Grief and Death Feed

The issue of elders who were once reasonably clean adults refusing to take showers and wear fresh clothes is one that is far more common than most people think. To remedy this often-malodorous situation, it is crucial to first understand why a loved one is not bathing and/or changing their clothes regularly. There are many possible culprits and often several of them combine to form the perfect unhygienic storm. Getting to the root of their avoidance is the best way to devise a successful strategy for cleaning up their act. Read more →


...When you tell your siblings that your parents are more than you can now handle, that Dad's  Alzheimer's is causing him to wander and he is not safe at home, they tune you out. When you tell them that Mom's incontinence is at a point that you can't physically keep up with it, they respond by sulking, or even implying that you are bailing out on your responsibility. You took the elders' care on. You need to deal with the increasing problems. But don't even think of putting them in a home. They'd hate that! Read more →


Nearly everyone involved in caring for aging loved ones is experiencing grief. Often, however, we're not aware of this grief. We have a parent who used to be strong and capable begin to ask for a little assistance. No big deal, right? We're happy to help. But underneath, often unnoticed, there's a knot in our hearts. We're grieving the loss – the loss of function that made our parent need to ask for help. Weren't they the ones who helped us? Weren't they the ones in charge? Read more →


A friend recently faced the task of letting her mother, who has mid-level dementia, know that the mother’s elderly brother had died. This death was not unexpected, but when a person has dementia and short-term memory loss is a problem, the news would likely be unexpected by the mother. Read more →


An ongoing concern for many older adults, as well as their adult children, is whether they really need to pay for the services of an attorney when planning for their finances and health care in old age. This is a valid question, and people of modest means often feel that they can’t afford an attorney. However, the reality is that many elder care problems faced by families can be avoided by consulting an attorney before their loved one needs any form of care. Read more →


Dear Carol: My mom has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for 30 years and is nearing the end of her life. She lives in a nursing home and I visit daily. Mom’s been struggling to swallow and has been sick with a urinary tract infection (UTI). Sometimes she's even thought that my dad, who died two years ago, is with her. She was eating and drinking little and was anxious. Two days ago, the staff told me that this could be the beginning of the end, and the time for comfort care may be coming, but they wanted to try a different antibiotic, a sedative to calm her, and a small amount of morphine for pain before making that decision. I agreed. It’s only been a day since she started the new drugs, but Mom now seems brighter and more positive. She’s eaten some soft food and she’s urinating some. I don't know what to think. Is this a pre-death rally or is she responding to the medications and actually getting better? She refuses to return to the hospital or having a feeding tube, which is consistent with her lifelong wishes. Any help or advice would be appreciated. CL Read more →


...Naturally, these decisions aren't only made because of economics. Most of us have at least a little of the "we take care of our own" mentality. Our parents took care of us, and likely their own parents. Now it's our turn to take care of them. Also, many people are distrustful of hired caregivers, either because of horror stories spread through decades or because they've had a friend who has had a bad experience. Read more →


...Some situations, of course, leave no room for laughter. But some tough times can offer moments of levity if we choose to recognize them. My sister, Beth, and I experienced what to some people may be a rather macabre situation during the three days our mother was going through the death process. If we hadn’t maintained our senses of humor, I’m not sure how we would have handled those sad, seemingly endless days. Read more →


Dear Carol: My dad’s been in a nursing home for several years and is ready for hospice care. I read your column about hospice care being covered by most insurances but I’m wondering what happens in a nursing home. Does insurance start to cover nursing home costs, then, too? Would it be better to move Dad home for this time period? It’s hard to make these decisions at such a stressful time. – RE Read more →


Hospice organizations are keenly aware of the soothing power of music. Sometimes the music may be used casually, by the facility or the family, knowing that this is a type of music that the person who is in the dying process had always enjoyed. Increasingly, though, employing trained music therapists has been favored. Read more →