Question: My 81 year old mother has stage 5-6 Alzheimer's disease. She lives with my 84 year old father in an independent living community near me. They moved there two months ago, leaving their home of 50 years in another state. Mom is angry and sad about the move and is lashing out at my father—including hitting him. Her Alzheimer's has accelerated rapidly with the move. The doctor put her on Depakote and Zoloft. At what point do we decide that my father can't be her primary caregiver anymore? He is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. How do we as a family make the decision about moving her to Memory Care? With all their dysfunction they are truly devoted to one another.
Dr. Amy: It’s one of the most difficult things in life to watch a loved one’s personality slowly disappear before our very eyes. You really need support at this stage, since your heart may be telling you one thing and your head another. Sometimes, we need someone on the outside to help us see our situation in ways we can’t see it.
Your family needs help planning and this can take a little time. I encourage you to work with a professional to assess the situation. I would start with having your mom checked by her family doctor to make sure there is no medical explanation for her taking a sudden turn for the worse. There might be more going on besides the shock of the move. After that, a geriatric care manager or someone from a nursing home can help you evaluate your situation and give you clear options, along with the costs and benefits of each option. The care manager can also point you to a support group for your family. This is taking a huge toll on your father, as you say, and he needs emotional—as well as task—support.
It is important not to wait until the situation gets worse. Safety first! You might want to bring in some home care help right away, while you arrange for an assessment and make longer term plans. Good luck.
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