Carol Bradley Bursack
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?
Dear Carol: My husband and I are trying to help my brother select a retirement community that would also offer assisted living for his future needs. He's 74 and has early Parkinson's disease so he wants to make this move soon. Our experience with trying to decipher the pricing structures of the places that we visited has been enormously frustrating. Is there some sort of resource that covers retirement living contracts that transition to assisted living and perhaps even nursing care? We really need some guidance. Thanks for any help that you can provide. — TL
Dear Carol: I'm an only child and single. My mother developed cancer in her 70s and I helped Dad care for her until her death two years ago. Only months after her death, Dad turned into another person. It's not that he was simply angry. He seemed to be hallucinating and could be violent. I managed to get him to a psychiatrist who said that Dad has mixed dementia, likely a combination of Alzheimer's and something else, maybe Lewy body dementia. The trauma of seeing his wife decline and finally die in a nursing home may have kicked off Dad's symptoms.
Dear Carol: My mom is smart, stylish and trim. She was very social but now that's changed. Occasional, minor urinary incontinence has become a problem and she's acting like her life is over. I've told her that women who've had babies often have this issue and that there are products that she can use. Of course, she knows this, but she says that's not an option. Meanwhile, she is becoming reclusive which is not like her. I've told her that her doctor may have some ideas but she says that talking to her doctor about this is humiliating.
Dear Carol: I own a condominium in a building where two elderly sisters live. Though we didn't spend time together we'd always been friendly and they seemed to have plenty of other friends, though no family.
Dear Carol: My mother has always refused to take any medication even though she's needed a prescription to control her blood pressure for years. Predictably, at 74, she had a massive stroke and she will now require around-the-clock care for the rest of her life. There is no sign of dementia. Mom's in a nursing home and getting great care but she is extremely angry and she focuses that anger at me. I can't provide the care that she needs at home, but I still feel guilty about placing her in a facility and she knows how to manipulate that guilt. I visit daily.
Dear Carol: My father has Lewy body dementia and he hallucinates, which I understand is part of the disease. I was raised to not lie. Your writing, as well as articles on the Alzheimer's Association website and that of many medical people, seems to advocate lying to your parents or spouse once they have dementia.
Dear Carol: My dad has Alzheimer's. Recently, he had a bad fall and needed to be hospitalized. Dad was given Dilaudid for pain, but the drug affected his dementia so badly that I begged them to take him off of it. The hospitalist agreed, and he found something else for the pain, but Dad still hasn't improved. It's been two weeks and Dad's dementia is off the charts. The staff said that he may still improve, but that we must remember that Alzheimer's is a progressive disease so he may simply be getting worse because of the disease. This change was so sudden that I can't buy this thinking.
Dear Carol: My parents were married for 56 years before Mom died. Dad eventually moved into assisted living. His mind is good, though he had a stroke years back so he uses a cane. He can still drive. My sister works part time, yet Dad is at her house every day from breakfast until evening. I live 50 miles away, but help out on weekends. I'm afraid that, because of Dad's grief, we've overdone the caregiving. We've talked with Dad, but he doesn't see the problem. How do we convince him that we love seeing him but he needs to take advantage of his new home and give us some space?