Minding Our Elders Column Feed

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 →


Dear Carol: My husband’s an experienced carpenter so there’s rarely been a house problem that he couldn’t fix. Now that’s changed because he had a stroke a year ago which took away most of his ability to use his tools. He gets upset when he notices things around our home that need fixing because he can’t do the work. I can live with imperfections, but seeing the look on his face when our swollen front door sticks or a deck board cracks makes me want to cry. We can afford to hire the work done but he refuses to consider it. Is it better to just let it be, which hurts him, or should I insist on having things fixed at the risk of hurting him even more? – CT Read more →


Dear Carol:  My mom was recently diagnosed with vascular dementia and likely Alzheimer’s and has become increasingly confused when she tries to explain something to us so we don’t know what to think. Two years ago she had a root canal and seemed to weather the dental work well, but now she’s having pain that she says is coming from that location. The dentist who did the surgery took X-rays and sees no reason for the pain, and a second dentist agreed, but my mother continues to complain. Read more →


Dear Carol: My dad, 84, can shower, dress, and eat. He’s continent and takes no medications, he can read, his hearing is OK, he’s non-combative. What he can’t do is stay safe. My presence is needed 24/7 because he is living in an altered state of reality. I read about caregiver burnout, but these people seem to do so much more than I do that I feel guilty complaining. Even so, I know that I need help. When I sleep, my back burner is always on waiting for him to wake me because of an imaginary intruder or because he forgot something. I'm always worried that he could be wandering through the house and I wouldn’t know it. Should I hire someone to be in the house overnight so my sleep can be solid?? Am I being too much of a pansy? I feel the comfort of knowing someone else is available while I sleep may help me endure this marathon. – HB Read more →


Dear Carol: Both of my parents were ill for years. Mom, who died two years ago, fought several types of cancer and then developed dementia. Dad, who died three months ago, had a massive stroke right after Mom’s death and his last years were full of physical and emotional pain. My brother and I grieve our parents, but we saw them wear out from health struggles and feel that they are now together in a better place, so there’s quite of bit of relief, as well. Knowing our parents are no longer suffering is part of the relief, but I’m also relieved that I can now spend more time with my husband and children without feeling that I’m taking something away from my parents. I confided this to a friend who has healthy parents and has never been a caregiver and she became really upset with me. She implied that I was a terrible person to have such feelings and said that since life is sacred, I should confess to our priest. Her response stunned me. Am I wrong to feel some relief that it’s all over? – KH Read more →


Dear Carol: There’s probably no right answer to what I’m asking but I felt the need to write, just for comfort. My mother died when I was in my teens so Dad has been the only parent that I’ve had for more than 20 years. I have no siblings. Dad’s now in his seventies and has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He’s beaten both melanoma and lung cancer in the past, but he tells me that this cancer should be slow growing and that he’ll probably die before it’s a problem so he doesn’t want to treat it. I want him to go full-on with every treatment possible. I watched both of my parents fight cancer, so I know that it’s horrible to go through treatment, but I don’t want to lose him! How do I accept that fact that he’s taking this route? – LM Read more →


Dear Carol: My 93-year-old grandma has hearing aids but she refuses to wear them. Her hearing without them is poor, and while she's taught herself to read lips that only works if I'm standing right in front of her. My husband's so frustrated that he stood in front of her the other morning and said, “I am not going to talk to you until you put your hearing aids in your ears.” I understand his frustration but his response doesn't seem right, either. Could there be some logical reason why Grandma won't wear her hearing aids? – WS Read more →


.Dear Carol: When my husband started having some rather bizarre behavioral episodes he made an appointment for a checkup. After an exam didn’t show problems, the doctor referred him to a neurologist who conducted some tests and diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s. Because my husband didn’t have memory problems that are unusual for his age, I wasn’t satisfied, so we saw another neurologist. She diagnosed my husband with mixed dementia with signs of Alzheimer’s, but also vascular dementia. This diagnosis seems odd to me, too. Aren’t memory problems the hallmark of Alzheimer’s? Are we right in staying with her or should we get yet another opinion? – GD Read more →


Dear Carol: This January marks one year since my mother died. My dad adored her, as we all did, but he's having a harder time adjusting than we kids, which I suppose is to be expected. Mom had cancer but her treatments proved to be ineffective so she eventually went on hospice care. With hospice helping, Mom was coherent during the holidays last year. We got through it, and Dad did admirably well, considering the circumstances. Read more →


Dear Carol: Last year was a tough one for my family. Dad had never recovered from a massive stroke that he suffered two years ago and Mom, who’d been his caregiver, discovered shortly after his death that she had advanced breast cancer. They were both 79. Mom was peaceful with the fact that the cancer was too advanced for her to fight and said that she was ready to join dad. We realize that since she was beyond treatment when she was diagnosed she was showing a healthy attitude, but my sister and I are still feeling traumatized by the year. Our parents loved Christmas and spent weeks decorating and preparing, which is making this year extra hard. My sister said that the only reason that she’s going to celebrate at all is for her husband and kids. I’m single and have no children. I’m close to my family and have great friends but I’d just like to skip this holiday. Should I make an effort for myself? I’m torn. – HP Read more →