A Song You Really Should Listen To…


A Song You Really Should Listen To…

At this time of the year with Thanksgiving and families being together, we are often able to spend time with family members we have not seen for a while. Perhaps we have spent more time than usual with our loved ones, and we have seen that mom or dad is slipping. It could be that mom has been battling with health issues she has not told us about. This often happens and we get more calls from adult children who are concerned about their elderly parents, at this time of year.

Tell me the Story

Most of you have probably not heard the song “Billy Stay”, produced by Zack Ryan. Zack is a new country musician and I’m a big fan of his music. You can find his music on Apple iTunes, Amazon music or YouTube. “Billy Stay” is from the perspective of an elderly wife of a husband who has dementia. She is encouraging Billy, her husband, to tell their love story. He doesn’t have great short term memory, but he remembers his youth. 

It is very common with dementia patients, that they don’t remember much about their day, but they can tell you about what happened in their youth. Billy’s wife is asking him to talk about how he bought her flowers, and how they eloped. The lyrics “tell me about that girl you dreamed about”, she’s asking Billy to tell the story about her. She’s doing a beautiful job in this song of being a caregiver, by encouraging Billy to reminisce. 

Tip No. 1 – Don’t Fight It

One of the mistakes caregivers make when a loved one has dementia, is that they fight it. Working with families where a dementia diagnosis is present, I’ve learned it’s best not to say, “Don’t you remember?”  to them. People who have a loved one with dementia, want their loved one to be better, and they fight it. Sadly, the dementia patient is not going to get better, and expecting them to remember will cause angst between you and the dementia patient.

In the song, Billy’s wife is not trying to get him to tell recent stories, but she’s supporting what he’s able to do. She wants him to be happy because he enjoys living in the memory of 1965. At the end of the song, Billy passes away and his wife says, “Maybe heaven for you is 1965 with my hair in your face on a long drive”. What a beautiful thing to be able to live in the moment that the person with dementia is living in. If they’re telling stories from their youth, don’t try to bring them back to today. The youth is a happier place than today is for them.

Tip No. 2 – Consider The Care Options

My second tip is that as adult children, you should take the time to understand more about the facilities available for your loved one who may need care. In addition to estate planning, we also work with Medicaid Crisis cases. It often happens that families contact us when they have an elderly family member who is not well, and who needs long term care. It is a stressful situation for the family, so we help our clients with health care crisis management. In our office we have a social worker, Megan, who helps with placement decisions in care facilities. 

There are different types of residential communities in Pennsylvania, and we will share more information about these facilities in our next blog post. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have a loved one needing long term care. Megan helps people understand the difference between a personal care home and a skilled nursing facility, and how to pay for these facilities. Give us a call 724-841-1393 or visit sechlerlawfirm.com 

Tip No. 3 – Get the Document in Place

If mom still has her faculties but she keeps telling you the same story, it’s probably time to get some legal work in place. Once mom has lost the ability to understand what she’s signing, we cannot sign new documents.

It is difficult to know how to start the conversation, but it’s best to meet the person where they are. Don’t make an accusation that they are slipping. Maybe ask what the plan is if something happens to them, and who is in control? Ask how you can help them. If mom or dad still has capacity to get the education, come to one of our estate planning workshops where you learn about how to prepare. We can get the proper paperwork in place for mom or dad to sign. Register for our Workshop here.

Tip No. 4 – Let Them Have Some Control

Defensive and suspicious behaviour is common in patients with dementia. One of the things that they are grasping for is control. They are intimidated and scared of the adult children taking control. They are worried their children will take their car keys away. However, it’s not the car keys they are worried about as much as losing control. If you’re working with somebody with dementia, allow them to feel like they have some control over things. This can make all the difference in the rest of the person’s day with regard to their happiness. Simple things like allowing them to choose their meals or taking a shower earlier than usual, can make such a difference to them. It may sometimes be inconvenient for you but means the world to them.

While I’ve never been a caregiver for a dementia patient, as an elder law attorney, I’ve worked with families who have had a loved one with dementia. I hope that sharing the challenges of dementia patients, will hopefully help those of you caring for them. One of the important aspects is to be able to understand the needs of somebody who has dementia. Being a caregiver is difficult, but you have my respect. Thanks to all caregivers for the work you do!