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Caregiving Questions

Latest Questions and Answers
My husband is 62 years old. He was diagnosed five years ago. For last eight months, he just chatters and stutters. I can no longer understand him, and wonder if this behavior is a normal part of Alzheimer's disease? [ 06/18/13 ]

In Alzheimer's disease, the structure of the brain changes, including the area responsible for speech. In late-stage Alzheimer’s, the person often loses the ability to speak in clear, understandable sentences. Sometimes, the person with the disease is mute. Other times, they repeat words, phrases, or sounds. While each person is different, it sounds like your husband’s speech pattern is typical. Your challenge as a caregiver is trying to understand your husband when he is trying to tell you something of significance. Being aware of his body language and other cues may help. What is important is that you reassure him and show that you are listening and being sensitive to his needs.

How can I stop my 74-year-old mother from trying to go back to where she grew up? When I explain to her that she doesn't live there anymore, she looks confused. She also gets violent with my father. [ 06/18/13 ]

Your mother is reliving her childhood. What is important now is that she is able to think and talk about those fond memories. Going to her reality is not telling a lie; it is allowing her to live where the disease is taking her brain now.

When she says she wants to return to her homestead, instead of telling her she does not live there any longer, engage her in a conversation about the home, her childhood, parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, school, etc. You may learn a lot about her earlier days and enjoy the stories.

My mother-in-law is no longer able to live alone due to Alzheimer's disease. She lives with my sister-in-law and sometimes understands that she can no longer live alone. Sometimes, however, she insists on going home and becomes agitated when she is told that she can’t go. Her home (rental) and belongings are still intact. We would love for her to go through the house and let us know what to do with her belongings. We have been advised that bringing her back to her home may do more harm than good and she may not want to leave. But we have also been advised that it could do helpful for her to have "closure." What should we do? She is in stage 4 or 5 of the disease. [ 06/18/13 ]

It is difficult to advise you on this situation without having more knowledge or understanding of the situation.

If you do decide to take her back home, I am not sure if you will want to ask her about her belongings or if she will be able to tell you about them. Instead, you may want to ask about them in an indirect manner, such as “If you were to sell the house, what would you like to take to your new home?” or “Have any of your children shown a particular interest in that lovely vase?”

If, on the other hand, you decide not to take her to her home, I suggest that you say “later” rather than “no” if she asks to go home.

How can I convince my family to see that my Grandma is ready to go to heaven and end her suffering? She is on a feeding tube. [ 06/18/13 ]

If you are suggesting that your family is not ready to realize that your Grandma is at the end stage of life, perhaps it would help to ask for a family meeting with the physician, nurse, or social worker. The professional may be able to explain your Grandma’s medical status and help your family understand what will probably happen in the upcoming weeks or months.

If, on the other hand, you are asking how to suggest your family end life support (feeding tube) and let your Grandma pass away, it is important first to determine your Grandma’s wishes. If she is unable to communicate them, you may find them in a document called a “Living Will,” which she had prepared and had witnessed. Your Grandma may also appointed someone (Health Care Power of Attorney) to make medical decisions for when she if she is not able to make them herself.

After you determine your Grandma’s wishes, suggest your family meet with your Grandma’s physician to discuss them. If it is impossible to determine your Grandma’s wishes, you may suggest a family meeting to discuss with the physician what you believe your Grandma would have wanted.

My dad lives in the Far East. He has stage V Alzheimer’s disease and has a “spring” in his heart. There is no one there to take care of him, and I want to bring him home. Do you think that he can tolerate the flight? [ 06/03/13 ]

Please make sure he sees his local physician before taking this flight. In addition to the question of whether his heart can handle the flight, it is also important to know that with the Alzheimer’s, the flight could be very confusing and distressing for him. Discuss with his doctor ways to minimize the stress of the flight, as well as ways to keep him calm on this long journey.

My mom needs to be moved from assisted living to the Alzheimer's unit at her facility. The head of the facility says the best way to make the move is to take her out somewhere (a meal, for example) while the new space is set up by the family. Then, bring her directly to that new space without telling her in advance in an effort to minimize anticipatory anxiety. This does not seem like a very nice way to do things. What do you think? [ 06/03/13 ]

It seems that giving her some advance notification, out of respect for her, combined with reassurance and assistance from her family with the adjustment phase would be the most humane approach. Once she gets there she will understand that things have changed, but it would be very comforting for her to have you nearby, mostly to monitor and to be able to respond to the changes, and to assist her with adjusting to her new environment. Definitely make the space as similar to what she has now. That will provide some reassurance as well.

Having said this, telling her ahead of time may not make any difference to her level of anxiety at all, as it may not register with her. Also, she may or may not remember the news. And then, once she moves, she may become anxious and upset, due to the change. So, any way this is handled could possibly cause anxiety and make her upset. Minimizing her anxiety without tricking her into this change seems most respectful.

My mom is 87, and has been diagnosed with dementia. She has the need to talk the whole time I visit, which is twice each day. She will repeat the same questions eight to ten times. I just have to get up and go home; I cannot come up with enough patience to sit through this every day. Any suggestions on another way to handle this would be appreciated. Books and television does not work; I have tried both. [ 06/03/13 ]

The repeated questions are a common feature of dementia, and it does take a lot of patience to be with someone when they are in this stage. Please do not go it alone. Is there anyone else available to be with her? Does she have other sources of socialization when you are not there? Are there other family members or friends, or a local adult day center for those with dementia? Socialization is very important, and to help you find resources in your community, please contact your local community Area Agency on Aging for assistance.

My mom is 81 years old. She talks to dolls, thinks the President and his family live in her room because she has a picture of them on her wall, and has hid all the spices in the kitchen. She always thinks people come in her home and take things. She is very healthy, but can no longer cook for herself or dress herself. What stage of this awful disease is she in now? I am 50 and the only child she has left. [ 06/03/13 ]

Your mother is hallucinating, and it is not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer's. It is thought that close to half of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's develop some hallucinations that are either visual and/or auditory in nature. This usually happens in the later stages of the disease.

Because hallucinations can be caused by other factors, it is important to bring these concerns to the attention of your mother’s doctor. Her physician will need to rule out other possible causes, such as physical problems, infections, dehydration, hearing problems, or medications.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

Last Review: 04/29/13

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