Virginia Morris Answers Viewer Questions on Caring For Elderly

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Paula from Esthero, Fla.: My mother is 79. Over the past 4 years, she has done less and less for herself. She has early Parkinson's and some signs of early Alzheimer's per the neurologist we have taken her to. I work 40 hours per week running our business. Have a husband and two boys. The boys are 23 and 17 but still require my time. I know my mother would like to move in with me over going to a facility, but I just don't have the time to give her the attention she needs with my lifestyle. She keeps throwing in my face that she took care of her parents (they were much older and she was a single widower with grown children at the time). She makes me feel like a bad daughter. How do I talk to her about going to a facility over coming to my home when the time comes, which won't be much longer I feel.

First of all, talk to her now. Today. Start the process. It takes a long time for a person to accept such a move, and with dementia creeping up on her, moving sooner will be much easier than moving later. Also, the best places often have waiting lists.

Get her to visit some facilities "just to have a look." Be sure that they have adequate programs or a unit for people with dementia. Find one nearby so you can visit her.

Then stick to your guns. If moving in with you is simply not going to work, then don't do it. You can still be a great help to her, even if she's in a nursing home. You will need to help oversee her care, stay on top of staffing and medical issues, and visit her regularly. You are not a bad daughter and don't let anyone make you feel like one.

Ellen from Hillard, Ohio: What do you do with a single widowed parent who is a total curmudgeon and absolutely refuses help of any variety? I acknowledge my dad's right to make his own decisions, but I'm worried he'll make bad choices and hurt himself. (Aging father is still very active, doing strenuous work -- like roofing -- that she thinks could give him a second heart attack.)

A curmudgeon? I know that these active, fiercely independent parents are difficult to deal with, and yet, I secretly have a soft spot for them, perhaps because my father was one, and perhaps because I sort of love that they refuse to quit, that they want to die with their boots on.

Talk with him. Tell him that its great that he's so independent and active, and that you hope he can remain independent for as long as possible. But remind him that if he stumbles off the roof, he might just fall right into a wheelchair. Talk to him about ways he might remain independent and lower the risks of injury. As you talk, be sure to keep him in the driver's seat. Ask questions and let him make suggestions. This is about his life and his needs and his fears and goals; your concerns and needs are secondary. If he closes the door, try again. Keep the conversation going. If he flat out refuses to talk with you, then get someone else to try. Perhaps he'll be more open with a brother, doctor, trusted friend.

He needs to address more than his roofing habits. He needs to start planning for the future. Where will he live when he can't live alone, or can't drive, or can't care for himself? How will he pay for that care?

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