Know that it's often better to get her into a nursing home before she runs out of money, perhaps when she can self-pay for 6-9 months, as she might get into a better facility. And at 103, well, I wouldn't put this off.
Candice from Sag Harbor, N.Y.: Can you please recommend ways to keep track of medical information and care giving? Thanks.
Caregivers can get buried under medical information, brochures, lists, phone numbers, insurance forms, and tax documents, on so on. Everyone has their own system, and I believe there are some workbooks available, but I would suggest doing this the old-fashioned way. Get several files and label them "legal," "housing," "medical," etc. In front of all this, create a master list of critical information and phone numbers. Keep up with the filing and throw things out that you don't need, because it will get pretty unwieldy. You should also make a chart of medications and when they are to be taken, along with any other daily care instructions, and post it by your parent's bed, bathroom mirror or breakfast table.
Pam from Midlothian, Va.: Long distance care giving: I have an 84 yr old mother who is approximately 2 hrs from me with dementia. Due to family commitments (11 and 13 yr old daughters), unable to provide the decent care I think she deserves as well as devoted time. How can I stop feeling so guilty for not visiting her often? Have considered relocating her closer to me but afraid of the setback, emotionally and mentally, that may occur.
Oh, I wish I could get rid of all the caregiver guilt! It's awful. If your mother is in a good place, where she has friends and good medical care and oversight, then let her stay put. If she is living independently and will have to move at some point anyway, then consider moving her closer to you.
Beyond that, let me suggest this: Write a list of all the things you can reasonably do for her, whatever that is – maybe visit once a week, call daily, have the grandchildren Skype with her, check in regularly with her doctor or caregivers, etc. Put that list where you will see it and focus your attention on all these great things that you do for her. Do NOT focus on whatever it is that you are not doing for her. You are a good daughter, but you are also a good mother. Take care of 11 and 13, and when they're a bit older let them know that they should never, ever feel guilty about the care they give you.