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It’s a “Nothingburger”

NothingburgerIn the early phase of my parents slide into dementia, my dad would use this term a lot. As I flipped through The Washington Post this morning and saw the word in a headline, I smiled as my stomach clenched. I grew to hate this word. It felt so dismissive of my concerns.

While the entire caregiving journey is a tough road, I found the early phase the most difficult. Everyone is uncomfortable as you figure out how the dance will flow. In some families, I see as they freely ask for and accept help. In others, especially when the couple is still together, the adult children are usually shut out.

My parents knew something was wrong with the memory of their spouse, but neither recognized that they too had problems. My dad would usually listen, but my mom would take each statement and debate each point–in most cases I was told to stop lying or making up these horrible stories.

To keep the peace, my dad started to just truncate anything I said by stating “It’s a nothingburger.”

I had to wait for the failures to be called in to help. There were several times they would call me to come help and when I showed up my mom didn’t remember calling and thought it presumptuous of me to think she needed help.

When my mom started repeatedly calling to help get dad off the floor, I would run over. Until the day my husband asked me if I realized that I was prioritizing my parents over my own kids quite often. I was taking my kids to get flu shots and decided that could wait. With that one question, I realized I was enabling my parents by showing up and the next time mom called, I told her to call 911. That trip to the hospital made it clear to all of us that our parents were really unable to navigate through their day. The hospital recognized that both parents had cognitive issues.

Everything did not by any means become easier, however, that incident helped my siblings and I to navigate the next few months. It was at least two more years before my parents were in Assisted Living, but sometimes you have to hit bottom before you can start figuring out how to move forward. Revisited.

2 comments on “It’s a “Nothingburger”

  1. I am going thru the same thing now with both of my parents, they are unsafe living in their home, my Mom needs more help than my elderly dad can provide, the state is involved, but until they fail the MMSE (mental capacity) test, they can make their own bad decisions according to Adult Protective Services or something bad happens which requires admission to the hospital. We remain shut out.

    • Arrgg. So in VA, APS will act if they think they are a danger to themselves or others. If they have been a victim of financial fraud or scams, include that in the report. That can trigger a court proceeding to get guardianship. You REALLY DON’T want to have to do that since it can be expensive and only alienate your parents further. Have they had a Neuro-psychological examination? I think the MMSE is NOT a good gauge (but it is cheap and easy to test). My dad with moderate Alzheimers scored a 28 and couldn’t find his way back to the lobby of the doctor’s office. Do you have any caregiver support groups you can attend? There might be other resources in your area that can help.

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