You could crush up the pills (make sure they are not time released pills) and put them in some ice cream, yogurt, or what ever food she likes best. She doesn't even have to know she is taking medicine. If she is taking time released pills, talk to your hospice nurse about other options.

Now for your Dad. I don’t know his age, which is important information. The older he is the less able he may be to cope with your mother’s decline and approaching death. Look to how he has dealt with other challenges in his life and that is probably how he is dealing now. In addition, you might consider if he is depressed and then an antidepressant may help. He also could be overwhelmed with the actual physical caring for your mom.

What can you do? You can be there to support him, to let him talk about his concerns and fears for your mom, to offer him food, to see he gets rest, and to keep the burden of caring for her from being totally on him. However, the bottom line is you can’t keep him from being depressed and withdrawn. You can’t make him eat. You can’t make him want to live. You can only love him, help with the physical responsibilities he has, and be a presence for him.

Something More...  about Dementia and Family Care Giving

There will be a time when you will need our booklet, HOW DO I KNOW YOU? Dementia at End of Life.  It will help you and your father recognize when your mother has entered the dying process.  I would also suggest that you look at my guidebook for family caregiversBy Your Side, A Guide for Caring for the Dying at Home is knowledge and support for providing care at home. It is written for the caregiver. This 72 page, spiral-bound guidebook addresses end of life choices (life sustaining, comfort care), advance directives, and funeral planning. It details signs of approaching death (what to look for, what to do); describes end of life care at home; pain management; care of dementia patients at end of life; and, very importantly, how to take care of yourself as you fulfill your role as caregiver.  

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