Minding Our Elders Column Feed

Dear Carol: My mother developed vascular dementia, personality issues, and speech problems after a stroke three years ago. She lives with me, and because of her difficult personality, my daughter no longer wants to bring my grandchildren here to visit. I retired early to care for Mom but now I feel trapped. Nothing I do for her is right. I’ve suggested that she might have a better life if she moved to assisted living and, surprisingly, she isn’t resistant though I know she’ll complain about them, too, if she moves. My sisters live out of the area so they are limited with what they can do. We have a highly rated assisted living facility in town, but thinking about moving Mom to any kind of care makes me feel like a selfish failure. I know that I’m depressed and burned out but I don’t know how to fix it. – CL Read more →


Dear Carol: My dad, who had been Mom’s caregiver for years, died suddenly from a stroke. I can’t say that I’m surprised because he was under enormous stress trying to cope with first Mom’s illness from cancer treatments, and more recently her early stage Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Needless to say, we’re all heartbroken over Dad’s sudden death as well as up in the air about how to handle Mom. She seems to be in total denial, though some of her repeated questions may be due to occasional short-term memory loss. How do we help her with this shock and grief? – VB Read more →


Dear Carol: My 93-year-old mother lives alone with significant help from my youngest sister and me but her worsening cognitive ability is dictating changes. We found an assisted living facility (ALF) with memory care near our brother’s home, which is one county over, Read more →


Dear Carol: My mother, who has advanced dementia, went into a nursing home six months ago. She’s received excellent care but is now declining quickly so that she no longer swallows any type of food. Her doctor has determined that she is ready for hospice and that makes sense to me. Hospice took her off of medications that didn’t seem to be helping and then prescribed some occasional Ativan for agitation and low-dose morphine for pain. Her response has been satisfying to watch since she’s more alert and far more peaceful than she has been. Here’s the problem. I’ve gone to a support group for several years and there are a couple of people in the group that completely anti-drug for Alzheimer’s so they are adamantly against the use of both Ativan and morphine for my mom. I don’t get it. Mom is dying. She was jerking around in pain and crying and now she’s responsive and comfortable. How do I get through to them that when people are dying everything changes? – HY Read more →


Dear Carol: My dad’s in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been rough on both my mom and me in many ways, but right now I can say that the worst is my dad’s verbal abuse. He was always a gentle, wonderful man, so this uncharacteristic behavior is extra baffling and hurtful. He calls us ugly names and swears at us because he thinks that we’re stealing from him or even poisoning him. Mom is so ashamed that this is happening that she can’t tell anyone about it, but I need an outlet, which is why I’m writing. How do we handle living with Dad’s verbal abuse without breaking down or acting ugly ourselves? – KC Read more →


Dear Carol: I recently had an experience that I'd like to share with your readers. My dad has several serious physical and mental conditions so his medical file is complicated. Recently, a new drug to help with breathing problems was released and his doctor, who is outstanding in all ways, saw no reason for Dad not to try it. We left the clinic in good spirits but had barely gotten Dad home when my phone rang. It was the pharmacy telling me that an information update had alerted them that dad’s newly prescribed drug could seriously interact with one of his other prescriptions. I asked the pharmacist to follow through with Read more →


Dear Carol: Six months ago, my husband, 83, broke his hip and was admitted to the hospital. His time there was emotionally exhausting and the stay took a terrible toll on him. Eventually, he was released to a local nursing home and things were going well until he developed pneumonia. The nursing home was well equipped to care for him there which is what we both wanted, but I alerted his adult children, as we’ve agreed to do in a health crisis. Even though my step-kids rarely visit, they have rights since we share Power of Attorney which is set up so that any one of us can make decisions. At first, I thought that their coming would be a comfort but they took over and effectively negated their father’s health care documents - FC Read more →


Dear Carol: Two years ago, my long widowed, basically healthy dad abruptly decided to retire, supposedly because of the pressure at his accounting business. Now, Dad's financially secure but has no life. Once a sharp dresser, he currently wears the same sweats for days. He rarely goes out. For example, he used to enjoy buying groceries because he enjoyed people and used it as a social occasion, but now he has groceries delivered. When I ask him about any of this he says that dressing up for himself is silly and little things like grocery shopping are just an annoyance so he’d rather hire it done. That would be fine if he was happy but he’s not. How do I motivate him to improve his hard-earned retirement? – BJ Read more →


Dear Carol: My mother is doing great cognitively but she relies heavily on a walker. Even though she’s pretty steady, walkers can catch or get off balance. She’s grudgingly agreed to let me get rid of her throw rugs and I’ve had grab handles installed in her bathroom, by her bed, and in the hallway where we get her ready to go out. The biggest problem during these last months has been the ice and snow. I’ll have to get Mom from the car into the clinic for another appointment soon and I’m already starting to sweat how to do it safely, especially if we have a cycle of melting and refreezing. – VH Read more →


Dear Carol: My mom lives with emphysema and has been on oxygen for more than two years. She needs several medications to manage this awful disease, which I understand. It’s her other medications that make me wonder. I’ve asked her current doctor to consider lowering doses or taking her off some of them, and he’s made it plain that her life-expectancy is quite limited no matter what so he doesn’t want to “rock the boat” by making changes. Meanwhile, Mom is becoming foggier in her thinking, and her memory and balance are bad. Maybe this is just age and poor health, but I do wonder if she still needs some of these older prescriptions that haven’t been changed for decades. How does anyone figure out what drugs an older person needs and what is actually causing more harm than good? – RG Read more →