Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: I have four siblings scattered around the country and one brother has stayed in the same community as our parents. This brother helped Dad with Mom’s care until she died, and he’s now taking care of Dad. My brother is great except that he doesn’t keep the rest of us updated as much as we’d like. He says that at times he’s overwhelmed with work and taking care of Dad, so his communication falls by the wayside.
Dear Carol: My 96-year-old mother has moderate signs of dementia and lives in an assisted living facility. Mom can feed herself but she needs assistance with most other activities, including transferring from her bed to her lift chair or wheelchair, but she won’t use her call light to get help. Last evening, Mom had tried to move from the lift chair to the wheelchair and an aide found her on the floor. Mom wasn’t injured this time, but what about the next time?
Dear Carol: My husband and I are retired and were enjoying our quiet life when my fiercely independent 89-year-old mother started showing signs of dementia. We felt that it was best for her to move in with us and she reluctantly agreed. Mother's been in our home for seven months and, while my husband is a saint, I'm not. She's driving me crazy. She tries to cook and I spend hours cleaning up from burned food and dumped wastebaskets. She tries to do her own personal care in the bathroom and dumps things in the toilet and then flushes so we've needed a plumber twice, so far.
Dear Carol: My dad died after years of living with a cancer diagnosis. My mom, my siblings and I are all going through our separate grief processes. I spend a lot of time helping Mom, yet I, too, am grieving, which seems to be overlooked by Mom's friends. I can understand that, even though it hurts. What's most strange, though, is that while we are all irritated by different things that people trying to comfort us do, what we agree on is that people either can't or won't take time to listen to us voice our pain. Could you lay out some rules for helping people who are grieving?
Dear Carol: My mom, 83, is in a memory unit because she has advanced Lewy body dementia (LBD). While a nurse was bathing Mom, she noticed a breast lump. My logical mind tells me that considering Mom's cognitive state, together with her age, this lump is best ignored since she has no pain. I've talked with her neurologist. He said that I could consult an oncologist but that he'd suggest not telling Mom since she may be stressed by the news when there's a good possibility that this isn't even cancer.
Dear Carol: My wife's in a wheelchair because of an accident that she had 10 years ago. I've gladly taken care of her, but now she needs an increasing amount of care that I can no longer provide. We found her a place in a large, once-private house that has been converted into a group home, but she's terribly unhappy. All of the other residents have advanced cognitive ailments. We both understand the challenges that these good people face, but my wife isn't there to be a caregiver.
Dear Carol: My mom is currently in a short-term swing-bed facility and will soon be moving to a nursing home. Dad is in assisted living where we already moved some favorite furnishings from home. Their house must be sold, so my brother and I are going through what's left. We're stumped by jewelry and assorted items from their lives together. There are a lot of old pictures as well as Dad's military medals that he says he doesn't care about. We're not sure what to do with these things because they are items that have sentimental value.
Dear Carol: My mom was diagnosed with an early stage of dementia. Unfortunately, she thinks that there's still a strong stigma surrounding dementia and she doesn't want her friends to know about her diagnosis. I understand and respect her feelings, but when I asked her if she'd tell them if she had cancer, she said that she probably would. I tried to tell her that this shouldn't be any different. Since her best friends don't live close by, and she sounds like her normal self during most phone conversations as well as in her emails, there may be no rush.
Dear Carol: My parents are in their 60s and have decided that they need to have their legal paperwork updated. I think that this is smart and my siblings agree. The problem is that my parents want to designate me as their power of attorney for both health care and financial decisions since I live in their community. Unfortunately, my siblings feel slighted. While I don't love the idea of having this responsibility, I have no problem doing what's needed when the time comes.
Dear Carol: I'm not yet 30 and struggling with family caregiving. I work an entry-level job that barely pays my rent and student loan payment. I love my mom and grandma, but I hadn't expected this responsibility so soon. Mom was taking care of Grandma, who's had dementia for years, but then Mom had a stroke. I'm an only child so there are no siblings to help. My dad's not involved with us. Grandma's in a nursing home. According to the doctors, Mom's condition isn't expected to improve a whole lot from where she is now, which means she will continue to need a wheelchair.