How do I deal with my mom, who has Alzheimer's, refusing care and assistance?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Olderwiser asked...

Dad has been admitted again to a hospital because he fell and broke his hip. Extended rehab at an inpatient facility will follow. We just completed two months of this situation with mom at home alone. She has Alzheimers, but has a doctor who does not take anything seriously. Both parents worship their doc because he never tells them that anything is 'wrong' with them. My mom refuses to stay at my house (daugher) or to take advantage of the respite care arrangement at dad's rehab facility. I fear for her safety and she calls and cries all night long. What is my best recourse?

Expert Answers

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. Previously, she directed Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

I think you are going to have to assert yourself more than you have been.  Your mother is not capable of making good decisions at this point because her judgment is impaired.  Your father can’t make decisions for her at the moment because of his own health issues.  Their doctor is no help.  It is usually very difficult for us adult children to tell our parents that they need to do something they don’t want to do, but with a parent with dementia, it is sometimes necessary.  Who do your parents trust or listen to?  Is there an “authority figure” you can enlist to help you?  A minister or rabbi, sibling of theirs, or friends?  Or do you have siblings who can help you so that as a group you insist that your mother be in a safer space? You need allies here.  What about your father?  Can he beg your mother to come stay in the building with him so he is not so alone?  (This assumes that he understands the problem of her being alone at home which he may not.)

Another option is to hire a companion for nights to stay at home with her if moving her is just too difficult.  Many home care agencies have companions available.  The Alzheimer’s Association should be able to give you names of agencies.  

The fact that your mother calls and cries all night long indicates that she feels unsafe, even if she can’t verbalize it.  She may also be depressed and benefit from treatment for depression or anxiety.  Many people with Alzheimer’s disease are able to feel and function better if their emotional issues are being treated with medications.  Since her doctor does not take this seriously, you need to find another physician for her – one that specializes in geriatrics or dementia care.  Call the Alzheimer’s Association and get a list of medical centers or specialists in your area.  She does not have to switch her care; it could be a consultation, which you may be able to get her doctor to make a referral for.  

Community Answers

Rena answered...
No matter how hard & sad it is.....the time comes when the parents are not making the right decisions for themselves any longer & you (we) must do it for them. Do you have power of need to. It may be "forcing" them, but their safety & your peace of mind is vital. Have you started looking for a don't say their ages....but it may be time. I had to take my Mom's phone away (she's in an adult care home), because she called me 10 times a day & night, rambling & just cause she was bored & to guilt me, & then didn't remember! She can still make & get calls on the house phone. My eye has stopped twitching & I don't dread the phone ringing anymore. Yes, it's hard to do.....but it sounds like your Mom isn't safe alone anymore. And....where will they live when your Dad is out of a place where they will be cared for....hope so. Best wishes..

Olderwiser answered...

The advice given here was spot on.  It did take a lot of work to put some of the safe measures into place.  But since I first wrote in February and it is now the first of August, life has improved considerably for everyone mentioned.  Mom and Dad are in the same assisted living facility but in separate apartments.  Dad has recovered and has become as independent as he can be, but still has many health concerns.  The management of his diet, meds, and safety are the priority of the staff and Dad is thriving.  The facility has a memory care unit for mom.  While it is difficult to see her with other residents who are at later stages of dementia, she is finally eating again and regaining some of the 37 pounds she lost in six months, she is actively engaged in the activities provided, her apartment is safe and the wing is secure.  She does not have a phone, but we can call her (and she can call me) on the house phone.  She has only called me once and she has lived there for almost two months.  My husband and I truly appreciate getting a good night's sleep after the many interruptions from mom's phone calls when she lived at home.  I did get the power of attorney, as suggested, and most importantly found a caring doctor who my mom also seemed to like after only one visit.  I have one sister who remains in denial and lives three hours away and always finds excuses for not staying involved or in touch.  Since you can't force anyone to be active in the caregiving process, I have decided not to try anymore.   Trying to get sis to help became another stressor for me so I gave up and I guess I am OK with that.  There is still that little nagging in the back of my mind, but I am working to relieve myself of that.  This website is fantastic and I have recommended it to friends in similar situations.  Thank you for your answers.