Dealing with the Effects of Dementia on Decision-Making

May 30th, 2010 | By | Category: For Senior Women

One of the difficult pieces of dad’s dementia has been listening to his ‘onceinawhile’ verbal attacks.  They haven’t been frequent, nor have they been  vicious, both of which my hospice sister says could change.  One day, recently,  I went with my father to the gas station to fill his car.  He willingly and almost automatically gives me the keys so that I will drive when we are together in his car; suddenly he said to me,  “My daughters think that I cannot drive to the airport anymore!”  I had to both stifle my laugh and hide my shock.  He sounded a bit angry, and perhaps a bit more insulted.  He announced to me that he was perfectly capable of driving to the airport, which happens to be about 30 minutes away and through heavy traffic.

I was surprised at this strong statement of his because they have nearly stopped driving in areas of heavy traffic, letting my husband and me do that driving for them.  I was shocked because he seemed to be saying that his daughters seem to him to have too much control over his life.  Another time I heard an attack against us when he said, in one of his moments of angst  about returning to his hometown to die,  “I want to move to get away from the people in my family who are trying to tell me what I can and can’t do.”  Just a couple of days ago he was upset about   ‘loss of control of my own money’.

His response to the comment I made about the airport drive, taught me something about handling him and his ‘unreasonable’ statements.  I said to him,  “Dad, a couple of years ago, you made the decision to stop driving to the airport with the statement, ‘I’m just not comfortable making that drive anymore’.  And since that time, you’ve been very happy to let someone else do the airport pickups.”   He looked at me, thought for a moment, then asked, “Did I say that?”  I assured him that he had,  then he said,  “Ok, then I’ll just let you all do that driving.”

Concerning his savings account, I reminded him that several months ago he, his wife and his hospice daughter had the conversation in which both mom and dad made the statement that he is not capable of making financial decisions himself and he needs help with that, help that does not put all the financial responsibility on his wife.  They each agreed that he needed to assign two of his daughters to help him think and talk through any financial issues that came up.  Legal steps were taken to make this decision binding.   Until they were both reminded of that conversation and the decision that was made to protect both of them, they felt a loss of control over their money.  We told them that their money was still their money, no one could touch it,  but they would simply have to discuss any major financial decisions they wanted to make concerning how it was spent with two of their daughters.  We had to remind them of this decision that both of them made, when and why they made it.    Mom remembered that conversation and that decision, dad didn’t, but accepted that mom remembered it.

I’ve thought a lot about our trip back to the midwest this summer, back to his home town and I’ve thought about other decisions he’s made that he doesn’t remember, but that he made for his own good.   This approach of taking him back to that decision, even though he doesn’t remember making that decision, is a helpful and useful tool in helping him deal with situations he isn’t happy about at the moment.

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