Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: Is a dementia diagnosis always needed? I can understand younger people needing to know what kind of dementia is present, but my dad, who is 89, has declined cognitively over the last five years. His doctor has him on some dementia drugs that are supposed to help. They don't seem to do much but they don't seem to be hurting either, so we decided that it's worth whatever benefit he can get. The doctor says that Dad is really doing OK for his age, and we both hate to put him through a lot of tests just because his memory is poor.
Dear Carol: My mom was drugged into dementia. She started out having a thyroid problem, but she kept developing more illnesses and receiving more prescriptions. The prescriptions ranged from her thyroid medication, which was necessary, to anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, etc., until she was eventually put in a psych ward.
Dear Carol: My mother suffered a series of small strokes that contributed to increasing disability. Since I'm divorced with grown kids, I retired early and had mom move in with me. This worked for nearly five years before a massive stroke made it evident that I needed to move her to a nursing home. Mom lived there for less than six months before she died. Sometimes, I'm overwhelmed by guilt over moving her, even though the care that she received was excellent. I tell myself that if I would have stuck with it six more months Mom could have been with me the whole time.
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