Dear Family Advisor

Advice on family ties, tangled by caregiving

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 time, to the

Mom is Jealous of Dad's Care Aide!

Jealous man
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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 mom to be OK

Caring for my mother-in-law has taken over our lives and home!

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Six months ago we brought my husband's mother into our home. She's a widow, has a heart condition, and was recovering from a hip replacement at the time. The move was presented as a temporary situation, but since then moving back out hasn't been mentioned.

The moment she arrived, she completely took over. She criticizes everything about our lives, from what time we take out the garbage to my relationship with our daughter and granddaughter to what television programs we watch. My husband cowers. We don't feel like a couple anymore and rarely get time alone. He goes to play golf or heads down to the shop (he's retired but owns a mechanic shop in town), while I'm stuck caregiving her all day.

I realize that she'll need our assistance later, but she really has recovered enough for now and could live nearby. How can I bring up that possibility to her and to my husband? I want my life back

My Mother Has Become Paranoid, and It's Really Causing Problems!

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My mother constantly thinks that someone is either trying to break in or steal from her. Dad died a few years back, and my mother has insisted she continue to live in their home. I have home health aides come in three times a week to assist her, and my sister and I cover the other days as best we can.

One of us gets a call from Mom at least twice a week, and she's so upset that she's screaming -- or crying. It gets so bad that we've even had to drive over there in the middle of the night and sleep on her couch. She's called the fire department so many times that they've told us we need to do something about it (how embarrassing!).

She accuses the home health aides of stealing from her and even argues with the grocery clerks that they're trying to rip her off. They're insulted, and I don't blame them. Anything she claims is missing always shows up in a few days.

This behavior is weari

My mom just died, and I don't know how to be "normal" anymore.

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I'm 16. My mother became seriously ill two years ago, and I've been her caregiver. She recently died, and now I don't know what to do. She was my whole life, and now I feel empty -- and like I failed her. If she had someone better to take care of her, she might be here now.

I feel lonely, because no one really understands. My whole body hurts. I smile and laugh and function, but I'm falling apart. Now school is starting and that's a whole other group that I have to fake-smile and say, "I'm fine" to. I don't know how to climb out of this hole. I used to be such a happy-go-lucky person, and I feel like I lost that. Like I lost everything.

I want to tell you how courageous you are for being honest about what you're going through, and for reaching out. That takes guts, and it's your ability to put your sorrow into words that will help you get through this.

What you're feeling is absolutel

How Do I Convince My Dad to Get Tested for Dementia?

Senior Man With Adult Son In Garden
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I think I'm seeing signs of Alzheimer's or cognitive impairment in my dad. He's having trouble with things he's always done well, like tracking the finances. He's also increasingly sensitive and crabby -- but since he's always been a bit this way, it's hard to tell if it's a personality change or just normal aging (he and Mom are in their late 80s).

I think he should see his doctor for some kind of cognitive workup, but I can just imagine his angry reaction if I said, "Dad, let's get you tested for dementia." On the other hand, if I go privately to his doctor and suggest that it's needed, I'd feel sneaky. Dad would have a right to be angry, and Mom would have to live with the consequences.

Should I just let it go? What's the best way to handle this?

Be, as you say, sneaky. Talk to your dad's doctor about a neurological screening. Let the doc be the bad guy, and never tell a soul that

My grandmother is so mean that no one wants to visit her!

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My grandmother is 90 and a bit frail, but her mind is sharp -- perhaps a little too sharp! She's such a gripe that none of her family members want to visit her. At Chanukah dinner last year she actually announced to my brother (and the entire table) that she's never loved him. She says the crudest, meanest, even sexist or racist things right to people's faces.

She calls me at least twice a week and gives me a guilt trip about not stopping by to see her, but I just can't bring myself to be around that much negativity. She doesn't do anything while I'm there but hurl insults and fuss about how no one visits her.

My mother takes her on errands once a week and always returns in tears. She's insisting that I (but not my brother) help out as well. Should I just suck it up and see her on a regular basis? If I do, is there any way I can stop her from being so ugly?

Your grandmother is a bully

Should I tell my father that Mom is dying?

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My father has Alzheimer's. He still recognizes family members, but his short-term memory is all but gone.

Mom is dying of cancer and is in hospice. All Dad can remember is that she's in the hospital, but he can't remember why. I stopped taking him to see her because all it did was get them both agitated. He couldn't remember what was going on, and she just wants him to take her home.

She'll pass soon. Should we tell Dad? I say no, but others in the family want to tell him and take him to the funeral.

Your dad may find out from you or from someone else, or figure it out on his own, or keep asking -- all or some of that might happen. You may not be able to control what unfolds. Let go of that part of this situation. If he finds out and gets upset, know that that's totally normal. Know also that he might not feel it for long, because memory loss also affects our ability to hold our emo

How do I tell my parents they can't live with us anymore?

see no evil hear no evil speak no evil
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My parents are in their early 80s and live in Atlanta during the winter months. For the past five years, they've moved in with us at the beginning of June, leaving again at the end of October. I have young children, one of whom needs special help. I work part-time and go to school part-time. My husband has a good job, but it requires travel.

We put my parents in an in-law apartment that's comfortable and has a small kitchen. However, they want to be waited on while they're here, though they take care of themselves fine in Atlanta. Another problem: We think my mother may have Alzheimer's disease and that my father is ignoring the problem. She's showing all of the signs, and they're either covering it up or don't want to talk about it.

I've spoken to my brother and sister several times and told them that I've done all that I can handle. My parents only think of themselves, and my own hea

My neighbor depends more on me for care than on her own family.

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My neighbor and I are both widows and have enjoyed several years of going out to dinner, sharing errands, and even taking a few weekend trips. Last fall she got lung cancer, which has spread. Since her daughter lives two hours away, I took it on myself to check on her daily, provide some meals, and even take her to chemotherapy and other appointments. I was glad to do this -- that's what friends and neighbors should do.

But it's now become a full-time job, and I have my own health concerns. My neighbor is starting to treat me differently, expecting that I take her places and getting upset if I have other plans. I've hinted to the daughter that I can't take on this much care. But now I feel stuck -- and guilty for not doing more.

How do I get her daughter to provide the care that family should give, so that I can go back to being a good neighbor and friend?

People make assumptions, an

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

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