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Questions & Answers - January 2005

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.

About Mary
Mary's Column Archives: Caregivers'
Questions & Answers

Dear Mary,My father has had several mini strokes over the last five years but still lives alone and is able to do most things for himself. I call or visit everyday and prepare frozen meals for him to put in the microwave. He also comes over for dinner every Sunday and more often when my schedule allows it. I noticed recently that he coughs while eating but at no other time. He said he gets a tickle in his throat when he eats ever since he choked on a piece of chicken a couple of weeks ago. He is reluctant to see the doctor but I am feeling uneasy about this. Is it something I should worry about?

My 83-year-old mother has suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the past seven years and is now entering the final stage. Although she is still able to walk, she is totally incontinent, can eat only pureed foods, and has only a few words in her vocabulary. She no longer understands the spoken word and does not recognize any family members. Fortunately she is in an Alzheimer facility and has maintained her delightful disposition and sweet smile, for which I am thankful.

Dear Reader,

You pose a good question so I went right to the source. According to The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, "Hydration and nutrition are traditionally considered useful and necessary components of good medical care. However, when a person is approaching death, the provision of artificial hydration and nutrition is potentially harmful and may provide little or no benefit…and at times may make the period of dying more uncomfortable for both patient and family.

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Dear Mary,

II am trying very hard to “hang in there” but some days I feel like I cannot do any more. My husband has Parkinson’s disease and was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, too! We have been married for forty-two years and I feel like my best friend has died. My days are endless and I have no time for myself although I do attend a support group which is helpful for getting practical tips. I realize I create a lot of stress myself by worrying about what will happen next, but I am so scared. I believe in God, yet feel like he has deserted me. I try to steel myself from these feelings but they creep up on me when I least expect them. Do you have any advice for me?

Dear Reader,

You are grieving the loss of your husband, your best friend, and life as you knew it – this is very normal. But it is just as important to take care of your spiritual health as it is to take care of your physical and emotional health. So, just as you would go to a physician for physical pain, you should go to a spiritual counselor at your place of worship for spiritual pain.

am glad you are getting practical benefit from the support group, but do not be afraid to use it to help you through this emotionally difficult time. It is a sure bet that others are experiencing, or have experienced, these same emotions.

It may also be helpful to create a ‘sacred space’ at home to retreat to for prayer or meditation. It can be a corner of a quiet room, a window seat area, or even a bathroom. In this space, it is important to surround yourself with things you love and that give you peace like special photos or paintings, plants, flowers, prayer books, and aromatherapy candles. You can include a CD or tape player for listening to relaxing music or guided imagery. Start and end your day in this space and go to it when you need solace.

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Dear Mary,

My mother is bed ridden and cannot get out to see a doctor. Do any make house calls anymore?o?

As a matter of fact, yes. The American Academy of Home Care Physicians has a website to assist you in finding one in your area. The web address is You can also call your local Area Agency on Aging and ask if Information and Assistance keeps a list of local home care physicians. Contact the Eldercare Locator at 800- 677-1116 for the number..

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