How can I show my mother with dementia that she can no longer care for herself?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is in a retirement home due to an accident that left her with a limp and having to use a cane all the time. She has the beginning of dementia that was found a few days prior to the accident. Right now she has short term memory loss and repeats herself. She forgets to bathe or wash her hair and we have noticed that she doesn't eat vegetables anymore saying she's never eaten them why start now, she's 81yrs. old. I will be going to visit for 2 weeks and have planned to take her back to her house which we still have, she hasn't been there since Oct. 2010, only for visits for a few hours.. I hope to show her that she is unable to do for herself. Can you give me some pointers on how best to accomplish this, she doesn't want to stay in the home but its up to the doctor's to remove her and they have advised that she cannot stay home alone. Her washing machine is in the basement and she would have to carry the basket up to hang the clothes, (no dryer). Please I need help, my sister lives in the same city but she is unable to take care of our mother, she is still working.

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

Depending on your mom's lucidity, she may remember her home and feel comforted by familiar surroundings. She may not want to leave her home!

Request that the doctor explain to her the risks of living independently with dementia.

You may want the doctor to discharge her directly to an assisted living community.

*If you are using her assets to pay for her care, an assisted living community will provide a greater degree of care than the retirement home. Staff will assist her with bathing and remind her to eat her veggies. She won't even have to do her own laundry.

If you want your mom to visit her home and she insists on staying, and you feel she can manage with some assistance, an option is to coordinate between two kinds of in-home caregivers.

*A companion caregiver can sit and have one or two meals with her (to ensure she eats her veggies) and to help her with the laundry a couple times a week. This companion may even take her on an outing for a change of pace. This caregiver can help from 4-6 hours a day.

*A more skilled in-home caregiver can visit two or three times a week for a half day to help your mom bathe, make sure she's eating right, taking her medicines, while Mom adjusts to using the cane and short-term memory loss.

Both caregivers may overlap or you can schedule alternate times to make sure your mom has adequate caregiver coverage.

Be sure to discuss these with your in-town sister who may need to serve as the local contact when needed. Whatever system you arrange will likely need adjusting depending on how your mom copes when caregivers are not present--such as at night.

This is a start.

Caveat: Be patient with your mom. Guide her gently and let her call the shots. She is likely afraid of losing control. If you are patient, she will trust that you are there to help her do what's best. This will take time but both of you will be more at peace when the arrangements work out.

For additional information read: Is it safe to leave a parent with Alzheimer's home alone?