Your Questions Answered About Aging and Alzheimer's Care

BEVILLE: Your family is very fortunate to have a daughter like you that is so attuned to the problems at hand. Many times, our elders feel as though they are being burdensome or showing signs of weakness if they lean on their children for help. As a result, they seem to push us away. In your Father's proud mind, it is his responsibility to care for your Mother but I know it is almost unbearable to watch your Mom slip away.

It is possible to diagnose Alzheimer's disease relatively early but we can't fault your father for not getting her help sooner. Of course, the sooner a person is examined by a memory specialist and treatment begins, the better, but for your father, while he probably doesn't say much, it has been horrifying to watch his wife of many years become another person. So many times spouses try to cover up the cognitive loss for their mate so that they can continue to enable their loved one to function longer. In his mind, he is protecting his wife and himself from terrifying news. I know you may feel a little upset with your Dad, but he is doing all he can. Now that the diagnosis is made, you may be able to chip in a little easier. I have found that it is easier to just go ahead and help, at first, in small ways and don't ask if you can. Your presence and attentiveness to their needs will give you the direction you need to "just do it". Love up on your Mother and Father as much as you can.

LYNN, Los Angeles, Calif.: My grandmother has been diagnosed with dementia. She is living in an assisted living facility and hates it. They hate her there as well. She is mean and makes accusations often towards the staff and others at the home. I guess my two questions are: Is the constant/everyday mean behavior normal? Every Alzheimer's article or TV show I watch never seems to really display behavior like my grandmothers. Is there a way to get through to her and let her know that she can not live on her own anymore?

BEVILLE: It's a shame that you haven't seen people with dementia showing the behavior your grandmother is showing. As a matter of fact, if it's any consolation, a very high percentage of those with dementia have some serious behavior problems. However, my experience with the kind of behaviors your grandmother has, they have been a pattern for her for a very long time and, it's become magnified as the disease has progressed.

Ask your grandmother's doctor to tell your grandmother the truth about her inability to live at home. As long as she believes she can go, she will continue to try. Pull your family out of that argument altogether after the doctor has talked with her. Be sure another family member is present. Also, when the doctor does this, have him or her put it in writing so that whenever the issue comes up again, and believe me, it will, the letter should be pulled out and showed to her. This should be done in a supportive way by saying that this was the doctor's decision not the families.

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