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My best friend's husband has dementia. He's 63 and newly diagnosed but he's getting worse fast. My friend doesn't want to talk about it other than to cry and say she's overwhelmed. I'm not only concerned about things like getting a POA and other practical matters, but how do I help her open up and let others help?
AARP Expert

@SusyB I echo Jane's comment - your best friend is lucky to have you! 

 

I've recently ended a 10-year intensive caregiving time for my beloved Dad who had Alzheimer's. So I can offer you these thoughts in terms of things my best friend did over the years that helped me so much:

  • Be the person she can call or text ANY time - day or night - to vent and say she feels overwhelmed and cry, or celebrate the small triumphs. My best friend was really the only one I could truly do that with and she was ALWAYS there for me. Not judging, just listening, giving reinforcement, cheerleading, loving and accepting me with all my faults and all my wonderfulness. You can do this for your friend. Honestly many friends fall by the wayside during a caregiving stint. They just don't have the staying power, grow tired of hearing the sadness and the challenges. Many people only want the good stuff of friendships. Be the friend who does not disappear - no matter what. Even if she gets mad at you (because she can - it's hard for her to get mad at her husband). Be a source of humor and love for her. 
  • Don't push too hard - She's in overwhelmed stage (which will happen over and over during the cycles of the disease and caregiving) and probably a bit frozen. Reassure her that one step at a time she can do this. Urge her just to do the next thing and not think too far ahead. Be patient with her. 
  • Reinforce - tell her how amazing she is, send her greeting cards that say so, send her flowers, take out for coffee, do special things for her, make her a massage or facial appt (with her permission), 
  • Ask how SHE is doing - many people ask about our loved ones we are caring for and that is great, but less often do people ask the caregiver how he/she is doing. 
  • Do offer to help - as you have done. I've found that it never helped me too much for people to say "let me know if you ever need anything". When I'm overwhelmed I just can't do that. It's much better to offer specifics "Can I bring you a meal Sat night?", "Can I stay with your husband Tuesday so you can do something you need to do?" "Can I plan a night out for you and I to see a movie and dinner?" "Can I come over and help you clean out that closet we'll get it done in half the time" "Can I put out some Easter decorations for you?" "Can I print out a power of attorney form for you or make an appt for you?" "Can I pick up something when I go to the grocery today?" etc etc. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful! Let us know how it's going and how else we can help. 

 

Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and

Color Your Way Content When Caring for Loved Ones

 

 

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@SusyB wrote:
My best friend's husband has dementia. He's 63 and newly diagnosed but he's getting worse fast. My friend doesn't want to talk about it other than to cry and say she's overwhelmed. I'm not only concerned about things like getting a POA and other practical matters, but how do I help her open up and let others help?

Hi, S Buling. Your best friend is so lucky to have you as a best friend. He is YOUNG so maybe he has one of those fast-progressive dementias. Goodness, she wasn't planning on this kind of situation, no she sure wasn't. Sounds like she is opening up: to you. And she is grief stricken. As he is, too, however well or poorly he understands what's happening to him. Here's a few ideas for you. 

 

Listen. Just listen for now. Your best friend is married, and decisionmaking is already presumed to be hers to make, legally. There are all kinds of things to take care of, to think about, to put in place, but right now she needs to weep. If you want to, you can inform her of some supports. And she'll trust you and take one step at a time such that she will avail herself of them gradually. She is overwhelmed now. But also privately and existentially aghast that this is her, and his, fate. 

 

If you want to, find out what exactly he was diagnosed with (Lewy body dementia? Some other sort?) and then look up the foundation that serves people and families with that illness. The Alzheimer's Association is amazing. See if there's something local that you can bring her to. A support group. A social worker to meet with. 

 

Do they have children? Do they know and can they help, if so?

 

What kind of help do you think she needs right now? Can he be left alone at all or is he liable to turn on the stove and leave it on? Does she have some financial means? Do they belong to a faith community? Is he retired? Does he have siblings? What i'm trying to ask about here is what is the potential size of the caregiving circle that this married pair can tap into for the next few years?

 

Okay i've babbled enough. Tell us more? Thank you for being such an excellent friend. We're here.

Jane

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thanks for your advice.  He has siblings who are aware but she doesn't talk to them either.  Children are aware but all out of state.  For now I'll just have to wait for her to want to talk.  I'll have some information ready for her when she's ready.

 

thanks again.

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@SusyB wrote:

thanks for your advice.  He has siblings who are aware but she doesn't talk to them either.  Children are aware but all out of state.  For now I'll just have to wait for her to want to talk.  I'll have some information ready for her when she's ready.

 

thanks again.


Hi, SusyB, i was just wondering how things are going since you wrote this? Your friend is very lucky to have you in her life.

 

Curious Jane

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