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February 2011

Teenager and mother stressed over caregiver roles

Dear Carol: My 88-year-old father lives with me. I’m divorced and have a teenage son at home. My son has some responsibilities regarding my dad, his grandfather, who had dementia, and this is causing problems between us. I feel so torn between the two. Any advice? Teen’s Mom

Dear Teen’s Mom: Making choices between the needs of our children and the needs of our aging relatives is painful and often confusing for most of us who have needed to do this. You have a more difficult situation than many, since you are single and your dad lives with your and your teenage son.

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New York Times blog post spotlights hands-on care program

Regular readers are aware that I spent the close to two decades providing varying amounts of care to beloved elders, often including paid help when needed. Five of my elders spent significant time in a local nursing home.This home was ahead of its time in providing hands-in care rather than medications, whenever possible, even though at the time there was less evidence than there is now that too many medications can lead to significant decline in abilities of elders. It’s now known that over-medicating can even cause dementia symptoms in elders who are otherwise cognitively fine.

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Frontotemporal dementia quite rare; could possibly be treated with a malaria drug according to study

Accepting that a loved one has any type of dementia can be difficult. When someone we care about develops frontotemporal dementia, also known as Pick’s disease, the shock can be particularly hard to absorb, because one of the defining characteristics of frontotemporal dementia is personality change. Spouses of many years will often feel that their husband or wife has totally changed, and they are at a loss to explain the “stranger” their spouse has become.

Read more about frontotemporal dementia and promising new treatment:

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Elders Need to Tell Life Stories to Gain Perspective and Sense of Legacy

Sometimes it seems as though an older person - and I'm not just talking about people with memory impairment, but most older folks - want to tell the same stories over and over. As caregivers, we can wonder if there is undiagnosed memory impairment with our elders. If they have been diagnosed with memory impairment, we often just sigh and mentally plug our ears while they ramble. Consider this: Elders often are re-telling their life events to help themselves gain perspective on their lives and figure out what kind of legacy they will leave behind. Listen if you can. You may learn something.

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Be Aware of Your Words When a Loved One's Death Is Near

Researchers say that the ability to hear is the last sense to surrender as a person's body goes through the death process. That statement assumes, of course, that the person has previously suffered no profound hearing loss. Most of this research has been done on people who are in a coma. However, many of us who have attended deaths of loved ones have seen for ourselves the effects of words on an otherwise non-responsive elder.

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‘Over 90 and Loving It’ glorious look at aging well

Much of what we read in the news is about how to care for our aging elders, many of whom are living their last years sadly diminished. However, there are remarkable exceptions. Our culture tends to ignore the fact that many people do age well and remain productive citizens until the end. A PBS documentary that will air early March, titled "Over 90 and Loving it,” shows people living lives of a quality that flies in the face of the stereotype.

Read about this amazing PBS documentary:

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Changes in intensive care practices could help lower delirium risk for elders

Throughout the years I’ve spent writing and answering questions on elder care, I’ve gotten many questions from readers about the condition of an elder after hospitalization. The notes tell sad stories about an elderly person going into the hospital for surgery only to return home with dementia. Sometimes the dementia would improve, but other times the downward spiral has started, and full-blown Alzheimer’s is the result.

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Money running out for assisted living

Dear Carol: My mother’s been in an assisted living facility for five years. She still likes living there, though she is having more health problems lately, so it’s been a struggle for me to get her to her clinic appointments and keep up with the medical care she needs. Her assets are now used up. She receives both Social Security and my deceased Dad’s veteran’s benefits, but that’s not enough for her expenses. No one in the family is in a situation to help financially. I'm the only daughter living near her and am at my wits end. I can’t take her in my home and I don’t know what to do about the assisted living facility. Rebecca

Dear Rebecca: The first thing I’d suggest is that you go to your state’s website and look for your long-term care ombudsman.

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Micro-bleeds in the brain may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to study

Lately, I’ve been reading about doctors finding “mixed dementias,” as they attempt the tricky diagnosis of people with dementia symptoms. This makes sense to me. Several people have told me about an aging parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, only to find out later that the diagnosis should have been vascular dementia with some additional symptoms that could point to possible Alzheimer’s disease.

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Caregiver's Lives Can Change Dramatically During Parent Care: Finding a Balance

Whether caregiving has renewed your spirit and made you feel blessed to help your aging parents, or turned your life upside down and made you often feel like running away, most caregivers feel that their lives have dramatically changed since they became a caregiver. Figuring out these changes and how they affect us is healthy and often helps improve a carers mental health. Once people accept that their lives have changed, caregivers can work on making the change a healthy one for all concerned.

Read more about caregiving and life changes:

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