Every day I receive questions from family caregivers and it’s remarkable how similar everyone’s questions and concerns are. Every two weeks I select one question and share the response with you.

If not already on our mailing list and you’d like to receive these Q & A via email, please click here.


Help For Dementia Patients With Anxieties and Panic Attacks

My mother is 87 years old and has full blown dementia. She cannot be left alone and requires daily assistance. She is awake a good part of the night and recently she has developed panic attacks. Every time I leave she wants to know if she can come with me. Since I work full time this is usually not an option.  She is being well cared for by her caregivers.


Removing Firearms From The Home

My 91 year old father is showing signs of dementia. Because he lives alone with no family nearby he has a companion all day and evening until midnight.  I know that he keeps two loaded guns in his home and because of his increasingly impaired judgment we are very worried that a dreadful accident could happen. We’ve been unable to get him to allow us to remove them. Any suggestions about this situation?


Mom Falls But Won't Accept Help

I am a 72 year old “child.” My mother is 96 and is amazingly alert. She lives alone in my childhood home, very near where my husband and I live so I’m able to check in with her a few times a day and bring her meals. I love doing things with and for my mother, but I can’t be there 24/7 and she refuses extra help.  Last week she fell three times.


Advice on Choosing a Health Care Surrogate

I am a 63-year-old, single woman who needs to get her estate documents in order and I want to have a health care surrogate to make my end of life decisions if I am incapacitated. However, I am concerned about burdening my two sisters with that responsibility. Is it ok to appoint an outsider as a health care surrogate, and if so should I appoint a professional or a friend?


How To Activate A Long-Term Care Insurance Policy

My husband and I both have long term healthcare insurance which we have not had to use. But we will! He is 81 and I am 75. I want to contact the companies and ask questions about how and what to do to activate care when it becomes necessary. Do you have any suggestions?  Janice M., Miami, FL

 

 


Figuring Out A Strategy For Eating Well For Dementia Patients

My husband has dementia. Recently he has lost a lot of weight —and I’m concerned. We went to a gastroenterologist and after a complete work-up it was determined that it is a direct result of the dementia.


How Can I Help Mom Find Companion Care?

My mother, age 86 lives alone in a high rise building, where she has several friends that she socializes with. None of them drive, but together they depend on car services or someone’s family member for errands, grocery shopping and other outings.


My Mom Refuses Help From Anyone Other Than My Sister And Me

My mother is 89 years old with onset of dementia. She lives alone in a large house and my and I sister drop by several times a week to visit and check on her. She forgets to take her medications and does not eat like she should yet she refused help from anyone who is not family. Denial is her favorite defense. Any suggestions? Jon G., Miami, FL


The Importance of Keeping Estate Documents Up-To-Date

My husband has dementia. He has some very good and lucid days. Yet there are times when he becomes confused. I have a signed a durable Power Of Attorney that we had done in 2009. One of my friends told me that my POA is "null and void" because the laws have changed. Is she right? And if so, what should I do? Lorraine G., Palm Beach, FLA


My Mother Is Too Difficult To Help!

My mother, age 92, who has always had a loving and sweet disposition, has turned into a rude and abusive woman. She shows early signs of dementia, but she is in relatively good health. She won’t leave the house and though she complains about being lonely at night she threatens to call the police if we suggest a nighttime companion. Her behavior is irrational and I don’t know what to do to help her.


Benefits of Live-In Care

My mother, age 88 has lived alone for 10 years and wants to keep it that way, despite her unsteady gait and uneasiness about driving.  She enjoys spending time with my brother, and me and with friends as long as someone provides the transportation.


Help With Sorting Through Years Of Accumulated Stuff

I help an elderly neighbor who is legally blind but incredibly sharp. The problem is his house. It’s not very tidy and he’s managed to accumulate an abundance of stuff over the years. He needs someone to help him clean it out, but as you can imagine he’s not very trusting of strangers.


Mom's Move To An Assisted Living Facility Is Making Her Anxious

My mother, age 84, recently decided that she wants to move to an Assisted Living Facility. Together we have done a lot of “homework” to find a community that offered the type of activities and accommodations that she was searching for. It’s also within 30 minutes of my home, so our visits and family activities won’t miss a beat. A real bonus!


Mom Insists On Going To Her Medical Appointments Alone

My mother has some hearing and memory loss, so I think it’s important that I or one of my siblings accompany her on her doctor appointments. Yet, because of my mother’s desire for privacy and independence, we always are relegated to the waiting room and her physician is not permitted to talk with us about her care. What can we do to convince her that we’re on her side and only want to help with her healthcare needs?


The Importance Of Having A Discharge Plan

My mother, age 78, had a stroke 3 weeks ago. Yesterday she was transferred to a rehabilitation center where she will stay 2-3 weeks. Her doctors are confident that she will be able to resume a fairly active and independent lifestyle.


Which ALF Is Best For My Mother?

My mother age, 76 has lived alone for several years and she’s decided that she would like to move to a retirement community so that she can socialize and be with other people on a daily basis. A recent assessment determined that while she can perform her own personal care tasks, she requires some individual supervision because she’s at high risk for falls and needs some medication reminders.


What Will It Take For Siblings to Pitch In?

My parents moved to be close to me eight years ago when they were in their mid eighties and moved into an independent living facility. I have two sisters whom I talk to often, but who live several hours away.


Which ALF Is Best For My Mother?

My mother age, 76 has lived alone for several years and she’s decided that she would like to move to a retirement community so that she can socialize and be with other people on a daily basis. A recent assessment determined that while she can perform her own personal care tasks, she requires some individual supervision because she’s at high risk for falls and needs some medication reminders.


How Do You Know If Your Parents Need Help?

My parents are in their late 70’s and live in Delray Beach. Though I don’t live near them, I speak to them a few times a week and see them several times a year- and my children go down on their own for visits during their winter breaks. Other than a little arthritis and a few aches and pains, they are perfectly fine and are thoroughly enjoying their retirement and family.


My 90-Year Old Father Won't Accept Help

My father, age 90 is the sole caregiver of my 83-year old mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. He does an amazing job, but he is clearly exhausted by the end of the day. I do what I can, but my full-time job limits my ability to help more.


A Doctor's Advice for an Alzheimer's Patient with Sundowning

My father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He and my mother live in their home and have required little outside help and support. Recently, however, my father has stopped sleeping and he becomes very agitated at night. I’m very concerned, not only for him but for my mother.


Recommendations For A Lonely and Bored Senior

I am 85 years old. My husband died two years ago, after a 65-year marriage. I’m still very sad and lonely, and bored as well. I drive but do not like driving far or at night. My children live nearby and I see them regularly, but they’re very busy with their own children and careers. They’re concerned about me and have suggested that I move into an independent living facility. I’ve visited a few and have no interest. Can you advise me?


My Mom Spends All Day Home, Alone

I’m very concerned about my 81-year old mother because she spends so much time at home alone, watching TV. Lately when I come by after work, she’s still in her nightgown. I can’t seem to interest her in anything. I’ve tried taking her to church for card games, to lectures at the local community center and I’ve even persuaded her to call a few friends for lunch.


A Solution For A Frustrated Long-Distance Caregiver

My father, age 87, has lived alone for many years. He’s recently had some health issues and though he remains pretty independent, he now has a live-in aide who helps him with his dinner, errands, transportation, and assists him a bit in the mornings. I live a few hours away by plane and am able to visit him often.


Preventing Wandering In Loved Ones With Alzheimer's Disease

My husband is 85 and has Alzheimer's disease and I am his primary caregiver. It’s getting more difficult for me as his disease progresses but I want to continue for as long as I can, in order to preserve our money for as long as possible. My biggest issue is that I’m afraid he will get up in the middle of the night, or at a time when I’m not as alert as necessary and wander off.


Being Prepared Will Put Your Mind At Ease

I’m an 85 year old widow, living alone. I have a few friends in the building with whom I do errands and play cards, and they include me on errands and shopping trips since I no longer drive. I take cabs if I need to get my hair done, or to visit friends. In short, I manage pretty well. Last week I fell. I didn’t break anything but I was a little shaken and I realized that if something happened to me I wouldn’t know how to get real help.


Must A Parent With Dementia Be Consulted On Caregiving Issues?

My mother, age 83, has dementia. Sometimes she’s incredibly lucid and we can have cohesive conversations. But five minutes later she may not recall them at all. I have three siblings all of whom live nearby and we are all are spending extra time with mom. However, we’re reaching the point where she requires some assistance and supervision in her home over and beyond what the four of us can offer. We agree on that.


My Mother Doesn't Want Long Term Insurance, But I Disagree

My mother is 75. She has a few ailments, but is totally independent - both physically and financially. My concern is that her money will run out if she should require a lot of assistance as she ages. I’d like for her to get long term care insurance but she refuses. I have read so much about it, and think it’s something she should have. Is this something I should be pushing?


My Parents Have Moved Closer To Me But They Still Keep Their Distance

I live in Miami with my three teen-age children. My parents, ages 86 and 83 still live in my childhood home in Maine with my sister nearby. My mother is in the early stages of dementia, but with just a little extra help, my father is able to take care of her and provide the supervision that she requires.


Tipping The Caregiver: When, If, and How

We would like to tip our mother’s home health aide on a regular basis. Is there an accepted formula for this? Or does everyone just do their own thing? Jane L., Roslyn, NY


A Fiblet May Be The Best Response

My mother has dementia and lives in an Assisted Living Facility. Nearly every time I visit with her she asks me many times when she will be going home. I’ve spoken with my friends who have parents with dementia who either live with them or who live in an Assisted Living Facility and they have the same experience with their parent.  What do we say to them?  Adrienne G. Plantation, FL.


When Mom Is Angry And Stressed From Caregiving

My father, age 88 has periods of confusion, and when they occur my mother gets very angry and critical of him, which makes him all the more confused. While I realize she’s probably acting out of fear and frustration, it is extremely detrimental. How do I address this with her? Amy V., Princeton, NJ.


Finding a Physician Who Will Make House Calls

My mom is 82. Her mobility has become limited in the past year and it has become difficult to take her to appointments with her doctor, who doesn't make house calls. Do you have a list of physicians who specialize in geriatric care and that make house calls? Perhaps you have other suggestions? Sonia G., Miami, FL


When Your Parent Needs Help With Financial Management

My 85-year-old mother, who is still in pretty good mental and physical shape, has recently showed signs of confusion about her finances. She lives off the principle of her portfolio, and is sent a check every month from her financial advisor. Although she is not overly extravagant, I am concerned that she is over-spending.


What To Do When Your Elderly Neighbor Needs Help

My next-door neighbors for the past thirty years are two elderly women in their eighties. One has COPD and is frequently hospitalized; the other has macular degeneration. They don’t seem to have family members to help them, nor is there any contact by a social worker as far as I know.


My Mother Won't Listen To Her Doctors

My sister and I are constantly taking my 86 year-old mother to the doctor for her real and/or imagined problems, and the doctor will make suggestions or prescribe treatments. She either disagrees with what the doctor says and requests to see a different doctor or decides that she doesn’t want to do the treatment or take the medicine. How do we get her to comply with what the doctors prescribe? Debra B., New York, New York.


Memory Problems: Why An Early Diagnosis Can Help

My parents live in Miami. We have begun noticing memory issues with my mother and we do have a family history of dementia. Even her friends have commented to me of changes they’ve noticed.


This Mother's Day Gift Will Be A Keeper: A Tablet

I'm wondering if you can suggest a Mother's Day gift for my 82-year old mother, who is still very active, likes to take classes, and has a nice social life with her small group of friends. She always says that she has everything she needs and doesn't want any more gifts and stuff in her life. Still, I'd like to give her something that she won't return. I'm stumped.  Gwen S., Plantation, FL


When The Caregiver Needs Help

My parents are in their late 80’s and live nearby- I see them often. My father, though very active, requires a lot of daily assistance as he uses a walker and sometimes a wheelchair.


You Should Know This About Hospice Care

My mother has been referred to Hospice Care for end-stage COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). I understand that prescription medications related to this condition are covered by Hospice Medicare. But what about the other medications that she currently takes for conditions including high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and low thyroid. Will these continue to be covered under her Medicare prescription plan?


Know These Six Common Risk Factors For Falling

My mother is 83 years young and fortunately, in excellent health. She’s incredibly active and socializes a lot. Recently, I noticed for the first time that her walk was a little slower and that she took a longer time getting in and out of the car. My mother lives alone and now I’m concerned about her falling. I’ve read so much about seniors falling.


Mind Games That Can Sharpen The Brain

My wife and I are in our 80’s and living in an Assisted Living Facility. My wife was recently diagnosed with early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease. We participate in many activities that keep us physically and socially engaged all day long. Our issues are in the evening, when it’s just the two of us. My wife is searching for “mind games” that we can play at night that may slow the progression of the Alzheimer’s.


My Advice For Choosing The Best Assisted Living Facility

I live in California and have a formerly independent, elderly father in Tamarac, Florida, who is deteriorating following a mild stroke and is becoming an increasing burden for his partner, who lives with him. He has an extensive support network of friends in South Florida and doesn't wish to relocate to California, where my brother and I could more easily support him.


You Can't Be Too Prepared

I am 80 years old. My husband, age 84, has memory issues and while our life thus far remains largely unchanged, I am beginning to see changes in him that are evidence of dementia. I think we’ve prepared ourselves very well for what may come down the road. We have three adult children with whom are very close to but who all live far from us.


When Words Fail: Silence Can Be Golden--Conversing with a parent who has Dementia

I have never been much of a conversationalist, but now that my mom has dementia, I find I am at a loss. I would like to keep pleasant conversation going, but often, I run out of things to say - especially when the conversation is so one-sided. I would appreciate if you could give me some conversation topics (we talk about the past a lot), and ways to keep it going. Marion S., Miami, FL


Protecting Your Parents From Phone Scammers

My parents are in their mid-80s and live independently nearby. The other day I was at their home and answered their telephone. The gentleman on the other end asked for my father using his first name as if he knew him and proceeded to tell me about a fundraiser that his organization was doing and asked for a donation. He asked me to “verify” my father’s address numerous times. I told him to tell me what he had and I would verify it.


Good Reads For Book Clubs

Can you give me a book recommendation for a book club? We are a small group of women in our sixties. I'm familiar with books that are focused on caregiving for our aged parents. But we prefer one that deals with our aging selves and how to live a good and safe life as we live into our 80s and 90s - with or without various impairments related to aging.  Judy U., Fort Collins, CO


Covering Your Bases With HIPAA

My mother is 87. I have Power Of Attorney for Healthcare and can act as her Health Care Surrogate if she's unable to make her own decisions. I often accompany her to doctors' appointments where all of her medical information is openly shared with me.


Finding Support Groups for Caregivers

My parents are elderly and frail and require a lot of help. I'm an "only-child" and find caregiving to be an overwhelming experience. I'm in desperate need of a support group. The few that I've found in my area are focused on a specific disease or cater to older individuals caring for an ailing spouse. I did find one that was neither age nor disease specific, but only a few individuals participated, and without regularity.


Adult Day Care: A Valuable Resource To Consider

My Husband is 67 years old and has dementia. I work full time, and must be available for meeting and have time to work at home. We have a caregiver who comes in a few days a week for just a few hours, but I need more help. Can you suggest ways to have full time assistance that isn't so expensive? Anna P., West Palm Beach, FL.


Signing Up For Medicare At 65 While Working Full-Time At A Job With Benefits

I’m turning 65 this year and work full time at a company that provides full health benefits. I'm confused about whether I should sign up for Medicare since I don’t need it. I checked with the Human Resource Department of my company and they told me that it was not necessary. However, several of my friends have told me that I could incur stiff penalties if I don’t. What should I do?  Robert L., Coral Gables, FL


Understanding a Parent's Dementia Test Results

My mother is showing signs of forgetfulness and confusion. She constantly repeats questions and is often very confused. It’s easy for my sisters and I to see that her short-term memory is declining and we’re worried that she lives alone without any assistance.


Raising Concerns about a Parent's Personal Bookkeeper

My 87 -year-old father has put a long-time helper in charge of paying his household bills. When my brother and I ask her about his daily expenses, she refuses to speak to us, saying that she only works for my father and doesn't have to answer any of our questions. She has even locked up his checkbook so family members cannot access it. I am concerned about his being taken advantage of. He insists that she is trustworthy, but I have my doubts.


Managing a parent's ambivalence about receiving help

My 85-year-old mom alternates between completely on-the-ball and totally confused by the details of daily life. I have gradually assumed responsibility for many things -- bills, doctors appointments, etc. -- that have proved difficult for her, and she is quite grateful. I am thrilled to be able to do this for her.


How do you know if your parents really need assistance?

I live a three hour plane ride from my parents, though we talk by phone nearly every day. Whenever I ask them how they’re feeling, they always respond with a one syllable word - usually “fine” or “great.” But when I recently visited,  I saw firsthand how much they had aged in only six months. I’m worried, but they insist they don’t need help.


When A Caregiver Crosses The Line

My mother is 88 and has had the same aide for the past three years. She is very fond of her. The other day I noticed that she had written a check to the caregiver for $1500. When I asked her about it, my mother replied that she and her husband needed some money for a house repair. When I asked her if she’d given her money previously, my mother couldn’t remember.


Family Relationships and Conflicts Over Finances

My two siblings and I share caregiving responsibilities for our 85 year old mother, though I help with most of her day to day needs and manage her finances. Based on her current expenditures, she only has enough money to last another 2-3 years, but neither I nor my two siblings can afford to support her if she runs out of money. So every penny counts.


Can a Son Ask For a Mother's Will to be Updated?

My brother and I are long distance caregivers for our 88 year old mother, but because I live closer, I do more hands-on things for her.  During my last visit my mother told us that she needed to update her will. I called an estate planning attorney and was surprised that he wouldn’t give me an appointment.


For a Senior Without a Drivers License, Which is Better? A Car Service or Companion Care?

My mother is still living independently at home but due to failing eye sight, she no longer drives. However, she needs to grocery shop and do other errands a few times a week. I don’t live nearby to take her regularly. Can you recommend a car service that can pick her up and take her to do these errands? I want to make sure it's a reputable company.  Barbara, Fort Lauderdale, FL