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Dear Family Advisor

Advice on family ties, tangled by caregiving


Tuesday February 07, 2012

Dad Has Dementia and I Find Myself Lying to Him More and More. The Guilt is Killing Me!

carol

Dad really, really wants to go back to his home (which is now up for sale), but it's not safe for him to live alone anymore. He has dementia and reasoning with him is impossible. I feel like I've started to lie to him about everything -- that Mom's at the store (she died three years ago), that his house is being fumigated, that his car is in the shop.

I feel so guilty, but it's truly the best way to keep the peace. How do I deal with the guilt?

It's a big challenge to handle Alzheimer's behavioral and memory issues. The guilt you feel coincides with your need to spare his feelings, cope with your own, and make everyday life as smooth as possible. Let's break each of these apart and look at them one at a time. You might not be able to "solve" them, but I hope you can come to some measure of peace.

It hurts to see the confusion and frustration in your dad's eyes when you have to

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21 Comments


Tuesday January 31, 2012

My mom wants me to drive her on her dates!

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Mom is starting to "take up" with a gentleman at the adult day center. She wants me to drive them on a date! Dad is in a care home with late-stage dementia and doesn't even know who she is anymore.

I know she's lonely -- and I'm not upset with her -- but I don't know that I should go along with this, much less be the driver.

Your mom is lonely and needs a friend. And there's such a thing as "battlefield ethics" -- meaning that in extreme circumstances, a person may make choices they might not otherwise. It's not that it's right or wrong -- it just is.

Saying that, I don't suggest that you do anything you're not comfortable with. Don't cross your own boundaries, but also try not to shame your mother or judge her. Your mom has to make and live with her own choices. So do you.

You have three alternatives:

1) Turn a blind eye and allow her and her friend to continue to enjoy wha

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2 Comments


Tuesday January 24, 2012

I Can't Seem to Get Over the Grief and Shock of Finding Out My Husband Has Alzheimer's.

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My husband (not quite 60) has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. We've spent four months telling close family and friends, making small changes to our lives, and making long-term plans. I finally feel like we've done all we can do prepare for what's to come.

The problem is, now we just sit around, still in shock and not able to move on with our lives. We have no energy, no passion. It's like we're both waiting for him to die. We used to be the happiest, busiest couple I know. And it's not just him; I think I'm worse than he is. I feel like life has been pulled out from under us. Plans to retire, travel, remodel our house -- nothing seems to matter anymore. I know he could live for years, but now I'm afraid of those years to come -- and I'm afraid to be a widow.

How do I move past this?

You move past by just being right where you are, feeling what you feel, and ho

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8 Comments


Tuesday January 17, 2012

Transitioning Mom's Care: How to Make a Smooth Shift Emotionally and Physically

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I'm afraid I won't be able to continue being my mother's full-time caregiver. She's in her mid-80s and lives with me in my small house. She has mild dementia and other health problems, and she's a hoarder. I fear that if I move her to another living arrangement, such as a nearby condo nearby or even a care facility, she'll really go downhill. She's terrified of living alone and wouldn't go willingly to a facility. But I also feel as if it's come to a "her or me" situation.

I work full-time, but her care, physically and emotionally, is increasingly all-consuming. In the past few years I've lost friendships and even dating relationships because she's so jealous and petty.

Now that I have a health crisis of my own (I've been diagnosed with lupus), I feel that I have to start taking better care of myself -- and I don't even know how to begin. I'm exhausted and worried all the ti

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10 Comments


Tuesday January 10, 2012

My Cousin Refuses to Believe That His Mother is Facing Worse Problems Than Just "Old Age."

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I live with my aunt, who's 82. After she totaled her car, she needed me to drive her wherever she needed to go. Then I began to notice that she would forget simple things, such as whether she'd taken her medicine. She'll forget a conversation five minutes after having it. She accused me of stealing the spoons, until we found that she'd hidden them in a drawer. I've mentioned this to her son (my cousin), who is emotionally close to his mother. He doesn't think it means anything. Even her doctor pushes it off as "old age." But I'm sure there's more going on.

My cousin is in charge of all things legal and does help with doctor appointments. But he believes her memory is fine. I live with her and know that it's in fact increasingly worse. I have some health issues of my own, and it's stressful to try to make sure my aunt is OK all the time. What can I say to my cousin to get him to u

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5 Comments


Tuesday January 03, 2012

My brother is bent out of shape because he wasn't named executor of our parent's estate -- I was.

carol

My parents updated their will recently and named me executor. I'm not surprised; I've been their primary caregiver for the past three years and even moved nearby so that I could be available for them.

My brother is three years older than I am and he's always had the mentality that men are superior, so I think this bruises his ego. He used to drop by once or twice a month and call Dad often, but now he's backed way off, and I think it's because of my parent's decision. Dad is really hurt.

The money is still divided evenly, and there's a lot that goes into being a caregiver that my brother doesn't choose to be a part of. So why do I feel bad about all this? Should I suggest to Dad that we be co-executors, or should I talk to my brother about what's bothering him? Or should I just stay out of it?

This is a perfect time to sit still and be quiet. Your brother needs to work thr

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1 Comment


Tuesday December 27, 2011

I'm Torn Between Caring for My Partner's Parents and Getting Ready for My Own New Baby.

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I've been caring for my partner's 80-year-old parents since February, because his mother had a stroke and his dad has dementia. But I'm 38 weeks pregnant, and I'm at a loss. His mother won't accept help from anyone except us, so I'm doing the meals and shopping, sorting out the papers and the medications, and so on. My partner, who works full-time, handles their money.

I don't think his mother understands how hard it is now that the baby is almost here, because she calls about any small problem -- like if she can't turn on the TV. I've tried explaining to her that I can't do as much now, but she seems disappointed and I feel guilty, because I really do care about them. I've tried to get her to agree to some help, but she says she can do it all herself -- and then she calls on me.

As hard as it's going to be, you're going to have to let your partner's mother do without until she

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2 Comments


Tuesday December 20, 2011

How to Coordinate Caregiving Finances With Siblings

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I have two siblings, but I live closest to our mom and handle most of her care. I drive her to all her appointments; get her groceries, personal, and medical items; and coordinate her home health aides. Mom's small income doesn't cover it all, and so my siblings and I have agreed to cover the rest.

The problem is, they expect me to put payments on my credit card and then submit the statement to them for payment. We wind up arguing whether I should have gone to one pharmacy over another to save a few bucks, or whether she really needs home health aides three days a week. Worst of all, they don't pay me within 30 days, and I'm starting to incur hefty interest fees. I wonder if they'll ever reimburse me for some items, because they don't think they're necessities.

I don't like defending myself. I'm doing the best I can for our mom, and I don't want to scrimp on her care because

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12 Comments


Tuesday December 13, 2011

Dad's in hospice and I'm afraid this is our last Christmas together -- but my brother isn't even planning to come into town!

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Dad has just been accepted into hospice, after being diagnosed with lung cancer in July. I've moved him into our spare bedroom and taken a leave of absence at work. I'm hoping we can at least get through the holidays and cherish the little time we have left.

My brother, on the other hand, is acting as if nothing is wrong. He says he's already booked a trip to the Bahamas with his girlfriend and the tickets are nonrefundable, so he's decided to go ahead and then visit Dad when he gets back.

I can't believe how callous he's being! I haven't even told Dad. I want him to be as calm and comfortable as possible. Should I tell him, or not even bring it up? I'm not sure how he'll be doing in three weeks.

Should I talk to my brother and let him know clearly how serious this is -- and that this is probably our last Christmas together?

Yes, this is the right time to be extremely

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4 Comments


Tuesday December 06, 2011

Mom is Jealous of Dad's Care Aide!

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I feel so bad for my mom. After several years of heavy and stressful caregiving, we found Anne (not her real name) about three months ago. She's a great home care aide for my dad. Finally, he's cooperative and smiling again. He has mild dementia and is in a wheelchair after a severe car accident, along with other ailments. She's really amazing with him, which is wonderful to see and so much easier on everyone. He's really bonded with her, and I think he may even have a crush on her.

The terrible part is that Mom feels sidelined, and she's jealous. Although I understand how she can feel this way, I'm in their home a lot and I don't feel that Anne is acting inappropriately. She's a funny, vibrant, and totally professional aide with tons of caregiving experience.

Anne is really trying to include my mom, but Mom now wants to fire her! We really need Anne -- so how do I get my mo

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3 Comments

About Dear Family Advisor

I know firsthand how caregiving can kick up relationship hurts and misunderstandings. My book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, shares my experience caring for my mom through Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and coronary diseases while juggling a marriage and a family. And I've counseled hundreds of other caregivers in my travels and inspirational talks. Let me help you!

You can reach me at carol@caring.com.

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