How Do We Deal with Mother with No Hope of Cooperation?

Harcomd asked...

My 73 year old mother has been gradually showing signs of dementia over the past few years, now it is worse. My two sisters and I are trying to help each other help her. Our story is that after some surgeries and dealing with health problems like MS and UC my mother moved in with one sister but, says she plans to go home even though it has been noted by her physical therapist that she is a fall risk who should not live alone.

My mother is still in charge of her own decisions legally and has legal control of her assets, house is paid for, car etc. In other words we can't make a move toward getting her into assited living and she says she can't afford it. Her mental state causes her to make false accusations of theft and imprisonment at the hands of my poor sister who wishes she had not opened her home to our mother. We agreed we would enable her to go home if she asked because she is so hard headed that we feel she is trying to create a situation that will make it look like my sisters fault when she leaves as if she had no choice but, to get out. All she has to do is say "I'm going home" and we will move her stuff and I have told her this. We, of course, don't like the idea of her driving.

She will never agree that she is losing her mind and so far any doctor that dosn't say what she wants to hear, never sees her again. Any advice on what steps to take when you have no hope of cooperation from the affected person?

Expert Answer

Maria Basso Lipani writes a popular website on geriatric care topics, where she puts her expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to good use answering care planning questions. Maria is a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work and is licensed in California and New York.

In a situation like yours, the best you can do is to have your mother evaluated by a psychiatrist. If she does have dementia, it must be diagnosed. Then guardianship should be sought for control of her assets. Of course she may not agree to the evaluation, so if not, I would urge you to contact Adult Protective Services in your county. This organization should be able to send a psychiatrist to the home to do the evaluation there. You could also call the Alzheimer's Association for other resources in your local community.

The early stages of dementia can be very challenging for the family and can cause tremendous stress. The disease has taken your mother's ability to make good decisions and to recognize her limitations. Set the wheels in motion as I described above and then reach out for some emotional support from a group or individual therapist. You and your sisters will need to find ways to recharge so you can deal with what's up ahead -- placement.