Often your loved one will become very angry and cause you to feel guilty when you make difficult decisions in their best interest. Three points to help at these times to avoid feelings of guilt and distress (stories below):
- Remind yourself the reason why the decision was made
- Remember they have memory loss so will probably forget what is upsetting them very quickly
- Remind yourself you have to make the decisions for them as the illness makes it impossible for them to make safe and wise decisions
I’ll never forget when the doctor came to my parent’s home to assess my Dad for his driving license. It was such a devastating experience for everyone. The doctor asked me to make the call and, when I couldn’t, she asked me this question, “if you had small children, would you let your Dad drive them around?” I had to say no. My Dad was livid when she said he could no longer drive – for him it was another link in his downward spiral. Unfortunately his memory loss did not cover this – he continued to remember he couldn’t drive and accused me of taking his car away. To avoid feelings of guilt, I had to remind myself the reason why this decision was made – for his safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.
The other very distressing time was when I had to move my parents from one care home where they were well settled to a new one. They could longer have them there as Dad wandered and got lost so they had to go to a place with a locked door for his safety. On arrival, I tried to help them unpack. Dad refused and told me adamantly he was not staying there. With sobs and grief, I left them there. When I went to visit a few days later, they were all settled, thankful to me for my help and already beginning to enjoy it. I didn’t take into account the effects of their memory loss and the fact they didn’t even remember they’d moved but I was left carrying unnecessary burden and pain for those days.
As dementia robs adulthood, the time turns back until they are no longer able to make the best and safest decisions for themselves, much like small children. The dementia causes them to resist your decision or become completely outraged and attack you personally – never easy. In those moments, you need to remind yourself that you are acting in their best interest (make sure you are) and the illness is making it impossible for them to make wise decisions.