(Photo via Rosie O'Beirne)
Amy Goyer, family and grandparenting expert on AARP.org, has been dealing with a new wrinkle lately - her dad, a retired professor at Arizona State University, has been experiencing some memory issues. But is it Alzheimer's? She's not quite sure she wants to call it that yet. Today, she participated in a live chat with Elinor Ginzler on the realities of caregiving. A few highlights:
Molly: I'm having a hard time deciding on where to put my mom (dementia) and my siblings keep arguing with me about it. Any help would be wonderful.
Elinor Ginzler: I know how hard it can be for siblings to talk about and come to agreement, especially when it has to do with Mom and her dementia.
If you've really given it your best shot, and communication is still breaking down, you might want to think about finding an objective third party. That could be a friend of yours, of your Mom's, or an eldercare mediator, or a geriatric care manager.
Amy Goyer: I'd like to add that I've recently been through this with my parents, and it was very helpful for me to do the first screening, then take my sister to visit places. I also made a big flip chart listing the pros and cons of each place.
Martha: My 70-year-old dad was diagnosed with dementia recently, but he's been showing symptoms for a few years. Some days he forgets how to write a check--how can I ask him to let me help manage his finances?
Amy Goyer: Martha - I have been through this with my Dad too. It's a very tricky issue. I did it in stages. You might try first just offering to help sort the mail and bills. Then you might approach it as a support - not taking over - that was helpful with my Dad. There is a dignity involved with financial matters. Gradually I took over balancing the check book and now I manage all the bills but my Dad has a separate account for his spending money. He used the ATM card for that for quite a while.
Sandy: My parents refuse to talk to me about their advance directives, funeral plans, and the like. How can I persuade them I have their best interests at heart? I'm afraid of something happening to them.
Elinor Ginzler: Sandy, this is such an important issue and such an important family conversation -- and such a difficult one. I find it works best if you open the conversation with "I" messages, just like you wrote in your question. Let them know how worried you are that something might happen to them before they've told you what your wishes are. Tell them you love them, you want the best for them, and you want the peace of mind that you know how they want to be cared for.
Anonymous: I've lost 30 pounds caring for my mom. My hair's falling out and I fear I might lose my job. How can I manage the care and not be so stressed out all the time?
Amy Goyer: If only i had lost 30 lbs instead of gaining it! HA! Seriously though over the past year and a half I can share that I've gained 20 lbs and my hair has been falling out too. It is a BIG wake up call - pay attention! Your body is telling you that you need to take care of yourself...or you won't be able to take care of your mom. Stop and make a plan for things that nurture you and re-build your strength, You are giving so much, you need to fill back up again.
Elinor Ginzler: And remember, you really can't do this all by yourself. One way to ask for some help is to get some friends together to share a meal. Make it a regular occasion, and tell them it's their job to make sure you eat a full meal each time you're together.
You might even ask them to stock your shelves with food that's good for you and fun to eat. Here's some tips for managing stress -- hang in there.
Amy and Elinor mentioned a few good resources to bookmark - eldercare.org and medicare.gov, that will be useful when choosing a nursing home, a caregiver, or finding ways to pay for care.