What should I do if my mom with Alzheimer's won't see a doctor?

Snow asked...

I do not have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. My Mom refuses to see any medical people at present. It's possible that I will have to force the issue with a court petition. She says she does not want to see any doctors as she had gilleon beret before and said she had enough and wants to stay home. She was in health care and is no dummy. She did physical therapy on people and worked in a nursing home. I'm sure this is part of the reason. I believe at least part of her knows what is happening. Is this possible?? Does she have the right to make this decision? Am I liable for withholding treatment if I honor her request? Can she make this decision since she is herself often still? If I force the issue, will they let her return to her home? I am not trained in health care at any level. I am learning fast about this disease. She still knows who I am and many people have called me a liar cause she acts so normal at times.

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

Thank you for asking this question. You are learning to listen to your mother, even though she is not well. So many families have shared their stories. When I listen, I may only hear Alzheimer's and refusal of care.

Does she suffer from Alzheimer's or from some other conditon? Reserve your judgement.  The important point for you right now is this: Your mother has a strong will. Her life has not been easy. 

Don't try to oppose her now. Try the light touch.

Spend some time engaging in activities that you know she enjoys: tea and cookies, coffee and doughnuts, looking at birds, going for a ride.

Try to get your mother talking about her work, the physical therapy or the nursing home. Try to find the parts of her life that she feels good about.  Let her air some of her regrets. 

Find what makes your mother more relaxed. 

For now, don't try to plan ahead.  Don't oppose her unless you have to, even if her personal appearance starts to slip. When a need arises that she accepts as real, she will see a doctor or accept some care.   

But a word of caution.  If your mother becomes too restless or you feel that she is in danger of wandering, you will have to act.  You will have to say, over and over, "Mother I love you, I don't want to go against your wishes, but I am afraid that you will run away.  I am afraid that you will get hurt." 

Sometimes listening means letting a person talk, hearing what is said and then listening to a bigger view.  Listen to a combination of professionals, ministers, friends and family. If you decide that you have a job to do with your mother, don't hesitate.  Listen to your heart.  Get the support that you need to do what needs to be done.