Question: My mother is 88 and has early dementia that is getting worse. She has trouble remembering what day it is and what she needs to do each day. She gets very confused about lots of things. I am the oldest of eight siblings. One brother and I have taken on most of mom's caregiving responsibilities.
Mom's mental state often leads her to conclude things that are not true and don't even make sense. A few months ago, she was hospitalized with double pneumonia and was on her deathbed. At the time, I exercised the Power of Attorney under her Living Trust to deal with financial issues. Now that she has somewhat recovered, she claims I have taken her finances (not true) and am trying to kill her and get her money. Every day or so she has decided to cut one of us out of her life (until she needs us for something). She worked herself into several panic attacks in the last year that landed her in the ER. She lives alone and refuses to have a paid caregiver come in to help with things. I am at my wits end.
Dr. Amy: You are certainly facing a tough situation. I encourage you to seek out a support group in your area. Even though you have your brother to help you, I think you might find relief in sharing you experience with other fellow travelers. Being part of a support group can reduce your stress and give you some good ideas about how to cope.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel and act as your mother is doing now. You have described classic signs of early dementia. Home Instead Senior Care has developed a series of short videos and other resources that I think you may find useful. You can check these out at: homeinstead.com. Just click on the Alzheimer's disease tab at the top of the page. They have also developed helpforalzheimersfamilies.com. Both are excellent resources. You can listen to other people in your situation and learn more about dementia from the experts. You can also get helpful tips and articles delivered right to your inbox.
If you can afford it, a geriatric care manager can be a huge help. They can assess your mother and her situation. They can also help you engage your mother in a conversation about her needs— and yours as her caregiver—today and in the future. I wonder if mom might be willing to take this step now, while she is able to really participate. As a neutral third party and an expert at human relations, care managers can act as a buffer between your mother and you and your siblings. You can find a listing of geriatric care managers in your area at caremanager.org. Simply click on, “find a care manager”.
It’s important to be mindful of your mother’s physical safety as she gets older. While she may be mostly able to manage living on her own, she may not always be able to do so safely. This is another great reason to have your mom’s situation checked out, and if needed, monitored by a geriatric care manager.
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