Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: My parents had been married nearly 60 years when my mother abruptly died from a heart attack. Dad held up well during the first weeks. He'd say that he was glad that she didn't have to suffer a long time like so many people do. But after a couple of months, Dad started to develop strange habits like humming tunelessly and mumbling gibberish.
Dear Carol: Can illnesses make someone with Alzheimer's worse? My mother had been diagnosed to be in an early stage of Alzheimer's disease but she still got along very well. Mom then developed a cold which was followed by a UTI and then pneumonia, so we had to have her hospitalized. The whole experience was terrible. Mom's physical issues were eventually taken care of by antibiotics and she seems all right physically, but she's much more confused than before and her short-term memory has deteriorated markedly. I'm wondering what caused this big change so quickly.
Dear Carol: My dad has been in a nursing home for several years and, for the most part, we're happy with the care. A problem occurred lately, though, where I'd like your thoughts.
Dear Carol: My mother developed Alzheimer's about six years ago. Dad was her primary caregiver until his health began to deteriorate. At that time, the family talked Dad into placing Mom into a good, local memory unit where she's lived for two years. She no longer knows any of her children, or even her husband, but now she's got a boyfriend in the nursing home. They hold hands and are together as much as possible.
Dear Carol: I am the last surviving child of my nearly 94-year-old mother who insists on living in her own home. She's in relatively good health for 94. I don't have a problem with Mom wanting to stay in her home except that she expects me to be there for hours every day as well as at the drop of a hat at night. Mom won't accept hired help. I am in my 70s and widowed. A woman friend of mine and I have talked of taking a cruise but I can't go because of my mother. I never discuss with my mother the fact that I need some time for myself because I don't want to hurt her.
Dear Carol: My husband has been a recovering alcoholic for years, but after we both retired he started having a drink here and there. It didn't seem like a problem until he started to show symptoms of dementia. He was eventually diagnosed with mixed Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. I'm not sure whether he forgets how much he's had to drink or his alcoholism has caught up with him. He often becomes angry and on a couple of occasions he's become threatening. He also falls after he's been drinking, which is scary. I can't get him to stop drinking or to return to his recovery meetings.
Dear Carol: My mother has had diabetes for years and now her health has been complicated by dementia. I cared for her in my home for three years but apparently couldn't do anything right. That wasn't new, since her personality is such that even when she was fairly healthy, nothing anyone did met her approval. She's now in a nursing home. The staff is excellent, and I visit her nearly every day, but she's still complaining. This makes me feel even guiltier than I felt when she was at home complaining. It's as if moving her to the nursing home makes me a bad person.
Dear Carol: My parents-in-law live with my husband and me. My husband is on the road for his work much of the time so I'm the main caregiver. I work part time from home. Considering my job, along with the time spent helping both parents with dressing and meals and going with them to their many medical appointments, I don't have time to get them out for social activities very often. I know that social activities are important to their emotional health so I feel guilty, but I'm only one person and I don't see what I can change. How badly am I shortchanging them?
Dear Carol: My mother has advanced dementia. Dad died when I was a child, so it's been over 30 years since he passed. Mom eventually accepted reality and moved forward with her life, though she never re-married. Now, she has asked when Dad is coming home. When I told her the truth she completely fell apart with grief. I thought that after such a long time she'd be OK with my explanation, but I couldn't have been more wrong. What should I have said? I hate lying to my mother and I don't want to treat her as I would a child.—JMC
Dear Carol: My husband and I are both in our late 70s. There have been a few times when my husband has left the stove top burner on and sometimes he leaves water running after he leaves a room. Maybe it's more because of distraction than forgetfulness, since I know that I've done similar things, but how do we tell? He seems to remember names and other details as well as anyone our age. When I mention my worries to my husband, he gets defensive and reminds me of small things that I've forgotten. I've read the list of possible Alzheimer's issues online, but that didn't help me much.