My Father Insists on Looking after My mother, Who Has Dementia, at Home

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m an unemployed man in my 60s. Several years ago, my mother, who is in her 80s, was diagnosed with dementia. She lives with my father, who is in his 90s, while receiving home nursing care. She was recently hospitalized for a stroke, but will be discharged soon. With her dementia progressing, she now appears to be unable to bathe, eat and go to the bathroom on her own. We have been told that it would be difficult to care for her at home.

I’m the eldest of three brothers. All of us live in other prefectures and can’t care for her on a daily basis. I have contacted several nursing care facilities, but the conditions do not match.

My biggest challenge is that my father has insisted on looking after her at home. He has said that if she moves into a facility, it will be difficult for him to see her. I have tried to tell him that both of them would end up falling down together if he cares for her at home. But considering their age, I can somewhat understand that he wants to be with her until their last moment. When I talked to a care worker, the person expressed concerns about her at night. How should I deal with this situation?

— G, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Mr. G:

Is your father fully aware of your mother’s current situation? I’m concerned because it might have been difficult for him to grasp her condition when she was hospitalized, due to restrictions on hospital visits during the coronavirus pandemic. If this is the case, he might have a strong image of your mother when she was in good health before her hospitalization.

I think it would be good to try caring for her at home first. If it turns out to be difficult to take care of her at night, why don’t you and your brothers take turns staying with her at night for the time being? I think this will give you and your brothers an opportunity to consider caring for her as personal matter. Please share the experience and feelings among all of you. By doing so, your father would understand firsthand how difficult it would be for him to continue to look after her at home without help from his sons.

In addition, if your mother moves into a nursing home, I think it would be possible for your father to get help from you and your brothers when visiting the facility to see her. If your father refuses to let your mother move into a facility solely due to the difficulty in seeing her, I think it would be good for you and your brothers to promise to help him as much as possible. If you and your brothers act as if this is each their own responsibility, your father’s final wishes regarding your mother could come true.

— Yoko Sanuki, lawyer