Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: I've lived 900 miles away from my parents for years. My husband and I were tied down with caring for his parents, so we didn't see my family as often as we'd like, but they always seemed fine when we talked or visited. Now, his parents have both passed and we've been traveling to visit my parents more often. These last few visits have highlighted my mom's decline. It's obvious that she's got dementia but she ignores the symptoms and hasn't been diagnosed. Dad is in denial and covers for her, as does my only sibling. How do I even begin to help with this? — NY
Dear Carol: I read your column about a woman whose friend was getting lost when driving and she wondered about confronting her friend about possible dementia. I beg everyone that if people suspect that their older friends or family members are slipping mentally they pull their keys before something bad happens. I say this as the victim of a very old woman who should never have been driving. I was riding my bicycle in the bike lane when she hit me and dragged me half a block. She was driving a massive old vehicle and didn't even know I was there.
Dear Carol: My parents have lived together in assisted living for several years and loved their lifestyle, but now my mother, due to a massive stroke, will require nursing home care. I'm aware that we must consider available openings, but we'd like to have options. From the talk around the assisted living facility, nursing homes in our community are all quite good but some seem better than others. Any tips? — MC
Dear Carol: I am caring for both of my parents who are over 90. Mom has Alzheimer's. Dad tries to help, but he's limited in what he can do. Frankly, some days I feel limited as well. I'm so exhausted all the time that I can't even enjoy my grandchildren. I know that I need more outside help, and maybe even need to change our living arrangements, so I'm looking into that.
Dear Carol: My father-in-law has late-stage Alzheimer's and he no longer knows the family. My husband's heart breaks when he sees his dad, and he doesn't want to spend his own Father's Day going through that pain. I think we should make the effort. Our kids from out of town will call, and our daughter and her family have invited us for an evening dinner. There's plenty of time to go to the nursing home to see Dad early in the afternoon. I think that I've talked my husband into going, but I'd like more insight. To me, it seems important that we visit even if I can't express why.
Dear Carol: My dad has been in the hospital for open-heart surgery. He's now being discharged and will come home with me until he recovers enough to go back to his home, where he lives alone. Long-term, his heart problem should be taken care of, and other than that he's healthy for his age. What I'm worried about is the discharge process and taking care of him after he comes home. People aren't kept in the hospital very long now so families often have more caregiving to provide than in the past. What questions do I ask when Dad's discharged?
Dear Carol: I quit a job that I enjoyed, one with good benefits, in order to be a caregiver to my parents up until their deaths just months apart. They did help some financially and I don't regret doing what I did, but now I need a change. I'm 57 years old and must go back to work. Before I even worry about that, though, I'd like to take a vacation. I've been planning a cruise with a friend, but my brother has me reconsidering. I didn't inherit a lot of money, but I have enough to cover the trip and still retain some savings.
Dear Carol: My dad cared for Mom for seven years until she died from Alzheimer's. Now, Dad needs a little help. He knows how hard caregiving can be, and with my working full time, he's worried that I'll burn out or get sick if I take on his care. He has money to pay for some hired help at home, which is where he wants to stay. He has a personal alarm and is safety-conscious. I live with depression, though I'm treated. Still, I have kids at home so I do have limits in what I can do for Dad. When I read about caregiver burnout, I worry about that happening to me.
Dear Carol: Because of repeated strokes my mother couldn't live alone, so I moved her in with me. As years went by I struggled to transfer her from her wheelchair to her bed or commode so I tried in-home help. That didn't work, so I had to place her in a nursing home. The facility was excellent, and I was deeply involved yet I still feel guilty for not being able to keep Mom in my home until her death. Intellectually, I know that I wasn't capable of providing what she needed, but when I read about abuse and neglect of elders in nursing homes I feel like I'm being directly criticized.
Dear Carol: My dad is 86 and quite healthy other than his eyes. Recently, he developed the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and needs to get regular injections in his eyes to slow the leaking of the blood vessels. Dad tolerates the treatment well, so I've been taking him to the clinic for this, but my sister is having a fit.