Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: My mom is currently in a short-term swing-bed facility and will soon be moving to a nursing home. Dad is in assisted living where we already moved some favorite furnishings from home. Their house must be sold, so my brother and I are going through what's left. We're stumped by jewelry and assorted items from their lives together. There are a lot of old pictures as well as Dad's military medals that he says he doesn't care about. We're not sure what to do with these things because they are items that have sentimental value.
Dear Carol: My mom was diagnosed with an early stage of dementia. Unfortunately, she thinks that there's still a strong stigma surrounding dementia and she doesn't want her friends to know about her diagnosis. I understand and respect her feelings, but when I asked her if she'd tell them if she had cancer, she said that she probably would. I tried to tell her that this shouldn't be any different. Since her best friends don't live close by, and she sounds like her normal self during most phone conversations as well as in her emails, there may be no rush.
Dear Carol: My parents are in their 60s and have decided that they need to have their legal paperwork updated. I think that this is smart and my siblings agree. The problem is that my parents want to designate me as their power of attorney for both health care and financial decisions since I live in their community. Unfortunately, my siblings feel slighted. While I don't love the idea of having this responsibility, I have no problem doing what's needed when the time comes.
Dear Carol: I'm not yet 30 and struggling with family caregiving. I work an entry-level job that barely pays my rent and student loan payment. I love my mom and grandma, but I hadn't expected this responsibility so soon. Mom was taking care of Grandma, who's had dementia for years, but then Mom had a stroke. I'm an only child so there are no siblings to help. My dad's not involved with us. Grandma's in a nursing home. According to the doctors, Mom's condition isn't expected to improve a whole lot from where she is now, which means she will continue to need a wheelchair.
Dear Carol: My dad is in a good assisted living facility (ALF). He's 96, and other than congestive heart failure, he's in fair health for his age. He has a good attitude overall. Dad was having physical therapy for knee problems but now refuses it. I feel that at his age he can do what he wants, so I haven't pushed him. He uses a wheelchair to get around for the most part, but he can transfer himself. The nurse at the ALF said that he'd probably qualify for hospice care, though a doctor would have to make the determination.
Dear Carol: My husband has been diagnosed with a slow-growing type of leukemia that is well controlled by medication. He takes several medications for other health problems, too, but he's doing well physically considering the issues. He's never been easy to get along with because he knows everything and can have an acid tongue, especially toward me. I have stood up for myself when I've needed to, and he used to calm down, and sometimes apologize. Now, though, he's getting far worse. Our grown kids don't want to be around him, and old friends are staying away. He rants at everyone.
Dear Carol: Mom had a stroke two years ago and Dad provides her care. She's had health issues for over 10 years so he's actually been a caregiver for a long time. Now, Mom's developed vascular dementia. I don't think she's ready for a nursing home, but I do feel that Dad is risking his health by doing too much. They need help. The problem is that Mom doesn't want "outsiders" in her home, and Dad does what Mom wants. I help when I can, but I have a job and family and not much time. How do I convince them to accept assistance from an in-home care agency? — GB
Dear Carol: My aunt, who never married, has always been a complainer. She has a decent retirement income but has always lived in a hovel because she never wanted to spend her money. Now she has chronic health problems. When my husband and I last visited her home, we knew that morally we couldn't let this go on because she was physically filthy and unable to care for herself, and she couldn't climb her steps to go out. We finally convinced her to move to a wonderful care facility where she's been settled for over six months.
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.