Caring for Older Parents -- My Mom!

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by Peacock, Jan 20, 2007.

  1. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    I know many are facing worse dilemmas, and this is really the beginning of my struggle -- but it's so hard when your parents are getting older and need more help.

    I just have my mom to consider; my dad passed away about 7 years ago. Ever notice how older folks who seem to be doing great, maintaining, being active, etc. can just suddenly seem to age 20 years overnight? Maybe it's because we didn't notice the gradual changes until there was a crisis, or maybe a health scare or illness changed them. Either way, it's frightening.

    This past year has been difficult for my mom. I wouldn't say she's always been active, but at least she's been able to do things for herself like go to the grocery, get a haircut, etc. I never worried about her ability to do her own meal preparation, cleaning, laundry. She had hobbies -- crafts and reading. She's a wonderful seamstress. I counted on her to watch my kids occasionally at her place; sometimes they even spent the night. Mom's 74, which is old, but not ancient by today's standards. Heck, my FIL is 77 and he still runs a mile at the health club 3 times a week! And goes on dates! :dance:

    Mom's always been healthy -- not in terrific shape, heck she's never ever been in terrific shape, always pretty sedentary, but no major health problems. Two years ago she had clogged carotid arteries and needed surgery for that, got through it, seemed a little weaker and slower after, but appeared to be recovering OK. Even now the doctor isn't saying there's anything big to worry about, just high blood pressure, which is normal at her age. She's also a heavy smoker and by now I know darn well there's no way she's ever going to quit despite our nagging, so we just have to cope.

    The past year, though, she's been severely restricted in her activities, saying she's dizzy all the time. Thought it was her eyeglasses, got 2 different exams and glasses, and it wasn't that. She does have bad eyes, had glaucoma and cataracts, but had it taken care of to the point where the doctors say she can see well enough to drive still. Thought it was the blood pressure, took meds, got it down -- not that. Thought it was an inner ear problem -- not that. Thought it was the *meds* she was taking for the blood pressure, may be part of it, but she needs them!

    I suspect she just doesn't exercise enough or eat well, and therein lies my dilemma.

    My mom needs me. I try to stop by at least once a week to bring her groceries (I balked at this at first, figuring that if she got into the habit of having me do her errands she'd never get back out to do it herself...tough love kind of thing where I've actually told her no when she asked...but nowadays I really don't want her driving anymore.) and to take her out to lunch. But I don't always make that goal. I get busy with work, the kids' activities and housekeeping.

    I also think she needs me to FEED HER. Left to her own devices, she will live on candy, cheese, and peanut butter. I keep telling myself I should make her freezer meals and deliver them weekly, if only setting aside one extra portion of the meals my family eats. But mom is very picky, always has been. I suspect she'd thank me profusely and then dump them out in the trash a week later, saying she just wasn't ever in the mood to eat them and worried they might have gone bad since she waited too long. She's like that. :shrug:

    Mom eats great at my house, but she lives 30 minutes away so bringing her here for meals every day is not practical, even if she'd agree to come that often, which she wouldn't.

    Mom won't even consider moving into our house with us because her mother lived with us when I was growing up and it was HORRIBLE. That was because her mother hated my father and was a dreadful, bitter woman. My mom likes my husband and is not an unpleasant person in the least. Mom says she's afraid she'll turn into her mother if she lives with us. I understand her fear, but I'm sure she won't. OTOH my mom does drive me crazy for other reasons, not the least of which is the fact I cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke. She's also an extremely virulent procrastinator. "Oh, sit down and rest, you can do that work tomorrow." :rolleyes: I'd never get anything done. :p

    Mom's always been good about going to the doctor when there's a problem because she wants to take care of herself and stick around to watch her grandkids grow up! And because she knows I need her too! We can get on the phone and talk for hours about anything and everything, I ask her help on things, I do need her. But she's not like that anymore. She'll cancel appointments she's made because "she got to thinking about it and didn't want to put me out." :flame: Now my DH stopped by her place today -- he works in her neighborhood and sometimes stops by on his way home, what a guy -- he says she's got a horrible rash on one hand and arm. She said it'd been there for a week; this is the first I've heard of it and I talked to her on the phone three days ago. He asked her what the doctor said and she just kind of changed the subject.

    I am at a loss. I'm not ready for this, but I guess life happens whether you're ready or not. :(
     
  2. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

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    Is there any way you can get an attendant to visit with her for even just an hour a day?

    FIL complains that he doesn't need "minders", but the attendant service we have coming in to help FIL is wonderful. There are decent meals fixed. Medications are checked up on. The house is kept up. Someone is there to help run errands and get him to appointments when I can't be in 2 places at once. Most important, there's an outside set of eyes and ears to clue Husband and me into little things that might be "off" that we wouldn't notice. At this point, I don't know what we'd do without them.

    This one's hard.
     

  3. tamsam

    tamsam Well-Known Member

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    Do you have meals on wheels in your area? Maybe if you and your husband sat down and talked with your Mom and explain how much nicer it would be if she moved in with you or even into an apartment close to you. My Mom was only 20 minutes from me and I was lucky enough to be able to go sit with her everyday and take care of her. Two of my sisters and one brother lived next to her but they worked so the daytime was my time. We too her camping with us when she was able before she got sick and enjoyed every minute of time I spent with her. I tried to get her to move in with us but she wouldn't leave her home which she had been in for 50 years. We did manage t`
     
  4. tamsam

    tamsam Well-Known Member

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    Do you have meals on wheels in your area? Maybe if you and your husband sat down and talked with your Mom and explain how much nicer it would be if she moved in with you or even into an apartment close to you. My Mom was only 20 minutes from me and I was lucky enough to be able to go sit with her everyday and take care of her. Two of my sisters and one brother lived next to her but they worked so the daytime was my time. We too her camping with us when she was able before she got sick and enjoyed every minute of time I spent with her. I tried to get her to move in with us but she wouldn't leave her home which she had been in for 50 years. We did manage to keep her at home except for the last two days she lived. To this day I cherish the days and talks we had together. Good luck with your Mom in what ever you do. Sam
     
  5. townmouse

    townmouse Well-Known Member

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    Can you convert or add on or build, to make an apartment for her at your place? With bathroom and kitchenette. So she could feel independent and not have to worry about actually living 'with' you. But then you'd see her daily, could help with meals, etc.

    It sounds like she worries about bothering you, and you have a good relationship. You could probably work out ground rules and boundaries so that neither felt they were imposing.
     
  6. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    DH can be so sweet -- he has plans for this! He's talked about converting our 2-car garage into living space for my mom, as it's on the lower level of our bi-level and therefore would give her easy entry and some privacy, moving the washer/dryer out of the laundry room / half-bath next to the garage and putting a shower in that space.

    Mom was talking about it the other day and told me that if the time comes she can't live alone anymore, she wants to go to a nursing home, not to live with us.

    I told her that if she needed true *nursing* care, fine -- I'm not cut out for it! Sounds selfish, but truly I'm not. But as long as she could care for herself and all she needed was someone to cook and shop and keep an eye out, why not go with DH's idea? In the true style of a warmhearted mom she acknowledged that was true, DH's idea was nice, but switched to the "but you really don't know what you're getting into and I know better than you do" attitude. :rolleyes: How can I fight that?
     
  7. the mama

    the mama loves all critters Supporter

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    There is an imune syndrome that starts with a rash. Get her to the doctor pronto.
     
  8. wombatcat

    wombatcat Well-Known Member

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    Hi,
    I have posted about this topic before, and you are absolutely right about a parent seeming to age 20 years all of a sudden! My mom is 77. When she was 74, she was still taking the bus every day (she never learned how to drive) and walking at least a half mile every day. She was doing her own shopping and for the most part, doing fairly well, although she did have some "quirks", but they didn't interfere with her day to day life, really....anyhow, one day when she was 75, I popped in for a visit (I lived 90 miles away at the time, but happened to be in the neighborhood) and she couldn't remember how to work the light switch :Bawling: And she told me that her washing machine was broken (when I went to check, it was fine, apparently she couldn't remember how to work it)....so we went to the hospital, it was a bladder infection. It was her first health problem except for high blood pressure that she had had in almost 40 years. She was hospitalized for 4 days and when she got home, she had a nurse come for a few days then she was "fine". A couple of months later the same thing happened again, but in addition to not remembering how to work the lights, she couldn't work the phone and was hollering out her front door for help (she lived on a busy street in an urban area, so this was not wise or safe!) So we went off to the hospital again, and they couldn't determine the cause this time, but they kept her for a couple of days and did some cognitive tests and told me that "with her dementia, she should be in assisted living". And I heard "She's going downhill and needs to be in a NURSING HOME". And I said no, I won't do that. They gave us a book with different assisted living places in it, but they were all so expensive, $3,000-$4,000 a month....and I still thought that they were really just a "fancy" nursing home....Moving into our house was going to be a tough one, because we only have a 2 bedroom house for DH and I and 13 year old, and both DH and I work, so she would still be alone there a lot. And she kept saying she didn't want to be a burden on us.....We looked into Home Instead Senior Care. They are a national firm, I believe, and have a companion who can do whatever is needed--stay overnight, cook meals, provide company, do housework, etc. But it was going to cost about $4000 a month to have them come for 12 hours a day, and my mom would still be alone for 12 hours :Bawling: We didn't know what to do, but it was apparent that with her not being able to work the phone, something had to be done....first, we signed her up for Meals on Wheels, and she liked that, but it was only one meal on weekdays, and they didn't come on weekends, so I still had to make sure she ate on weekends....I had no idea she wasn't eating right until I really started spending huge amounts of time over there.
    The meals on wheels helped, but what really helped was that we found an assisted living place near my house (only 4 miles away) and DH and I went to visit. It was amazing. She has a 2 bedroom apartment all to herself. She can have her cat there. She gets 3 meals a day and they also do her housework. They can make sure medications get taken appropriately (my mom doesn't yet need this service but it exists) There is a nurse there every day, and the "helpers" are nursing assistants. In my small town, there are no jobs, so the expected turnover with the "helpers" never materializes. The facility is connected to the local nursing home via a breezeway, and so she also has access to the beauty salon there, which just thrills her!!! I don't think any of us realized how isolated she had become until we had the opportunity to present her with more.....And so we were suitably impressed, especially when we learned that the cost of all this was only $1795/month. What we did was suggest that my mom "try" it out for a month or two and see if she liked it or not, and if not, we would move her back home and figure out a different solution. We promised not to sell her house or anything until she was sure she was ok. (We would never just make her go someplace she didn't want to go, we would find a solution that would work for all of us)...My mom has been there a year now. She just loves it. I asked her if she has any regrets. She says "I should've done this years ago!" She comes and goes as she pleases. She can have overnight guests if she wants, it's just a regular apartment except with meals and "helpers". And it is so much closer to me, I am just amazed at how it has all worked out so far....I can "pop" in there to check on her any old time, because she's so close by....and if I'm at work, I can have DH check on her or whatever....and I know also that the "helpers" have gotten to know my mom and will call me if anything seems out of the ordinary....I hope she can stay there for the rest of her life. But if she can't, she is already familiar with the nursing home and she knows some of the residents there, too, so she knows it's not a terrible place either....I don't know if this will help you or not, but it really has helped us do what was best for my mom without feeling too guilty...I feel for you and your DH, this has been the hardest two years of my life.....and, like you, I know the journey is just beginning, but I'm not ready....MY MOM WASN'T SUPPOSED TO GET OLD!!!!! :help:
     
  9. DixyDoodle

    DixyDoodle stranger than fiction

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    I would make sure your mom gets her blood suger checked (for diabetes) and also have her heart checked. Dizziness can be a symptom of both.

    I can understand what you are going through. My mother is 85 and until late last year was very independent. My sister would take her out for groceries once a week, and mom went out for coffee every day with friends. Then she took a bad spell (we think a small stroke) and another month or so later, fell and ended up in the hospital. She is now on the palliative care ward in the hospital and is on a waiting list for a nursing home. She went down so fast, it was scary.

    It's hard to see a parent lose their independence. It's especially hard when they don't want to admit they need help with everyday things. All you can do is help out and hope they understand when you tell them they need extra care.

    There is also another possibility with your mom: that she has some hardening of the arteries, and it may affect her thinking a little bit. Nothing major, you understand, but things like "just eating candy" when she should know better or letting injuries go may be a symptom of that....or maybe it's just that she is like my mom: eating things she shouldn't because "I'm old anyhow" and because "at least I'll die happy" (forgetting that maybe she won't die, just have a stroke or something) and ignoring injury because she is afraid the doctor might find something else seriously wrong with her. Some people just don't want to admit to weakness or don't want to be "babied" because then that means they are "elderly". Perhaps your mother has other symptoms she hasn't mentioned, and since she is a heavy smoker, she might also be afraid of being diagnosed with cancer.

    I can only tell you what I would do (and did do with my own mother): we spoke to the doctor (without her knowledge, because otherwise she would deny being ill at all) before her visit and told him we were concerned. He made notes on things he should check on, but obviously since she was fully independent at that time, could not tell us about what he found. But at least we knew he would check it out.

    My sister now has POA and we know everything about Mom's health issues. There were way more than we suspected, and of course, Mom kept most of that to herself because she wanted to keep the impression of "being strong". She is very big on denial, too.

    So I would just try to keep close to your mom and get her as much help as she will accept. Make sure she visits the doctor. Find resources in the area that cater to older people (there are usually access centers in the phone book, under "senior services" or something similar). Most people at the forum here are very good for advice, too, so I would just ask away if you need to. I'm sure you will get some great tips in caring for your mom.

    Good luck and take care! :angel:

    DD
     
  10. suzfromWi

    suzfromWi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Your mom sounds like a very warm thoughful women. She might fear that if she lived with you, your warm relationship would end and you would become annoyed with her. That could very well be true. We never want our kids to become our mothers. Assisted living sounds good if there was one closer to you. Your husband is a keeper.....
     
  11. Ninn

    Ninn Custom Crochet Queen

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    I feel your fear coming through this post in waves. How do our parents get old when we are not looking? My mother is 56 and an active minister with 2 churches to be responsible for. She is also foster mom to an extremely active teenage boy. Recently, she mentioned that she can no longer walk much at all because her ankles are collapsing inward and the specialist can't even find a reason. They think it is related to her fibromyalgia, but cannot be sure. All of a sudden, my mom is using the scooters for old people at the store. My stepdad is doing all the housework because she just can't anymore. She is preaching from a stool because she can't stand up that long. I am the only child my mother has left in this area. Thank goodness my stepdad is there, because she lives over an hour away. If anything happened to her, it would take too long to get there. I have a dear friend here that fills in as my "mom away from mom", and worry for her all the time, too. Yesterday, for just a minute, she looked like my gramma. How did these people get old when I wasn't looking? What am I going to be able to do to help them like they helped me? It scares the daylights out of me just thinking about it. I will pray for you and for your mom, that you will find a solution that works for you all. Good luck to you.
     
  12. DixyDoodle

    DixyDoodle stranger than fiction

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    I agree with this. Before my own mother took a bad spell, we kept asking her if she would like to think about moving in with one of us, but she said "no way!". Can't say as I blame her, as I wouldn't do that myself. I would feel like a fifth wheel, and that my family was taking me in because they were "obligated" to. And my mother was way too independent for that.

    Now that she is in the hospital awaiting transfer to a nursing home, I find it exactly as you say: the child becoming the parent. I help dress my mother, spoon-feed her, hold a straw for her to drink tea from, and yes, even change incontinence pants. I can't begin to describe how odd that makes me feel, and sad. :( It is almost a blessing that sometimes her thought processes are not as they used to be; to think that she might be the same independent person inside that she was before and to be trapped in that body, is an unbearable thought.

    But fortunately for this poster, she is hardly in such a situation. If at all possible, if it is a healthy and wise choice, allowing a parent to live independently is always a better option.

    DD
     
  13. suzfromWi

    suzfromWi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A word to the wise for all you younger people that have older parents. I am one of the olders and I can tell you this. My heart is still young. I am still 30 inside. I dont feel old inside and I need to feel that I am still capable of making good decisions and handling my life. If you have a parent that DOES need help please remember not to treat them as if they were a child. Give them some say in their own lives. One day you too will be where we are. yesterday we were your age........Its all about respect....Thank you, suz
     
  14. GoatsRus

    GoatsRus TMESIS

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    Wow, this is all starting to scare me. My dad passed away over 14 years ago from colon cancer (not a pretty sight), anyway, my Mom is living by herself up north. She's 85. She still volunteers once a week at the hospital, wheeling patients (some 1/2 her age) to be checked in and out. She goes bowling every so often and takes care of her "younger" sisters when she can and helps out with my brothers kids. I try to get her down here at least twice a year. She's coming in April and only promised to stay 2 weeks if I would have something for her to do while she's here. Right now she wants to paint 2 of my bedrooms and my dining room. This is how I still see her....very active and helpful. I know she forget things and repeats some of the same stories, but I do that for heaven sakes. I just don't know what I'll do when she has reverted to "back to the child stage" and will need us more than she does now. God bless you all.
     
  15. OK Yankee

    OK Yankee Well-Known Member

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    It is very hard and upsetting to see your parent become a child. My Mother (who lives with us) turned 89 this month. Right after Thanksgiving, she couldn't talk one night whenI went into her room to tell her good-night. Couldn't form words or anything, just giberish. Off to the emergency room we go, they said she had a bladder infection and kept her there. On the second day I told her doctor I wanted the rails up on the bed, his response was "we can't do that, that constitutes restraint". I told him in no uncertain terms I didn't care for many government regulations and I wanted the rails up. He said he would make a note of it on her chart. That night Mother tried to get up and go to the bathroom and fell out of bed. The dippity do nurse that was on duty was more concerned with her hair than my Mother. They called and we went to the hospital. They had put her back in bed with just a big bandage on her forehead. There was blood all over her, the bed, her hands, etc. There wasn't much talking as WE changed the sheets, her nightgown and the blankets. They knew they were wrong and I was mad. She stayed in the hospital for a week while I made arrangements to put her in a nursing home. The nursing home stay lasted 3 days. In both of these places, they would put the food on the bedside table and leave. If I didn't go there 2 or 3 times a day, she wouldn't have been fed. Finally, I told them that it wasn't working out for either one of us, and took her home. In the space of 2 weeks, she went from being able to take care of herself to an invalid. I bathe her, feed her, move her in a wheelchair, and basically do everything for her. I'm still not convinced that she didn't have a small stroke, but they didn't do anything for her. She got some antibiotics in the hospital and that was it.

    I guess the bottom line is that there comes a time when the scales tip backwards. You have to become the parent. Sometimes it is quick and sometimes it is very gradual, but it happens.

    I also have 2 brothers that don't live close, and my husband works away. I do have a neice-in-law that comes down here so I can go to the p.o. and some shopping but it is definately difficult. You just have to do whatever it takes.

    On a much lighter note (maybe) my daughter that lives 65 miles away says she is taking notes on how I take care of my Mother so she will know how to do it! That's scary!

    Yankee
     
  16. jassytoo

    jassytoo Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My MIL has spent awhile in an assisted living place while recovering from a hip replacement. She looks about 10 years younger than she did. Even though she does still have a part time job ( actually at the home she's in now ), I think having no responsibilities has done her a world of good. No bills to pay, no trying to keep up a house thats too big, no clutter to put your nerves on edge and good cooked meals. She's enjoyed the company too, she must have been lonely at times although she would never admit it. I wish she would consider moving in there but she probably won't. Its a pity but the constant stress of trying to keep up a big home and garden must be hard. We do help her but we can't afford to keep up 2 homes either in money or labor. Plus she's a hoarder of stuff and is always shopping for more and would never give anything up. Thats why she bought a 4 bedroom home in the first place. I guess all we can do is help when we can and keep an eye on her. She certainly won't take advise from us. Your mom might enjoy a place like that. My MIL has a lovely little one bedroom appartment. It has a kitchen so she can cook for herself if she wants to. Its warm and bright and secure and there's lots to do.
     
  17. ovendoctor

    ovendoctor north of the lift bridge

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    yep we are there to, dad is in a nursing home and mom moved in with us
    she had a bad go round at home ended up in the critical care unit in Ky.
    got her some wat on her feet and took her back to Mi. with us
     
  18. Karen

    Karen Well-Known Member Supporter

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    AMEN suz!! It isn't that we "become children", but rather that our bodies don't work any more. Mentally (unless you have severe dementia) may also not be as quick as it once was, but it still works and our hearts still feel dignity, sorrow, and joy. If children would remember that about their parents, it would truly prevent situations where one or the other resent the aging process as much. It isn't easy to be an active independent person your whole life to suddenly find you have to depend on others. It doesn't however mean you now should be considered a child, nor should you be treated as one. Sometimes much of the childish behavior from the elderly is simply missing what you once were able to do and being depressed by the loss of your independence.

    Remember also that independence gets ripped from you little by little. You can see it coming in waves and each wave is a little harder to accept than one before -- until all you owned, worked for, hoped and dreamed for is only a memory. It's hard to give it all up and depend on others!

    I sure can relate to still feeling 30 in my head. Gosh, some days I look in the mirror and wonder who in the heck that old lady is looking back at me!! :shrug:
     
  19. tallpines

    tallpines Well-Known Member

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    I'm in the "over 60" stage.
    My parents are both alive...80 and 86.

    My fear is that I will not be healthy enough to give them the extra care when they may need it.

    They are 3 hours away from me and my only sibling is 1500 miles away.

    I just pray that God will guide me through whatever needs to be done when the circumstances require some changes.
    They have been living in the same home for the past 54 years.
    Mother uses a push mower to cut the 1/2 acre lawn and climbs a ladder to clean out the eves.
    But time is taking its toll on all of us.

    I admire those of you who are taking care of your folks at home.
    I don't think I have the strenght and energy to do the lifting and all that might be required in caring for an elderly person.

    Your parents are lucky to have such wonderful children.
     
  20. DixyDoodle

    DixyDoodle stranger than fiction

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    Your mother is lucky. In Canada, it is not free to be in a rehab facility or hospital for very long. Where we are, it costs $50 a day after a month's or so stay in the hospital, same as the nursing homes. And there are sometimes still bills to pay. My mother racked up thousands in credit card bills and until when and if we can get a "compassionate write off", she is required to pay them. Not sure how she can manage that since the $50 a month takes up her whole pension. :( And the credit company will get their money how? She has no valuable possessions, and she is hardly a candidate for prison. Filing for bankruptcy costs $1400.
    Nursing staff has a problem with this, I note. I find a lot of them speak to my mother like she is a child: "oh, isn't she sweet?" or "isn't she precious?" Many don't even try to pretend that she understands anything, and speak to her accordingly. Ug, I would hate that if it were me.

    Now on the other hand, my mother's brain cancer is slowly advancing and her thoughts are sometimes jumbled and confused. So sometimes you do have to simplify things and remind her.....but for heaven's sake, I wish the nursing staff would give incapacitated people some credit for having a semblance of intelligence. :flame:

    suz, I'm afraid, though, that sometimes the way things turn out, you do end up treating your parent as a child in some ways: spoonfeeding them, changing their incontinence pants, explaining things over and over, the similarities are startling.....but I agree that it doesn't give others the go-ahead to be patronizing or to assume they are totally devoid of mental capacity.