My father was retired. My mother had Alzheimer’s. They bickered all the time.
They bickered about where he put the newspapers when he finished reading them.
They bickered about how she cleaned the house, or didn’t.
They bickered about her endlessly repeated questions.
They bickered about what restaurant to eat at and how to pass the time.
They were bored! Clearly they needed something worthwhile to do.
I did some research and found an Adult Day Care Center right in their neighborhood. Adult Day Care programs are like camp for older adults, except there are no tennis counselors or color wars. Instead, the Center is staffed with nurse’s aides, nurses, social workers, recreation therapists and administrators, all of whom who are trained to work with frail elders.
The Center provided all sorts of activities: music, dancing, chair exercise, arts and crafts, and discussion groups on various topics. There was a large TV offering a regular schedule of full-length operas, ballets and vintage movies. A hot lunch was served, and there were day-long opportunities for socializing. The fee for all this was modest.
I closed my office for a day and took Mother for a visit. She wanted to leave as soon as she got there. She thought the people were much too old for her. (She was 89 at the time and the other people were in their sixties and seventies!) Nonetheless, I was able to persuade her to stay a while, to at least look around and have lunch with me at the Center.
I finally convinced Mother to sign up for a 2-week trial. At the end of that time, she was a respected member of the program and agreed to attend five days a week. My father, who could not bear to be without her all day, joined her at the Center where activities and staff kept them both engaged.
My parents attended the Center for several years. Mother especially enjoyed the music time and the attention she received from the caring staff. My father particularly enjoyed the opera tapes and positively reveled in the bargain price charged for lunch!
No longer bored or confined with each other, their bickering naturally declined because they were so fully engaged with other people and enjoyable activities.
A final pearl of wisdom: Adult Day Care Centers stimulate elders by getting them involved in activities and thus allow caregivers a much needed respite. Find a program near you by checking out the website for the National Adult Day Services Association.
Joan Blumenfeld is a Geriatric Care Manager based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. For information visit her web site joanblumenfeld.com. Copyright 2010 Joan Blumenfeld.