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How can I help my mom who has early onset Alzheimer's deal with my dad?

Hello, my mom was diagnosed about three years ago I am with her most of the time while my dad is at work and other times. My parents have been together since my mom turned 15 on her birthday now she is 54 years old. They just had there 36 years married anniversary. Everything has changed so much these last three years. My mom has progressed very quickly I have never heard of Early On Set Alzheimer’s. I help her dress make her food it’s hard to get her to do anything she wonders around the house in circles all day and naps when she does sit. Her mood swings go back and forth very quickly. My mom calls my dad her husband daddy she knows he is her husband. We are in October and I’ve noticed since around July my dad doesn’t wear his wedding ring any more he pushes my mom’s hand off his leg if she puts her hand on his leg. He got a new cell phone and now does texting all the time. He even accidently text me thinking I was someone else telling a lady that he met her on sept. 24. 2015 and he fell in love and good night that he loved her I text him back don’t you mean my mom in November of 1965 he said yes of course I went on to tell him marriage is good and bad sickness and health always. He proceeded to tell me that he met someone and he loves her he tells my sister more because I have always been a daddy’s girl and looked up to him now I can’t stand him and tomorrow he has planned a trip he is gone all the time with her and mom worries thinks he is at doctor appointments it makes me sick I can’t stand my dad and the thought of him having an affair because my mom has Alzheimer’s is disgusting to me I wish he would just leave so I can take care of my mom and make her happy and take her places. He still says what we can and cannot do and comes home to my mom like nothing. I don’t know how to help my mom when she is upset and asks about my dad she gets upset and has panic attacks.

Status: Open    Oct 27, 2015 - 05:04 PM

Relationships, Dementia

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4 answers

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Jan 23, 2016 - 01:41 PM

I am so sorry you and your family are going through this. From what I've seen, early onset is even harder than the more typical onset. My mom is 93, and was diagnosed 8 years ago, but hard as it is to care for her, I am sure it is harder for you and your dad--when you all might be expecting happy years looking forward to retirement, being grandparents, and engaging in activities they may not have had time for in the past.
If there is an Alzheimer's Association nearby, or a Senior Center with information for caregivers, that's a place to start. Her Doctor may also help steer you--and your father, if he is willing, to sources of support and information. As bad as his behavior seems, he may be in a kind of shock about his loss of relationship, and need some support himself. And don't forget care for YOU--clearly, you are carrying a huge responsibility. And again, one you had no reason to expect.
Although it's fictionalized, if you have a chance you might want to see the recent film or read the book "Still Alice." It's the story of a successful professional woman who had early onset Alzheimer's. Any way your father can get help understanding that he is not alone, and his wife hasn't intentionally "left" him, could help all of you.
Best wishes to you all.

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Nov 22, 2015 - 05:08 PM

Dear Mrs. Hunter,
First let me say how much I admire you for your love and empathy for your mom. It is unfortunate that your dad has fallen apart at tthis time when your family needs strong leadership from him the most.

Of course you are right, your parents made a commitment to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health until death separates them. It may be that your father just doesn't know how to cope with your mother's illness. You say her disease has progressed rapidly and that she calls her husband "Daddy," which I'm assuming she had not done in the past. (Many parents call their spouses Mama and Daddy after they have children as it helps the children learn and understand relationships. Sometimes it becomes a habit that just sticks---long after the children are grown up.) I'm assuming this is a new behavior for your mother since you mentioned it. This indicates that your parents' relationship has undergone radical change. It may be that your father feels that the woman he married has died in some sense and thus he is no longer bound by his vows. Although many spouses rise to the occasion and become caregivers for their spouses or even if they must place them in a memory care facility remain committed to their love until they thruly die. Unfortunately in our culture divorce and/or "affairs" are no longer really frowned upon and many a man has left his wife for another woman for far lesser reasons than the one your dad is dealing with.

Nevertheless, the most moral and most noble action your father could undertake would be to remain faithful to your mother despite her debilitating illness. That he has not stepped up to the plate indicates a certain weakness in his character that you, "daddy's girl," never expected to see. So now you know that he isn't the all-wise, all-good, perfect man you always thought he was. Try not to let your disappointment turn into hatred &/or bitterness; he undoubtedly still loves and needs you and you still need a relationship with him. No good can come from severing ties with him.

When your mom gets concerned and anxious about his absence, tell her he had a meeting after work and will get home as soon as he can. At this stage in her life, telling her that he is having an affair would not help her in any way and would probably upset her extremely if she understood what you were saying, therefore the kind and right thing to do in her situation is to tell her what will help her live in peace, even if it means covering for your dad.

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Jul 16, 2016 - 01:20 PM

First thing stop judging your father! He needs your help, not your anger.

My wife had Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms started at age 54, she was dead by age 63. You said that you had not heard of ‘early onset ALZ’, this tells me that you have a lot of study to do related to Alzheimer’s. ALZ is unlike any other terminal disease (and YES it is 100% fatal) in the things it does to REALTIONSHIPS.

As a child of this relationship you cannot imagine what it is like to have your spouse walk away from your marriage. Your mother’s disease has caused her to stop participating in her marriage responsibilities. Her disease has caused her to be unable to uphold her role in this marriage. And this has been happening longer that you realize. By the time symptoms are recognized by others, the person with ALZ has been having problems for 4-5 years. Your mother has not been a wife to your father for some time.

You made a statement that “My mom calls my dad her husband daddy she knows he is her husband.” This is not necessarily true. My wife had NO IDEA who I was. I had long ceased to be her husband. At best I was a friendly person who helped her feed and dress every day. I was no longer her husband and (difficult for me to accept) she was no longer “my wife”.

The decision to seek affection and (as yucky as it is to you) sexual pleasure outside of a marriage that has been destroyed by Alzheimer’s is a deeply troubling and personal choice that the non-ALZ spouse has to make. Do not judge your father too harshly, he has had his world torn apart even more than yours.

My suggestion is to talk to him. Acknowledge that you understand why he would seek the love that his wife/lover can no longer give him, but you do also need to see to mom’s care. Your goal is NOT to try to patch up a marriage that has ended due to Alzheimer’s (and YES Alzheimers does end marraiges) but to tell dad that he at least needs to insure that financially her needs are met. If there is a forced divorce this can really mess things up in financing mom’s inevitable burden of care.

Please search out “Jan’s Story” on the internet. It is the story of a CBS news reporter who sought love away from his ALZ affected wife. (There are books and videos) I think it may make the situation clearer for you. The husband stayed married to the ALZ spouse and saw to her care needs, BUT he also met his own needs in another partner who fully understood the situation and even visited the wife in her facility.

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Sep 16, 2016 - 01:43 AM

rtree I fully agree with you. My mother (53) has early onset too & it affected her & my father's marriage since the first symptom.

mrshunter please understand the sudden change in relationship YOUR FATHER is experiencing. As the 22 year old daughter (mom's symptoms started when I was around 16) the very first thing I thought of was the effect it would have on my father - no longer having the wife he once had for 20odd years.

It is not our duty as the children to question their coping mechanisms. Yes, they made the "for better or worse; in sickness and in health" vow, not us. But we are not to judge unless we are in the predicament of losing somebody who we love before we actually lose them.

We as the children do not know what happens behind their closed doors or when we are sound asleep or busy doing whatever it is we're doing. We do not physically see or feel the changes in their bond. Unfortunately, your father has needs which cannot be seen to by your mother (not just sexually).

What we as the children can do is love and support their decisions - even if it is against our personal morals. I'm not saying my father is perfect nor that he is doing everything opposite to what I would prefer, but I am saying that we as human beings have flaws.

I too am the main carer for my mother as my father and siblings are away at work most times. I know at times she does not remember him as her husband nor me as her daughter. My mother is not the mother I once knew and I have reached out to my aunt as my mother to see to my needs as a young woman who seeks a motherly figure. Unfortunately, as most people in our predicament would agree, it's similar to what your father has done.

Unfair, yes. Somewhat inexcusable, surely. But it is not something we can fully understand nor judge.

Please, it is not your duty to be angry. Disappointed, perhaps. But try to be understanding. Forgive him and try and work alongside him in caring for her and helping him cope.

Also, talking to your mom about it isn't going to do anybody justice as her mind might not be able to fully understand it. Some days talking about my dad not helping as much as he could angers my mom and some days she understands.

I know this is a year after your post, but I do hope everything gets easier for you & your family as the circumstances get harder to cope with.

I am sorry that you are going through this, but you're not alone. ♡

Source: experience

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