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Consider that mom may have dementia

Kathy Mitchell/Marcy Sugar

Dear Annie: Our 90-year-old mother’s brain is turning to mush. She was one of the smartest, brightest people we knew, but after years of sitting in her home alone, she is getting duller by the day, and it is not due to dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Mom’s lack of socialization is the greatest problem, although she also needs a lot of physical help but is not willing to admit it. I have four siblings, and we have tried everything we can think of to get her home care or into an assisted-living facility, but she’s not interested. We visit, call and do what we can, but we cannot get her to change her living situation.

Mom can afford these services, but she is stingy with her money. We have tried to impress upon her that she has saved for many years “for her old age” and now is the time to spend it, but old habits are hard to break.

Other than the family, no one visits her. She will not turn on the radio, TV or lights. Living through the Depression is part of why she won’t use electricity, but she also is suffering from her own personal depression. We’ve worked with agencies for the elderly and have had professional people talk to her, and my sister has offered to let Mom live with her, although that wouldn’t help with the socialization since she’d still be alone most of the day. We will help with any living arrangement she chooses. What else can we do? – Worried

Dear Worried: Has your mother been evaluated by a geriatric specialist? There may, in fact, be some dementia, and there certainly could be severe depression. If so, it may be time for you to take over the decision-making process regarding her living arrangements. Get a referral from her doctor, or call the Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov) at 1-800-677-1116 or, if you can afford it, the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (caremanager.org), 3275 West Ina Road, Suite 130, Tucson, AZ 85741-2198.

Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.
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