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Questions & Answers - September 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.

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

Dear Mary,

I thoroughly enjoy reading your column it makes me feel that I am not alone in caring for a parent.

I am a middle aged woman and the primary caregiver for my elderly mother. She lives alone and over the past couple of years her health has declined. Among other ailments, she suffers from post polio syndrome and has a difficult time walking, so I have been taking care of just about everything for her.

Mother has fallen twelve times in the past three months but miraculously she has not injured herself even though she has osteoporosis. I came to the conclusion that she was not eating the meals I bring her or taking medications correctly. So, I took matters into my own hands and hired a caregiver to come three times a week for four hours each day. She likes the girl but is furious with me because she feels I am invading her privacy and controlling her life. She has refused to pay her so I am paying her myself. My intent is to keep Mother in her home as long as possible, which is her desire. I have had Meals on Wheels, that she cancelled, and an emergency response system installed that she keeps in a drawer. I have installed safety equipment throughout the house and bought her a cane and walker, which she reluctantly uses. I have tried explaining that I do these things to keep her safe but she refuses to listen. She was a nurse for over 30 years and thinks she knows what is good for her. I had to finally set some boundaries and told her that if she fires the caregiver I will no longer help her. I am concerned that if she continues to fall Social Services will get involved and remove her from her home.

The biggest problem is the guilt she lays on me. I know her world is small so I call her three or four times a day, but it doesn't seem to be enough. I have serious health issues, too, and cannot be at her beckoning call. My stress level is so high that I am now going for counseling. Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Reader,

It sounds like you have done a great job with your mother...and she likes it like that! I have a few suggestions that may help: Instead of telling her that the caregiver is for her, tell her she is for YOU - her presence makes you feel better because you feel guilty that you can no longer do the things she needs done. If you have financial power of attorney, pay the caregiver from your mother's funds and when she asks, tell her "I've covered it". Loving lies are OK and come in handy sometimes. If she starts laying on the guilt when you call say, "I see this is not a good time to talk, I'll call back later", tell her you love her and then hang up.

As for Social Services getting involved, Adult Protective Services will investigate if they are called and feel she is in danger. But as long as she is competent to make her own decisions there is not much anyone can do to change the situation. Sometimes it takes a crisis to effect change. The hardest part is living with the helpless feeling while waiting for it to happen. Try talking to her physician about your concerns and elicit his/her assistance to convince her to accept help.

I also recommend that you call your local Area Agency on Aging and ask for a client assessment for “level of care” and safety in the home. Someone will visit, determine her needs, and help access services. If possible, request that a nurse do the assessment because your mother may be more receptive to someone she views as a peer..

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Dear Mary,

I recently lost my wife from complications of Alzheimer's disease. During that difficult time I begrudgingly took your advice and called Hospice for help. It was not that I had an opinion about Hospice that prevented me from calling, it was because I really thought I was the only one who should take care of her. But they were as wonderful as you said they would be and I could not be more grateful. Both my wife and I benefited enormously from the excellent care and they made a difficult situation more bearable. This stubborn old geezer thanks you.?

Dear Reader,

You are very welcome. Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your wife.

Hospice is about living and making the transition from life to death with dignity and peace. They accept Medicare and other insurances and will also help when no money is available. For those of you who would like to find a Hospice in your area call the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at 800-658-8898 or visit their website at

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