Your Questions Answered About Aging and Alzheimer's Care

MORRIS: As for driving, it's not simply their lives that are at stake, but other lives. Don't ignore this. Call the DMV and see if there are driving refresher courses for the elderly, which might help your father see that he's not able to drive. Or maybe he simply limits his driving to certain times, avoiding evenings when he's tired, rainy days, rush hour. Talk to your father's doctor and see if he/she won't tell your father and can't drive. Learn about other transportation options. And then stand firm. Clearly, driving is only one issue you face. Find a quiet time to talk with your parents about their current situation and the future. Don't make demands; ask questions. And then listen. Really listen. What are their fears, goals, hopes, worries? What will happen when one of them can't manage simply daily tasks, or the stairs in the house? Where would they want to live if that house simply wasn't a viable option? How will they pay for long-term care? Etc., etc. It's likely they will dodge your questions, but be clear that you want to help and need to know their thoughts and wishes.

CRYSTAL, Winder, Ga.: My mother is taking care of my grandmother who is very demented. I don't think my mother is capable of taking care of her the way she needs to be taken care of. I don't even know what my question is other than I feel my grandmother isn't being taken care of properly and I don't know what I can do to help or what would be best for her. I don't think my mother can afford a home for her, but I don't think she can give her the care she needs...What do I do?

MORRIS: Think about what it is that you're mother should do differently. It's going to be hard to move forward unless you pinpoint the problem. Is she neglecting her in some way? Being abusive? Contact the local Alzheimer's Association (www.alz.org) and learn about local services. Perhaps there is a day program or support group that might help (support groups not only offer emotional support; people share helpful tips and advice as well). In the meantime, give your mother a lot of support and breaks. As you well know, this is an incredibly tough job your mother has taken on, and she needs your full support now.

IVETTE, Miami, Fla.: How can I tell my mother who has mild Alzheimer's that her dear sister has died? She knew that she was very ill and 93 but.

MORRIS: Unfortunately, you just have to be honest. Remind her that her sister was elderly and quite ill, and give her a lot of support. The problem you face is not simply how to tell her, but how to tell her the second and third time. I'm afraid this is just the kind of thing she might forget. When she is troubled, get her to reminisce about her sister and her youth. While her short-term memory is faulty, she may enjoy tapping into long-term memories of a better time.

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