You’d better learn how to beg for forgiveness instead of asking for permission

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So many family caregivers will say to me, “But mom/dad/aunt/brother/spouse will not let me…”

  • Take the car
  • Move them into a care community
  • Pay the bills for them
  • Take over the healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Send caregivers to the house
  • Do the grocery shopping
  • Make any decisions for them
  • Bring them to the doctor

What I always tell these caregivers is, “Your loved one is never going to wake up one morning and suddenly be agreeable about these things.”

When your loved ones have dementia and can no longer make healthy decisions for themselves, it is no longer up to them what happens.

This may sound harsh, but think of it this way: would you want your loved one with dementia driving down the highway alone? No, probably not.

If that’s the case, why are you letting the car stay in the driveway? Why are you keeping the stove plugged in? Why are they at home by themselves most of the day? The answer is this: someone needs to take over their decision-making. And that person is you.

This is a “don’t ask for permission, beg for forgiveness” situation.

If you’re waiting for permission to do something regarding your loved one’s care, you’re going to be waiting forever.

Your loved one is never going to say, “You know what, I woke up this morning and decided to let you take over the bills, plan my day, and move me into a care community.” It’s just never going to happen. People living with dementia do not have the ability to plan ahead using logic and good judgment.

The hard truth is this: you need to be their decision-maker. When he or she can no longer make safe choices, you need to make those safe choices on their behalf. (And this doesn’t involve asking first!)

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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