Question: My mother is 84; my father is 92. My father has had a few small strokes and uses a walker but his mind is still good. My mother is healthy and gets around well, but her mind is very confused. She decided about a year ago that we changed her ‘man’ on her and are making her sleep with a stranger. She is mean to our father and asks him where he got certain shoes or pieces of clothing, saying she paid for them and they belong to her husband. They have been living in an apartment that my brother built on his property so he could care for them. He works 8-10 hours a day and they are mostly provided food by his wife and not much else. We are constantly trying to make them happy. My sister (who lives in another town) recently picked up my mother and took her to stay at her house. My father is so lonely that he cries for her constantly. He has never cried in his life! What to do?
Dr. Amy: What a distressing situation for everyone! You need professional help. If you have not had your mother assessed by a doctor, that’s the first step. If you have had her assessed, it’s time for a follow-up. Delusional behavior is not uncommon in people with dementia. You need to talk to her doctor to make sure the best treatment plan is in place, and that your mother is referred to a specialist if needed.
Over and above the issue of your mother’s confusion, I also think you need to consider the best living options for your parents and for the whole family. As always, the number one issue to consider is safety. Are your parents safe living in their apartment? Would bringing in a home care service for a few hours of day be affordable and allow your parents to remain in their home safely? If you can afford it, I really encourage to consider an assessment from a geriatric care manager in your area. He or she would both assess the situation and help you put a care plan in place. You can find a geriatric care manager on the website www.caremanager.org. You can also call the Adult Services unit of your County Department of Social Services and see if your parents are eligible for county-funded services.
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