Drama in real life: A place for mom

In my ideal world, you'd now be reading an article about the freelancing or entrepreneurship or extreme couponing or one of the half dozen other topics I've started to write about. In my ideal world, I'd go to the gym this morning, and then to Spanish lessons this afternoon. In my ideal world, Kris and I would go see the Portland Timbers play this evening. Unfortunately, I don't live in my ideal world.

Instead, I live a world where my mother's descent into mental illness has once again reached a crisis. And although my family is better prepared for it this time — we have the power of attorney in place, we have a list of Mom's medications and phone numbers for her doctors, we've been researching live-in care and assisted-living facilities — we're still not as prepared as we should be.

The difference this time is that everyone, including the doctors, is taking this seriously, and we're devoting all our time and energy to finding a solution.

A Little Background

My mother has struggled with mental health problems for over a decade. Three years ago, she took a turn for the worse and spent three weeks in the psych ward of a local hospital. When she was released, she was fine. In fact, she was better than I'd seen her in years.

Since then, she's had a handful of relapses. After the most recent crisis in January, I wrote about the difficulties of caring for aging parents, and I asked GRS readers for advice. I acted on some of it. We had a power of attorney drafted and Mom drew up a basic living will. We started to discuss what might happen in the future. But we never finished the process completely. When Mom's health improves, we tend to become complacent. It's tough to push her to prepare for when she's non-functional when, at that moment, she seems fairly cognizant.

Lately, though, Mom has become more and more disoriented. She's confused. She doesn't know what the date is, and often can't remember things we've told her just hours before. (Or seconds before.) When we noticed that she wasn't taking her medication properly (she was taking it mostly at random, often days in advance of when she ought to), we took her to the doctor. The doctor agreed there was cause for concern, but couldn't find anything medically wrong with her. As a family, we began to check on her daily.

Over the past few weeks, Mom's condition has continued to decline. She hasn't been taking care of basic hygiene. She hasn't been eating. She still can't take her medication at the right time. It had just occurred to us that perhaps she shouldn't be driving when Mom called to let us know she'd driven through the back wall of her garage. We took away her keys.

Mom's garage

Final Crisis

Last Thursday, I flew to Colorado for the first of two weekend conferences. Before I left, I made plans to research ways to help Mom upon my return.

But on Friday, as the first conference was beginning, I learned that Mom's doctor had ordered her to be admitted to the hospital. My wife and my brother were with her. I debated flying home, but Kris told me everything was under control.

Throughout the weekend, my family sat with Mom as the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with her. But neither the internist nor the psychiatrist nor the neurologist could find anything specific that was the matter. “They've given her a diagnosis of ‘altered mental state',” Kris told me by phone. “Which is code for, ‘we don't know what the hell's wrong with her'.”

On Monday, as I was preparing to speak on a panel at a conference in Seattle, Mom's internist called to give me a run-down of her condition. After talking with him and talking with Kris, I decided to cut my trip short. I had planned to stay another day, but instead I finished my talk, hopped on a train, and went to the airport to ask to fly home to Portland immediately. (On a lighter note, it turns out my good friend Chris Guillebeau was on the same flight, returning from his latest round-the-world jaunt.)

On Tuesday, I joined my brother Jeff at the hospital. We sat with Mom for four hours, talking to her and talking to the nurses and doctors. Still they couldn't give us a diagnosis. What they could tell us, however, was that there was no medical reason for her to remain in the hospital, so she was going to be discharged within a day. And after discharge, she was going to require round-the-clock care.

Mom is only 63, but her short-term memory is essentially non-existent. She can tell you what happened 20 years ago, but not what happened 20 minutes ago. Or 20 seconds ago. Perhaps worse, she has trouble articulating the thoughts in her head. It's clear her mental faculties haven't completely vanished, but she's unable to convey what she's thinking. She has aphasia. And, as of Tuesday afternoon, the doctors have decided to label her condition as dementia. (Though, again, this seems to be a catch-all for things they can't define.)

Armed with this knowledge, and feeling the pressure to find a solution fast, we spent most of Tuesday researching options such as live-in care and assisted living facilities.

Happy Acres

One by one, our top choices fell away. There's really no way for Mom to live with any of her three sons. It's cost prohibitive to hire full-time care fo her, and even if we did, the caregiver might not be able to do some of the things we'd like. We can't place her in a lot of programs because she doesn't qualify. She makes too much from the box factory, or she's too young, or she lacks the required diagnosis.

After some research, my brother discovered an assisted living facility just ten minutes from his house. Best of all, this place specializes in “memory care”.

So, Jeff and I gave Happy Acres a tour. Having nothing to compare it to, it seems fine. The memory unit is isolated from the rest of the building, and the patients given special care. Happy Acres is nice — but sad. These folks, who were once vibrant and interesting, are now shells of themselves. Also, they're all 75. Or 85. Mom is 63. Sill, this seemed like a great place to watch her while we see if she improves. Here, she's close to us. Here, she'll have folks dispensing her medicine and helping her eat healthy food.

After weighing the options, we decided Happy Acres was the best bet, even if it is expensive.

A Handful of Stuff

Last night, my brothers and I (and our wives and kids) met at Panera Bread near the hospital in order to plan Mom's future. Where will she live? For how long? What will she take? Who will pay for the service? Who will pay her existing bills? What will happen to her cats?

During this most recent crisis, Mom's financial skills have vanished. She's been sending two checks for a single bill. Or sometimes she doesn't send them at all. When she does write a check, the numbers are sometimes random. Here's a glimpse at the gibberish she wrote in her checkbook register last month:

Mom's checkbook register
The gibberish in Mom's checkbook register.

After our mediocre (but costly) dinner, the family headed into the nearby mall to buy some basic things Mom will need when moving to Happy Acres this morning. We bought her bedding, a mattress set, towels, and more. This morning, instead of going to Crossfit, and instead of writing or studying Spanish, I'm helping my brothers set up her new living space in a small room very much like a college dorm. Her entire life (or the physical aspect of it) is being reduced to the bare necessities.

Note: We're now very glad we had a power of attorney drafted after Mom's last crisis. It allows us to use her funds to buy the mattress, etc. In fact, all of the various legal documents we assembled will make this process easier.

Meanwhile, the entire family plans to work together to sort through the remains of Mom's normal life. I think the women plan to purge her house and clean it from top to bottom. Jeff and Tony are talking about repairing the garage. I'll figure out how much money she has in her checking account (almost certainly not the $200,000 she has noted in the checkbook register), and I'll cancel accounts and services she no longer needs.

All of this is complicated by our existing plans. Kris and I leave for Alberta in a matter of days. Jeff and his family are headed to British Columbia upon our return. Tony has plans of his own. How do we juggle what we want to do with what we ought to do? So far, we're working together to make things right. But there's a good chance I'll have to cancel my trip to England in August. I'll try to see it through, but if my family needs me here, I'll stay in the States.

So, I have some great posts in the works for Get Rich Slowly, but they're going to be late. And there may be some blanks spots in the posting schedule over the next week. I'm spending most of my time with Mom, not on the computer. (My goal is to do both, if possible.) Take care!

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SF_UK
SF_UK
9 years ago

*hug*
There are no easy answers in these situations – just keep reminding yourself that you are doing your best (as I’m sure you all are). Actually, it sounds to me like you’re a lot better organised than most – you have power of attorney, a living will, and somewhere for her to go.
Your mom is very lucky to have you all.

Susan Mundy
Susan Mundy
9 years ago
Reply to  SF_UK

JD, I agree with all the caring sentiments by other readers.

This is no doubt a very difficult time for you all…and your mum. You have reminded me of just how important it is to have certain things in place for the unexpected.

Take care, stay positive but knowing that what will be, will be and my favourite saying “This too will pass”

*hugs from Susan in Australia

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

I’m sorry to hear about your mother. It’s never easy taking care of someone who you remember as taking care of you for so long. I have a mother nearing this same state and a Father-in-law with M.S. Maybe this would be a good time to start reseraching Long Term Care insurance and how it applies to family members, and does it make financial sense.

Annemarie
Annemarie
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

They may no longer be eligible.

It’s a harsh system.

slccom
slccom
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

You can’t buy long term care insurance when the person is gong to need it. This is insurance fraud, and a rip-off of those who were foresighted enough to purchase the insurance in case they will need it, and pay premiums for years.

Sarabeth
Sarabeth
9 years ago
Reply to  slccom

It’s only insurance fraud if you are lying about it. Granted, you will probably not be eligible at this point, but there’s no call to jump fraud accusations when people probably just don’t realize what the eligibility standards. Nor any need to gloat about your own responsibility and foresight in the face of someone else’s personal tragedy.

slccom
slccom
9 years ago
Reply to  Sarabeth

Sarabeth,the way insurance works is as follows: the vast majority of people pay premiums for an extended period. Many, of not most, never do need the coverage. A very few people experience misfortune and need coverage quickly. This premium money is invested, and grows. As the small number of people who require coverage in any one time period compared to the very large number of premium payer need coverage, there is ample money in reserve to pay those claims. When a significant number of people decide to get coverage when they start having symptoms, but before they are diagnosed, the… Read more »

M in TX
M in TX
9 years ago
Reply to  slccom

My M-I-L bought long term care insurance 10 years ago and I thought it was a scam. She’s been in an assisted living facility now for 12 months and hasn’t paid a dime. She’s been taking advantage of her long term care plan. Joke was on me…

slccom
slccom
9 years ago
Reply to  M in TX

I’m glad your mother in law was so smart. Sorry that she needs the coverage, but I’m glad it worked out for her!

Shad
Shad
9 years ago

Take care of things with your family. We’ll find a way to get by if you miss a post or two.

Megan
Megan
9 years ago
Reply to  Shad

Agreed. You need to take care of your family first, JD. Good luck in the coming weeks.

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
9 years ago

We are dealing with my father-in-law’s failing health right now, and while the emotional devastation of losing a loved one is as draining as one might expect it to be, we weren’t prepared at all for the demands of sorting out the financial concerns. It’s not just obtaining care or eventually planning a funeral, but having to take charge of a complete other financial life on top of our own. It’s made me question how my son will deal with our aging–as an only child, he won’t have any siblings to help take on the load. Many thoughts and prayers… Read more »

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl
9 years ago

I’m so sorry to hear about this, J.D. It’s got to be awfully hard to have this happen when your mom is relatively young.

I hope that things go as smoothly as possible, and I so think you’re making the right choice to put your family ahead of some blog posts.

Margaret
Margaret
9 years ago

I hope your mother finds peace.

J.R.C.
J.R.C.
9 years ago

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family right now. We’re going through something similar with my grandmother currently. So I know where you’re coming from…

SB(One Cent At A Time)
SB(One Cent At A Time)
9 years ago

This shows that life is not easy, it is full of hardships. May your mom get well soon.

It’s ok, your readers won’t mind not seeing a new post in the morning, for few days. charity begins at home, take wise decisions

KAD
KAD
9 years ago

Best of luck with this, J.D., and good wishes to the rest of your family too.

First things first. Alberta and England will always be there. So will Crossfit and the Spanish lessons. So will we.

Steve Linderman
Steve Linderman
9 years ago
Reply to  KAD

Ditto, JD. We’ll be here. Good luck with your mother.

Peggy
Peggy
9 years ago
Reply to  KAD

Totally agree.

Thanks for sharing w/us, JD. Please take all the time you need. We’re all here thinking of and praying for you and your family. Don’t feel you need to take care of us, too.

STRONGside
STRONGside
9 years ago

I feel for your situation. We think that my grandparents might be slipping into this exact same mental state, and it is very scary. I would recommend spending as much time as you need with your mother, and ensuring that you have no regrets!

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
9 years ago

I hope you can get your Mom settled in the new place and get things figured out. Good luck.

As useful as this post will be to some people, I have to say that if it was me who was in decline, I would not like my kids to be posting all the gory details on the internet for the world to see.

Marsha
Marsha
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

Mental illness is just that, an illness. Just like cancer, but much harder to diagnose. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and no reason to hide the reality.

I’m praying for you and your family, J.D. Having had a mentally ill mother for many years, I know only too well how painful and difficult this time is.

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
9 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

I’m not saying JD should hide it. I’m sure this story is very useful for a lot of people.

What I’m talking about is respecting the privacy of another person. In particular, I thought that showing the “gibberish” check book was a bit too much.

I guess it’s a question of balance – the post is more useful with those kind of details (so we know the exact situation he’s dealing with), but at what point does someone’s privacy get invaded too much?

tjdebtfree
tjdebtfree
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

I understand what you are saying Mike – however, I myself understood where JD was coming from – his mother’s check register was all over the place – so it was a visual on what kind of situation he was/is dealing with. The good thing is it doesn’t show her name, acct. numbers;etc. I myself experienced the same type of scenario when I took care of my grandmother (suffering from Alzheimer’s) and the mess that I stepped into was completely overwhelming! Lucky for JD and his family that they have taken care of the power of attorney and other essentials… Read more »

Carly
Carly
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

It’s really very KIND of you, Mike, to think of his Mum’s dignity right now. You’re not exactly knocking JD, you’re just treating HER like the human she still is. 😀

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

Thanks for the concern, Mike. I thought long and hard about what to post here. (And talked it over with family.) There are a bajillion examples I could have used. In the end, the garage and the checkbook seemed to be quick, poignant pictures of Mom’s condition, so I used them. I agree there’s a fine line, and I’m trying to respect it while also providing a little “color”. It’s important to talk about this stuff honestly, but at the same time, too much is too much.

StackingCash
StackingCash
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

This is what makes your blog so good. You truly make it so personal that everyone can relate to your life. Trying to balance privacy and publicity is just as difficult to balance saving vs. spending. Thanks for sharing your life with us because it makes us more aware and appreciative of our own lives!

Peggy
Peggy
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Some of us have no idea what it’s like to be in this type of situation. I appreciate it that you trust us enough to share this aspect of your family’s life. These are things many of us will face in our lives and for me, at least, it’s a clear indication of what might happen and helps me better understand a potential reality. I respect how you and your family are coping with what is a very difficult and painful situation for all. If I ever have a similar situation, I hope my family will be as well prepared… Read more »

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Fair enough JD – sounds like you put a lot of thought into your Mother’s privacy.

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
9 years ago

/hug J.D.

melissa
melissa
9 years ago

Huge prayers for you and your family. Been through this with two grandmothers now. It’s not easy! After you get things set up initially you’ll get a routine but it still can be a challenge. One day at a time.

Tim of Angle
Tim of Angle
9 years ago

The link you give to custombox.com triggers a ‘This site is a reported attack site and has been blocked’ message. You might want to look into that.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Tim of Angle

Thanks, Tim. I fixed that last week, but Google is lagging on their verification. I just checked again this morning, and the site should be clean.

Anna
Anna
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I can confirm that. The message was not displayed any longer.

LauraElle
LauraElle
9 years ago

I am so sorry about your mother, JD. May I say you and your family are handling this situation with love and grace. Take care.

nmh
nmh
9 years ago

So sorry to hear this. Hopefully the home you have chosen for your mother has someone to help with family services, who can talk you through things and help deal with the emotional aspects as well as the pracitcal. Also, depending on how the financial aspect turns out you may want to look into SSI disability and medicare for her — it could make life a lot easier for all of you. Best of luck to you and your family.

Betsy Wuebker
Betsy Wuebker
9 years ago

Hi J.D. and Kris – Having been through this transition with a far-too-young parent like your mom is years ago, my heart goes out to you. In my mom’s case, she was physically failing, but still well aware and none too happy about “being put out to pasture,” as she put it. If I can offer advice, don’t try and get everything done (like sorting and purging in the house, for example) all at once. I’m sure your siblings and Kris will support you keeping your travel plans intact. You all are fortunate that you can share responsibilities and tasks… Read more »

Ash
Ash
9 years ago

This is a tough situation. I hope that your mom can eventually improve. I am also really happy for you that you guys at least had some preliminary plans in place. I wouldn’t worry about the site–focus on your mom. That’s time you can’t get back. Just a suggestion, but you could re-post articles that were most commented on or “The best of GRS” in the sections where you might not have articles. They should be easy to set up ahead of time, I think. Take care of yourself. And thank you for posting this. It’s a really good reminder… Read more »

Kim
Kim
9 years ago

Good luck with everything. Such a tough situation, take the time you need for your family and don’t worry about the goings on with the blog!

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago

So sorry you’re dealing with this, J.D.

Del
Del
9 years ago

Often the child becomes the parent in these situations. Remember that she has sacrificed much to raise you. I never understood how much of a job (priority) children are until I had my own.

It sounds like she raised good children. Keep it up.

malingerer
malingerer
9 years ago
Reply to  Del

being a parent to your children and your parent at the same time is VERY challenging.. especially when you’re the only child to the failing/ailing parent.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago

Sending thoughts and prayers your way. We’ve been through this with my grandmother. It’s not easy, but she has children who love her and care for her and that makes all the difference.

MJ
MJ
9 years ago

JD — My mother, age 83, also suffers from increasing dementia, and within the year I suspect she will no longer be able to live with my father, age 88, who is trying to take care of his mate of 59 years. No short or medium term memory, no financial skills, deteriorating personal hygiene. Power of Attorney and a living will are a good start. In some states, you will also need a separate durable Medical PoA as well as a general POA. And in some states, as a result of HIPPA, you will also need a document which allows… Read more »

Kate
Kate
9 years ago
Reply to  MJ

There is a ton of great advice in this comment. Thanks!

HollyP
HollyP
9 years ago
Reply to  MJ

My best wishes to your & your family too. Do what you need, work when you can. And be sure to continue taking care of yourself. I’d like to add a few things… The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) has great resources which might be of use to you & your family while you are planning. If you can find a geriatrician who is accepting new patients, try to get your mom an appointment. Geriatricians take the necessary time to look at the total picture in a way other doctors can’t, and the specialize in care of older adults. They look at… Read more »

HollyP
HollyP
9 years ago
Reply to  HollyP

One more thing, please prepare yourself for the possibility that your mother may get worse for the first few days or weeks at Happy Acres. She will be getting used to a new environment, she may not understand why she is there, she will be surrounded by new faces. It can be extremely disorienting. As the other commenter suggested, try to bring in familiar things from home to help with the transition. Use older photos, those are the faces she is likely to remember.

Tom
Tom
9 years ago
Reply to  MJ

All the best JD. Fortunately I don’t have a lot of experience in this realm,.. yet. This article is timely for me since last night I was invited over by my father to discuss his will, POA, financial position, etc. He is currently in fair health at 67 years old, so he claims. One question that I had for him that he could not answer was about a living trust. I have heard from many sources that they are of great benefit in protecting family assets from nursing homes. Specifically MD, you mentioned: “I’m investigating having a trust fund set… Read more »

Tricia
Tricia
9 years ago

JD, I am so sorry about your mom. I work in a locked Dementia ward in a local nursing home. We have patients right now that are younger than your mother, but have no idea where they are.It sounds to me that she is in exactly the right place to be. Your number one priority is her safety and care, neither of which was happening when she lived alone. There should be staff there that can help you financially (the office staff) and emotionally (social worker). My family also had to admit my father to this Dementia ward while I… Read more »

tom
tom
9 years ago

That’s really tough to hear. I wish you guys and your mom the best.

Lisa Under the Redwoods
Lisa Under the Redwoods
9 years ago

My great-aunt and great-grandmother both had dementia. If I should go down that road as well, I want my children to be as loving and caring as you all are to your mother.

God bless you and your family.

crgilvr
crgilvr
9 years ago

One small suggestion. If your mom hasn’t been evaluated by a board-certified geriatric specialist, you might want to try that. They can often find subtle issues that cause altered mental status that elude internists and other, highly qualified, but not specialized doctors.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago
Reply to  crgilvr

I’d second this.

Also, oftentimes, the mix of medications can add whole layers of issues as well. When taking more than one at a time, especially if they’ve been taken rather randomly, all sorts of unique to that person side effects can appear. Get someone with experience in this area to knock it down to the absolutely needed medication before SLOWLY adding any others on, and only if absolutely indicated.

Jan
Jan
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

This is so true. My mother went from twenty to six. Her bloating disappeared and her memory got better.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Yes, they’re tweaking the meds. It seems to have helped some with the confusion, but not nearly as much as we’d all hoped. My brother arrived just now, and I watched Mom use some subtle “tricks” to obfuscate the fact that she has no idea what’s going on. Kris had told me she was doing this. For example, when asked if she knows the date, she’s learned the one place in the room that states the date. With Jeff just now, she just said “J.D. told me but I forgot” even though I hadn’t told her the info Jeff asked… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It’s hard when they’re so smart. One of my greatuncles hid his increasing memory loss for years with tricks like those – losing his short term memory made him need help, but it didn’t make him stupid.

Hope this transition goes well and the memory care folks can help your mom be happier and safer, JD.

Amber
Amber
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It is no different than any of us do online. We learn the best search terms to find the thing we need at the second we need it, because then we don’t have to remember it. Be glad your mom is so tricky!

Suzanne
Suzanne
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I am about a week and a half late on this, so J.D. you may not see this, but my mother is schizophrenic. After living in hotels and god knows where for 10 years, she is finally on court-ordered meds and in an assisted living facility. It’s been 2 years and she’s nearly back to her old self. A truly astounding transformation! We were lucky that my grandfather (her father) set up a trust for her care that pays the bills, which are steep. The first year (including 10 days in ICU and 6 weeks in the hospital, then 3… Read more »

Dawn
Dawn
9 years ago
Reply to  crgilvr

I was going to make the same suggestion. While she may not be able to live independently a gerontologist or geriatric nurse practitioner may have ideas about her care and medications that a general care physician, no matter how good, may not know about. It sounds like you have covered all the bases but has your mom had a recent head CT to evaluate the condition of her brain? When my mother in law was suffering from Alzheimer’s and had a fall where she hit her head she had a CT which showed significant brain atrophy. This helped to differentiate… Read more »

Tony
Tony
9 years ago

JD, This is a tough situation but you all seem to be handling it in as straight forward a manner as you can. Your legal documents and planning are a great first step. Your Mom is lucky to have a great family to take care of her in her time of need. My family went through this with my father last year; saw him through major cancer surgery, hospitalizations and ultimately through home hospice care until his untimely death. Stay close to your brothers as you work through all of this, the larger the network of providers the easier it… Read more »

Jan
Jan
9 years ago

We are caring for my chronically ill mother. Here are a few things that we have learned. It has to be a team effort (which you all are doing),BUT the entire team does not have to be there for the entire process. We take turns. We found that when everyone was involved in every situation- the entire team broke down. I fly in every six weeks- but call daily. My sister does the finances- which can be cared for weekly once they are straightened out. My brother brings in food. Another brother takes her to church. We still go on… Read more »

mrs thor
mrs thor
9 years ago

hi j.d., i don’t know if i have commented before, but i just wanted to thank you for your honesty and openness. i have been struggling with my real life lately, wondering what everyone else does…why when things look like they are about to turn up, they crash and burn. why drama just seems to crop up out of nowhere in the middle of a perfectly wonderful summer. in some weird way, it makes me feel a little bit better to know i am not the only one “going through it” right now. i am so sorry to hear about… Read more »

Christine
Christine
9 years ago

J.D. I am so sorry to hear about your mom! As much as I love to read your blog I, and I think all your readers, know that your life comes first. I’m sure your family will get through this. May I add my two cents? (I have worked in assisted living communities for a number of years and my mother has worked exclusively as a Registered Nurse in a skilled nursing facility.) Any items — pictures, bedspreads, pillows, knick knacks — that would be a comfort to your mom should be brought to Happy Acres. Anything that can make… Read more »

Jan
Jan
9 years ago

JD, This comes from experience. You need to be very aware of her nutrition. The homes/care facilities do their best but do not have the time to really ensure that your mother eats enough nutritious food. The only persons in these facilities who actually get proper nutrition are the ones who have family or advocates coming DAILY during meal time.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago
Reply to  Jan

Thanks, Jan. That’s good advice. Anything is going to be better than where she’s at now, though. She has a cupboard filled with a dozen boxes of granola bars, and they’re her primary diet. (Her second choice? Hot dogs. But she gave up on those when couldn’t figure out how to work the microwave anymore.)

bella
bella
9 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

You might be surprised by how much she improves once she has someone making good nutritious food for her. My grandma completely turned around once she was placed in a home that took care of her day to day needs

Monica
Monica
9 years ago

Prayers for you and your family J.D. Your mom is a lucky woman to have children and family who care so much about her.

Rebecca
Rebecca
9 years ago

JD – I’ve been a fan of your site for a while. Thanks for the warning that your columns might be delayed for a bit; but I’m sure I’m not the only fan who is glad to hear you’re taking care of your family first.

I’m sure it’s already been done, but has anyone looked at her medications to check to see if they have dementia as a side-effect when taken in combination, over-dosed, or stopped suddenly?

No Debt MBA
No Debt MBA
9 years ago

Wishing the best for your mother and your family. I hope my siblings and I would be able to pull together as you and yours have should my parents need it. It says a lot about your family that you and your brothers can handle this with your mother’s needs first.

dabo
dabo
9 years ago

in the song “everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen),” it was said that when we grow old, the more we need the people we know when we are young.

you also take care sir j.d.

David C
David C
9 years ago

JD, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. My father’s health is failing and he and I have had some discussions, that you never look forward to, lately. He worries about my mother and how she will fare after he leaves this world. His mother suffered from dementia and a variety of other issues that led to her demise. He has had a glimpse and it troubles him and all of us.

None of this easy to deal with. Please take care of yourself and your wife in this time. Prayers offered to you and your family.

cc
cc
9 years ago

so sorry to hear about your mother. don’t worry about the site, there are more important things to take care of. good luck and best wishes.

EC
EC
9 years ago

I am very sorry to hear about your situation. I hope your mother settles into Happy Acres as best as possible.

Maybe let a guest editor helm the ship while you take the time you need?

Karmen
Karmen
9 years ago

So sorry to hear about your mom; I wish her and your family all the best. But you and your family are to be congratulated for pulling together on this–it sounds to me like you are doing an altogether admirable job. Thank you so much for sharing your experience so that the rest of us can learn how to handle these life events.

Best wishes.

Mary
Mary
9 years ago

We went through something similar with my grandmother a few years ago. She really had no diagnosis except for “dementia” which was, as in your case, code for we really have no clue what’s going on. One thing that helped and that we were surprised to learn… my grandmother had a raging bladder infection that appeared to have gone undiagnosed for quite some time, Apparently this can release all sorts of toxins into your body and make dementia-like symptoms worse. Once her new doctor treated this, her mental issues improved greatly, they didn’t go away, but the change in her… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
9 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Oh yes, this is great advice!

I posted below about my father’s transition to assisted living (Alz) and how that didn’t go well. He was hospitalized shortly afterward because his behavior was not typical and he wasn’t sleeping.

The assisted living place was asked if they thought he had a urinary tract infection (at the suggestion from a cousin who works in elder care) and they dismissed it. At the hospital they did test him and there was an infection.

Presumably your mother has had that checked, but good advice nonetheless.

Your moms health please read
Your moms health please read
9 years ago

Hi there. I happened to run into your article. I am a doctoral student in clinical neuropsychology. My mentors are clinical neuropsychologists-they specialize in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of cognition and behavior -everything from Alzeimer’s and Traumatic Brain Injury to Autism and Bipolar. They get their referrals from psychiatrists and neurologists and family doctors who want a clearer idea of what their patient is suffering from so they know how to treat them. It is not ok that your mother is not getting a proper diagnosis-I can’t imagine how hard that is on you and her and… Read more »

Laura
Laura
9 years ago

I second this comment. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but we have a distant family member who had major dementia/ psychological problems, and she was treated for YEARS as a schizophrenic– except that none of the meds worked. When she finally got some better medical care, it was discovered that she actually had MS… A proper diagnosis is critical.

All the best to your family in this difficult time, JD. I know it is not easy. Let the blog slide for a while. Your readers aren’t going anywhere.

Danielle
Danielle
9 years ago

I went through this with both of my parents, although they were very elderly, which is different than your situation. The constant emergency calls, the lack of reliable diagnoses and even worse care options can really take a toll on everyone. For me, it became at least a half-time job. One thing I learned which I hope will help someone else. If your parent is on a variety of medications, try to get a consult with an internist who is trained in “integrative medicine”. They seem to be more aware of drug interactions. For 3 weeks I stayed every night… Read more »

GayleRN
GayleRN
9 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

While I am happy that her mental status is improved, please be very aware that amiodarone and digitalis are not interchangeable and have very different functions. Her cardiologist needs to know about this switch too. She may now be essentially untreated for her cardiac needs. Additionally, digitalis has a narrow therapeutic range and is easy to inadvertantly overdose and end up with an extremely low heart rate which may manifest as an unexplained lack of energy or a change in mentation. Amiodarone is also commonly prescribed for potentially fatal arrhythmias which digitalis will do nothing for although they both treat… Read more »

Danielle
Danielle
9 years ago
Reply to  GayleRN

Thanks Gaylern. I was speaking about the past–my mom is now gone. However, the switch was successful and she survived for 2 more years, until 90. My point, though, was that older people can have unexpected reactions to drugs, particularly small, light weight women. Drug sensitivity and interaction is worth looking into if people begin acting strangely for no reason the doctors can pinpoint.

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago

Good luck, JD, I hope you and your family continue to pitch in and help out and hope your Mom finds peace. My wife’s parents are going through a very, very similar situation with her Grandmother. They haven’t put her in a facility for whatever reason (even though that would be the best thing), so the care has fallen to my in-laws. It is close to a 24/7 job like you said. They get little help from the siblings and it has definitely worn down the family bonds. One suggestion – sit down for an hour or 2 with an… Read more »

Eric
Eric
9 years ago

There’s not much to say that others haven’t already, but it sounds like you’re on the right track. I spent the better half of the last two years helping my mother with some health issues, and you do have to do right by yourself.

Work and travel can wait a bit. You’ve got a portable job, which helps a lot, and as long as you take some time for yourself to decompress, it’s ok to step back from the rest of life to spend time with your mother.

I wish you luck.

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

I’m sorry to hear about your Mom. As others have said, it is never easy.
You mentioned your Mom’s cats- I hope you find good homes for them. Also, if your Mom misses her kitties, check and see if Happy Acres allows pet visitors. Many places allow this and it makes a real difference for the patients to interact with animals. There may even be a pet therapy program or maybe you could even start one?
It sounds trivial but you’d be amazed at the difference it makes!

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago
Reply to  Kate

This is very true. When my mother was in a nursing home (for almost 3 years) I brought my two dogs to see her several times a week. Not only she, but many of the other residents absolutely loved the pet visits, which were encouraged by the nursing home staff.

It is amazing to see even the most unresponsive patients brighten up when presented with a dog or cat to touch and hold for a few minutes.

Eileen
Eileen
9 years ago

Best of luck to your family JD and mother. My father suffered from Alz and his transition from my mother’s care to an assisted facility did not go as well as we’d hoped (though he was in his 80s) and he ultimately ended up with skilled nursing. I suppose that’s just part of the process. Fortunately for us, my parents (at my mother’s insistence and hard work) had their financial and legal house in order. I would second the suggestion to take your time with things that don’t require immediate action. My husband’s mother passed away suddenly and the 3… Read more »

Annemarie
Annemarie
9 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

Re acting slowly with unloading homes and contents: very true. My sister and I, juggling crises, gave most of our parents’ things to Goodwill, since it was easy.

We regret it now — it would be nice to have Dad’s desk — and we should have just put everything in storage until we could deal with it.

Sarah
Sarah
9 years ago

All situations are different, so it’s hard to comment with specific advice. My mother passed away last year from cancer. The two most valuable pieces of advice I can give from my experience are: 1. Ask for help, and then take it. Just b/c you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD or HAVE TO do it. If you run into a tougher than usual day and need a break just b/c, ask someone to step in. And I found both my mother’s friends and my own friends were more than willing to help in any way – I think… Read more »

jennypenny
jennypenny
9 years ago

I’m sorry you are going through this. Realize this is very common. We have similar stories (my dad died in his 50s, my mother started to decline soon after and passed at 63). Try thinking of the situation a little differently. Most people lose a parent and spend the funeral talking about how they didn’t have the time to do this or that for their parent. Look at this time as an opportunity to return some of the care you received to your mother. People also go looking for ways to serve and make the world a better place. Again,… Read more »

AnnW
AnnW
9 years ago
Reply to  jennypenny

Brilliant advice. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am going through a similar situation with my mother and have next to no help from my siblings. Ann

Felix
Felix
6 years ago
Reply to  AnnW

A place for mom is good

indio
indio
9 years ago

JD, I’m not a doctor, but it sounds as if your mother has alzheimer’s. Have you taken her to see a specialist for that? I have a relative that has exactly the same symptoms you describe your mother is experiencing. The diagnosis can’t be completely confirmed until a brain biopsy is done as part of an autopsy. A diagnosis should be able to get your mother on the proper medication needed to slow the progression of the disease. Sometimes memory loss can be attributed to reduced dopamine. Don’t give up on the medical analysis yet.

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