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June 2011

Wishing an elderly, ailing parent could die and feeling guilty

Let’s say a widowed father has a stroke. The family goes into crisis mode. The doctors bring him through, and then what? He’s disabled and can’t go home alone. The family doesn’t want Dad to go to a nursing home, so the daughter who lives in town makes some adjustments to her home and takes dad in with her. Everyone is on an adrenaline high. Then reality sets in.

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How can you date while you are a caregiver?

When I look at this first step, I relate it to a young mother with kids. I rarely compare elder care to child care, because I find that comparison demeaning to the elder, but there are times when it’s nearly unavoidable. This is one of those times. Because your parents may be at a time and place in their lives where they are vulnerable, and could easily jump to the conclusion that your will not have time for them if you find romantic love in your life, I’d advise you don’t bring home every “perhaps” date you go on. If your friend sets you up with a date, go ahead, but give it time before you take the plunge with a whole family introduction.

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Coping with the Stigma of Dementia

Dementia, mental illness, physical disabilities and other issues that make us "different" from other people often bring stares from lookers on. I don't believe most people mean ill. I just feel they are curious, and often sympathetic, but they don't know what to do or whether or not they should offer to help. In a perfect world, we'd all do the right thing. We live in an imperfect world. How do we cope when we have a parent who struggles with dementia and we have him or her out in public?

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Make peace with father who takes mom’s abuse

Dear Carol: My mother has end stage lung cancer and Alzheimer’s. She’s in a hospice program at home. She can be quite aggressive at times, and usually my father is the target. Over the years, he has taken on the personality of a battered husband. I'm very concerned because he is post triple by-pass, diabetic and has kidney problems. Recently, I have also become an abuse target.

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Gold Alert for missing seniors making headway

According to an article on the Wall Street Journal website titled Lawmakers pass bill to help missing elderly, New York has joined other states including Illinois, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas in this effort that gives searching for missing seniors with disabilities the same urgency as searching for missing children.

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Contest: Nominate a caregiver for Shire BRAVE Award

A number of years ago, when I was looking for an agent for my first book, which happened to be a platform for caregivers to tell their stories, I was told that, “nobody is interested in this issue.” These days I laugh at the memory. Family caregivers have come into their own in many, many ways. Medicare.gov/caregivers now offers an excellent vehicle in Ask Medicare for helping caregivers sort out many sticky health and financial issues they face. Ask Medicare also gives caregivers a chance to submit their own stories to help support other caregivers who may be struggling.

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Coping with reality: long-term caregiving causes a major life shift

It may sound selfish to some, but to caregivers who dove into caregiving with full hearts and no planning, then ended up sustaining this life-altering mode for months and often years, it’s a perfectly rational question. People put their lives, as they are living them, on hold in order to care for others. That’s good. But when “ hold” becomes the new normal, there’s a mental adjustment to go through. And sometimes that includes dealing with resentment.

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Glen Campbell goes public about his Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Alzheimer's disease is no respecter of fame, talent or financial status. Witness the sad news that, according to MSNBC, Glen Campbell, 75-year-old Grammy winner, has announced that he's been diagnosed with AD. Campbell is loved by his diverse fan base for his pop/country hits, but is also widely admired by guitarists for his exceptional talent on that instrument.

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Medications in nursing homes: hard to get it right

Anti-psychotics were frequently prescribed when people had dementia. For some, a light dose may have been just the right thing, but one medication doesn't suit all elder issues. Gradually, nursing homes came under more intense scrutiny about safety and most states put strict guidelines in place about hygiene, restraints and, of course, medications for the convenience of the staff.

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Hospitalization of elders can lead to delirium or worse

We’ll never really know what happened to my dad. He went into the hospital to have a fairly simple operation. Doctors were going to insert a shunt into his brain to drain fluid building up behind scar tissue left from a World War II brain injury. Shunt insertions are considered quite safe and effective.

Whether the failure was caused by Dad’s age, excessive scar tissue, a surgeon who had a bad day, the anesthetic or the trauma of hospitalization will ever be a mystery, but Dad as we knew him disappeared and we brought home a man with severe dementia. He was to live in that world of dementia for a decade, before he died.

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