Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: My husband and I were teenage sweethearts and married right out of college. While we experienced bumps along the road, I'd say our marriage of more than 40 years was exceptional — or was until my husband developed Lewy body dementia. The dramatic personality change that this disease caused was devastating for us both. The worst part for him was that, at least in the beginning, he would realize that he had become verbally abusive and hated himself for it.
Dear Carol: Four months ago my mother fell and broke her hip. She was admitted to the hospital for surgery and then sent to a nursing home for rehab. The care seems good, but Mom has completely changed. Before the fall, she was mentally sharp for someone nearly 80. Her only issue was an occasional memory gap. Then, right after the emergency surgery, she began showing signs of dementia. She's only worsened in rehab. The facility doctor says that she has Alzheimer's, but how could that happen so fast? I thought that Alzheimer's took time to develop.
Dear Carol: My mom had a small stroke six months ago. She's always had a controlling, manipulative personality. After her stroke, she announced that she was moving in with us during rehab because she didn't want to hire strangers to help her at home, so I let her. Now, she's fully recovered but she's settled in. The doctor says that there is no cognitive damage. We need our home back. She constantly criticizes the kids, and my husband is so stressed that he's ready to walk out. We've kept Mom's apartment, so she could go back there or she could move to assisted living if she chooses.
Dear Carol: My dad has had Parkinson's disease for over 10 years. He has trouble speaking clearly, he chokes on food, and he'll clamp his mouth shut when we try to give him his medicine. We've tried to trick him by putting a pill in his food, but he will spit it out. Dad's doctor says that this is where he is in his disease and we need to accept that. He says that, eventually, people tend to get tired of the struggle. Dad's only 72. Should we have him put on a feeding tube? — G F
Dear Carol: My mom moved into the memory unit of an assisted living facility last year and she loves it. She's very social so this environment is perfect for her. Now, my brother has suddenly decided that he wants Mom to come and stay with him for the winter since he lives in a warmer climate. He's the man so he has the Power Of Attorney.
Dear Carol: When I was born my mother was single and hooked on drugs. She kept me with her, but she abused me physically and emotionally. My grandma gained custody of me when I was 5 years old and she raised me. Grandma died two years ago and now my mother, who has wrecked her health and is in a nursing home, has decided that I should take her to my home to care for her. I don't hate her, but I really can't forgive her, and I can't take care of her anyway. She is my mother so I do feel guilty.
Dear Carol: I've decided that my mother must have dementia. Today I discovered that her tax return was rejected because she had marked several things wrong. She took this to my husband because she didn't want me to know. Also, her housekeeping is terrible. It drives me nuts that she doesn't even throw away garbage when the can is a foot from where she puts the garbage down. These are just examples of what is happening. How can I convince her that she needs to let me handle things and that she needs to trust that I will do what is best for her?
Dear Carol: My husband and I are trying to help my brother select a retirement community that would also offer assisted living for his future needs. He's 74 and has early Parkinson's disease so he wants to make this move soon. Our experience with trying to decipher the pricing structures of the places that we visited has been enormously frustrating. Is there some sort of resource that covers retirement living contracts that transition to assisted living and perhaps even nursing care? We really need some guidance. Thanks for any help that you can provide. — TL
Dear Carol: I'm an only child and single. My mother developed cancer in her 70s and I helped Dad care for her until her death two years ago. Only months after her death, Dad turned into another person. It's not that he was simply angry. He seemed to be hallucinating and could be violent. I managed to get him to a psychiatrist who said that Dad has mixed dementia, likely a combination of Alzheimer's and something else, maybe Lewy body dementia. The trauma of seeing his wife decline and finally die in a nursing home may have kicked off Dad's symptoms.
Dear Carol: My mom is smart, stylish and trim. She was very social but now that's changed. Occasional, minor urinary incontinence has become a problem and she's acting like her life is over. I've told her that women who've had babies often have this issue and that there are products that she can use. Of course, she knows this, but she says that's not an option. Meanwhile, she is becoming reclusive which is not like her. I've told her that her doctor may have some ideas but she says that talking to her doctor about this is humiliating.