Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: My mom is in the middle stage of Alzheimer's so she needs gentle reminders to accomplish things, as well as compassion when her view of reality is off track. I've learned a lot from the Alzheimer's Association, as well as from reading your work and that of others, about how we should interact with people like Mom. She lives in a nursing home and the staff is excellent with her, so I learn from them, too. When my siblings visit, they boss Mom around and contradict her all the time, yet they won't listen to me when I try to explain how to interact with her.
Dear Carol: My mother has Parkinson's disease but still lived alone in the family home until she took a bad fall. Now she needs around the clock care, so we've moved her to a nearby nursing home. The care is good, so that part is fine, but her home must be sold which means that I, the only adult child nearby, must clean it out. This is a large home with four bedrooms, all of which have somehow filled up with "stuff." The basement is packed. The decisions about where to start are overwhelming.
Dear Carol: My dad has been a widower for years. Because of a stroke history, he needs someone around, at least during the day, so we started in-home care with an agency. Unfortunately, that didn't work out, but we got lucky and the sister of a neighbor was available for hire. She and Dad became a real team. Now, this caregiver is having her own health problems and is moving out of town. Dad insists that he won't have anyone else. He says that he'd rather be alone which isn't an option. How do we get him to give a new caregiver a chance? — AM
Dear Carol: My husband and I were teenage sweethearts and married right out of college. While we experienced bumps along the road, I'd say our marriage of more than 40 years was exceptional — or was until my husband developed Lewy body dementia. The dramatic personality change that this disease caused was devastating for us both. The worst part for him was that, at least in the beginning, he would realize that he had become verbally abusive and hated himself for it.
Dear Carol: Four months ago my mother fell and broke her hip. She was admitted to the hospital for surgery and then sent to a nursing home for rehab. The care seems good, but Mom has completely changed. Before the fall, she was mentally sharp for someone nearly 80. Her only issue was an occasional memory gap. Then, right after the emergency surgery, she began showing signs of dementia. She's only worsened in rehab. The facility doctor says that she has Alzheimer's, but how could that happen so fast? I thought that Alzheimer's took time to develop.
Dear Carol: My mom had a small stroke six months ago. She's always had a controlling, manipulative personality. After her stroke, she announced that she was moving in with us during rehab because she didn't want to hire strangers to help her at home, so I let her. Now, she's fully recovered but she's settled in. The doctor says that there is no cognitive damage. We need our home back. She constantly criticizes the kids, and my husband is so stressed that he's ready to walk out. We've kept Mom's apartment, so she could go back there or she could move to assisted living if she chooses.
Dear Carol: My dad has had Parkinson's disease for over 10 years. He has trouble speaking clearly, he chokes on food, and he'll clamp his mouth shut when we try to give him his medicine. We've tried to trick him by putting a pill in his food, but he will spit it out. Dad's doctor says that this is where he is in his disease and we need to accept that. He says that, eventually, people tend to get tired of the struggle. Dad's only 72. Should we have him put on a feeding tube? — G F
Dear Carol: My mom moved into the memory unit of an assisted living facility last year and she loves it. She's very social so this environment is perfect for her. Now, my brother has suddenly decided that he wants Mom to come and stay with him for the winter since he lives in a warmer climate. He's the man so he has the power of attorney.
Dear Carol: When I was born my mother was single and hooked on drugs. She kept me with her, but she abused me physically and emotionally. My grandma gained custody of me when I was 5 years old and she raised me. Grandma died two years ago and now my mother, who has wrecked her health and is in a nursing home, has decided that I should take her to my home to care for her. I don't hate her, but I really can't forgive her, and I can't take care of her anyway. She is my mother so I do feel guilty.
Dear Carol: I've decided that my mother must have dementia. Today I discovered that her tax return was rejected because she had marked several things wrong. She took this to my husband because she didn't want me to know. Also, her housekeeping is terrible. It drives me nuts that she doesn't even throw away garbage when the can is a foot from where she puts the garbage down. These are just examples of what is happening. How can I convince her that she needs to let me handle things and that she needs to trust that I will do what is best for her?