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Questions & Answers - January 2003



Mary C. Fridley, RN,C is a registered nurse certified in gerontology with more than twenty years in the geriatric health field. She is the owner of Gero-Resources specializing in caregiver, eldercare, and successful aging education and advocacy. Mary is also an author of two caregiver advice columns and contributes articles to various websites. She is available for speaking engagements and would be happy to answer your questions or concerns while maintaining your anonymity.
info@gero-resources.com
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Questions & Answerss

Dear Mary,

My Mother is 92 and in a nursing home. She lived with me for 3 years until I could no longer help her. I visit every day and try to make her happy, but she’s miserable. I know I can’t give her the care she needs, after-all I’m no spring chicken myself. She makes me feel so guilty telling everyone I “did this” to her. When I visit she’s so demanding and insulting that I dread each day. The stress I’m under is sometimes overwhelming. In truth, she was never a very nice person and my childhood years weren’t happy ones but I feel a sense of responsibility and in my heart I love her. What can I do to make her happy and relieve the anxiety I feel?.

Recognize that you can’t make your mother happy nor is it your responsibility. Step back, take a deep breath, and ask, “whose problem is this?” It certainly isn’t yours, you’ve done everything you can and continue to be supportive, loving, and concerned about her. It’s your mother’s problem. For whatever reason, she is set in a pattern of anger and hostility that may never change.

When you visit, bring flowers or her favorite food and wear a smile. Reassure her that you love her and when the insults begin say, “I see you’re not up for company, I’ll come back when you’re feeling better” then get up, kiss her goodbye, and leave. I know it sounds harsh but sometimes harsh measures are called for. A low dose antidepressant may also be called for, talk to her doctor about this.

God Bless. Mary

* * *

Dear Mary,

I feel compelled to write and tell you about my experience caring for my mother. Mother lived alone for many years after my father died. Two years ago I realized that she wasn’t eating well and seemed not to care about her hygiene. She had been a meticulous person always smartly dressed and groomed so I knew changes had to be made. The thought of her living with me crossed my mind, but only briefly. Although I love her very much, our relationship is like oil and water in that we just don’t mix. I searched for alternative living arrangements and found a wonderful assisted living home not far from me. Mother balked at going but with her doctor’s help I was able to convince her.

Moving her to the assisted living home was the best thing I’ve done. Today she is happy and well taken care of. She has pride in her appearance again and has made several new friends. Sometimes when I call to visit, she tells me to call back because she has other plans!

I carry no guilt about my decision. I know she is safe and enjoying this time of her life.

Has the physician talked to him and the family about his prognosis? My experience has been that many physicians are reluctant to give a prognosis even in a situation where no more can be done. This only adds to the patient’s and family’s stress, as the unknown can be more frightening than the known. If your father isn’t expected to recover Hospice care should be ordered and started right away. A heart to heart talk with your father’s doctor is in order, so call him today. It’s the compassionate physician who talks to families about end of life care. .Thank you for taking the time to write. It’s always good to hear stories with happy endings. Your mother’s turn around from ‘care less’ to ‘care free’ is a testimony to the role social environment plays in the lives of older adults. Living alone may mean independence, but loneliness and isolation take their toll. Your mother is physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthier being with others who care about her. There are many good assisted living facilities out there it just takes time and perseverance to find the right match.God Bless

Dear Mary,

I feel like the world is crashing around me. I’ve been helping my father take care of my mother for two years. She has Parkinson’s Disease and can do very little for herself. My father does the best he can, but I’ve noticed that he is sometimes forgetful and confused. He doesn’t realize that he too needs help and will argue with me. I’ve tried talking to him about hiring someone to cook and clean, but he insists he and I can do it. I work full time and come home to messages from him telling me to “come over and help”. I’m only in my early fifties but feel like I’m at least a hundred. I can’t see things getting any better only worse. What can I do?

Thank you for thinking of someone else in need at a time like this. Yes, there Your emotional health is taking a beating and your physical health is in jeopardy too, so changes need to be made. If there are other siblings or family members around get them involved. Be firm with your father about hiring someone then do it. Let him know in no uncertain terms that you love him but can no longer continue at this pace.

Check with the local Area Agency on Aging, Parkinson’s Association, and hospitals about support groups. Talking with and listening to others that have walked your path is very helpful and empowering. Good luck and God Bless.

Email Mary: info@gero-resources.com
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