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Questions & Answers - November 2004



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.
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Questions & Answerss

Dear Mary,

I attended one of your Caregiver Revival workshops and remember hearing that there are support groups for caregivers. I think it would be good for me to attend one. You may remember that my mother kicked me out just as I was about to move in to be caregiver for her and my father. It was actually a blessing that she asked me to leave because it is very apparent that I am not equipped to deal with the progression of their illnesses, my father has Alzheimer’s disease and my mother has multi-infarct dementia and a host of medical challenges.

Recently things have changed and I’ve been thrust into the role again but have decided that my true role is to help put a plan together, be their caregiver on a limited basis, and be a daughter to a greater extent. At this time, I am in the process of engaging a care manager to help me come up with a good care plan for them. However, I think attending a support group will also help me. Do you know how I can find one in my area?

Dear Reader,

I do remember you and am proud of you for accepting your limitations and assuming an active role that is beneficial to you and your parents. As you have discovered, a terrible experience is not always what it seems. You have grown and gained insight that is guiding you down a less treacherous path. Employing a care manager to establish a workable plan of care and help make knowledgeable decisions is invaluable – and so is talking to others in the same boat. Support groups provide a safe haven to vent and gain practical information about managing caregiving responsibilities. You can find one in your area by contacting the local Area Agency on Aging or the disease specific organization like the Alzheimer’s Association. You can find the number for your local Area Agency on Aging by calling the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. The number for the national Alzheimer’s Association is 800-272-3900 - they will direct you to your local chapter.

Good luck and keep up the good work.

* * *

Dear Mary,

My fiancée and I have a problem and need your advice. Her mother is 79-years-old and lives by herself. While she forgets things and sometimes repeats herself she does quite well. She cooks her own meals, works in the yard, can out play me in board games, and generally speaking takes good care of herself. Sometimes, though, she does forget to take her pills. Until recently she was paying her own bills but she turned it over to one of her daughters because her handwriting was shaky and she had trouble signing her name.

Here is the problem, because she sometimes forgets her pills and has lapses of memory two of her daughters have decided she has Alzheimer's disease and her primary care physician agrees based on their testimony. She was put on Aricept without benefit of a medical exam. To complicate matters, she is also undergoing post-cancer surgery chemotherapy. My fiancée and I do not believe she has dementia and worry that she is wrongly diagnosed. What is your take on this?

Dear Reader,

Your future mother-in-law needs a thorough medical work-up. If her primary care physician will not do it find a geriatrician who will. Chemotherapy alone can cause some of the cognitive effects you are witnessing so a consult with her oncologist is also appropriate. A clear diagnosis of whether or not she has dementia is needed in order to plan for her future care. I do not know what relationship your fiancée has with her sisters, but a family meeting is in order.

* * *

Dear Mary,

How can I safely transfer my mother from a bed to a chair, etc., without injuring her or myself? She has severe rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis and is in a lot of pain. I am afraid to touch her because she broke a rib recently when I helped her off the toilet.

Call your mother's physician and request an "order" for a home health agency to “evaluate the home for safety and caregiver training”. A Physical or Occupational Therapist will come in and address transfer issues and teach you how to do them safely. He or she can also determine whether your mother would benefit from on-going therapy to keep her limbs mobile. Medicare and most other health insurances will cover this time-limited service if ordered as medically necessary by a physician..

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