DEAR ABBY: For years now, my dad's health has slowly deteriorated. He has good days when he kind of knows what's going on, and bad days when his whole world is off balance. Recently he suffered some mini-strokes, and last September the doctor diagnosed him with Alzheimer's.
I was there when Dad was diagnosed. You could see the look of relief on his face to finally have a name for what was going on inside him. He told the doctor, "Well, at least now I know I'm not going crazy" because it was a medical condition he could comprehend.
The problem is his siblings. They get angry at Mom when she tells the doctor how Dad is at home and accuse her of exaggerating. They get upset with us for not letting Dad drive, even though he doesn't see well and has been known to get lost. They have even gone behind our backs and told Dad he does not have Alzheimer's, which only compounds the problem.
Some of Dad's siblings see him only once a week at church. They all insist he is "fine" and blame Mom for his lack of "spirit." One aunt, in particular, is cold and nasty toward Mom.
Poor Mom has a hard enough time being caregiver to a man who doesn't always recognize us and can't remember names. There are times when Dad runs to the neighbors saying, "People are in the house trying to steal things."
Mom, who has always been a strong woman, cries almost daily. She does not deserve nor need the aggravation that Dad's siblings are causing. She loves Dad and wants, as we do, only the best for him.
How can I handle this? Mom wanted to include Dad's family in what is going on with him, but all it's done is bring heartache and sadness. -- THEY'RE NOT HELPING
DEAR THEY'RE NOT HELPING: You and your mother have my deepest sympathy. Your father's siblings are in deep denial -- which is probably why they can't bring themselves to admit what is really happening. Their anger at your mother is part of their denial. They would rather believe that she is exaggerating than come to grips with the truth.
What your mother needs now is emotional support. I recommend that she contact the Alzheimer's Association ((800) 272-3900) for the location of the nearest support group. No caregiver should have to go through this experience alone -- and with their help, she won't.
P.S. Your father should not be out of the house unescorted, and he certainly does not belong behind the wheel of a car.
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