DONNA, Minneapolis, Minn.: My 91 year old father was diagnosed with dementia in January, 2009. He has mild to moderate dementia and cannot understand why he isn't able to go home with my mother. He is in a Memory Support Center and has a severe swallowing problem, also. Mom cannot care for him at home now. He continues to cry and want to go home with her. He is lucid most of the time but then becomes confused and angry that he is not able to go home. This is very upsetting to both my parents. How can we deal with his situation best to try to ease his confusion and still be respectful of his feelings? We just want to be sure we are doing the very best for my father. It is heartbreaking for our family.
MORRIS: Surround him with as many familiar things from home as possible. Make his room look similar to his room at home, if you can. Put up a calendar marking all the days and times of upcoming visits. Get him a webcam so he can view your mother and she can see him. If none of this works, leave him on his own for a short while and see if he starts to calm down and meet other residents. Different approaches work with different people. He is going through so much right now. Just when the world became topsy-turvy, he left everything that was familiar and safe, so this reaction is to be expected. It will take time for him to adjust. Talk to the staff at the center and see if they can make an extra effort to get him involved and to console him. They have seen this time and time again, and should be helpful. In the meantime, your mother needs you. Give her a lot of love and support.
EVERETTE, Charlotte, N.C.: My parent has been displaying advanced signs of dementia for several years. The problem is that it's starting to affect the small business he owns. Collecting money and doing basic things necessary as a business owner require assistance from my other parent. Clearly, the parent needs to come home, but is very proud, and won't listen to reason. Is there a process to address retirement for dementia patients? Or should we let then continue working, even though unscrupulous customers take advantage of them when a third party isn't around?
MORRIS: Clearly, work is vital to your parent's life and well-being. But it's also clear that you can't let the business suffer, and as the confusion becomes worse, the problems will only mount. Be creative. Find a way to let your parent feel that he/she is involved and helping, but perhaps not in ways that could cause any real financial trouble. Either give your parent a task that is away from those unscrupulous customers, and/or be sure that everything is reviewed carefully later. The longer your parent work -- or at least have the sense of working -- the better off he/she will be. At some point you may have to give your parent jobs that are more invention than reality.
LAURA, Lubbock, Tex.: My 88-year-old father is still trying to keep my 84-year-old mother at home and take care of her. I have tried to help and at first my father pushed me away saying it was his responsibility to take care of her through better or worse. Now 12 years later she has finally gotten diagnosed as having Alzheimer's instead of Dementia and is on some Alzheimer's medicine! I want to know for others facing the same future is there a way to get the patient diagnosed as having Alzheimer's sooner so the medicine will be given to them earlier?