Your Questions Answered About Aging and Alzheimer's Care

Photo: Caregivers: Alzheimers Other Victims: When Children Become Caregivers, Strain and Resentment Can Take Devastating Toll

As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, and 50 million people are attempting to care for their elderly parents in various states of health.

Caregiving experts P.K. Beville and Virginia Morris will answer your questions about caring for aging parents and how to deal with parents who have Alzheimer's or dementia.

Beville is a geriatric specialist, creator and author of the "Virtual Dementia Tour." Click here to visit her Web site, www.secondwind.org.

Morris is the author of the best-selling book "How to Care for Aging Parent."

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Expert Answers from Virginia Morris

B. GILBERT, Idaho Falls, Idaho: I am a 63-year-old divorced woman with no children and no living relatives. How do I find someone who will look out for me should I get Alzheimer's or end up in a nursing home?

MORRIS: Don't despair. Things will work out, but you do need to plan. Most important, get a lawyer and sign a durable power of attorney (which gives a person -- in your case, a trusted friend -- the legal authority to act on your behalf should you become unable to so do) and a power of attorney for health care (someone who will make medical decisions for you). Then, talk to this friend, or friends, about how you want your care, your finances and other issues handled. Talk in some depth about your wishes, your fears, your goals. But chose carefully, as you are giving someone a lot of power.

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You should also explore the options and services in your community. For example, are there any Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which offer a full spectrum of care (typically you enter them while you are still independent and healthy? While the idea might sound frightening, most people are glad to have a community of friends and the peace of mind of knowing they will be cared for. However, they tend to be expensive. Learn about other housing options and home-health services as well, so you can make some choices in advance, should the need arise.

GREER B., Cumming, Ga.: My father-in-law has been living with us since his wife died four and a half years ago...he is 89 now. He doesn't want to do anything so we don't make him. I argue with my husband that he should take him out to do things but he won't. We have to make him shower and shave, he never gets dressed, he will only step outside to pick up his newspaper if we throw it outside his door. My husband takes him to the grocery store every 2 to 3 weeks and that is all he does. I've sent him to a senior center near our old home but they called and said he didn't socialize at all. He seems content doing nothing. Do I just let him? He has a pacemaker but otherwise in perfect health. He fixes his own breakfast and lunch and I do dinner for him so he'll come upstairs and be around me. What to do?

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