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Elderly Parents

Question:

I am a single female who is responsible for the management of care for my parents. My mother has Alzheimers. My dad has COPD, and is cognitively deficient and depressed. They are in a nice facility. After 70 years they have been placed in separate locations in the same facility. They keep asking me to move them out so they could be together. I have no family support. My sole sibling has Bi-polar Disorder and lives 1800 miles away. She has washed her hands. She can barely function at times. I’m getting so stressed that I find myself withdrawing from people. I’m on 3 Wellbutrin and try to exercise, but I’m emotionally overeating. I need help.

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Answer:

The situation you are facing is among the most stressful that life presents. The fact that the full burden of managing the care of your parents is on your shoulders is extremely serious. However, it is not hopeless. There are a number of options for you to consider and follow.

Options:

1. It is a well established fact that the caretakers of elderly people afflicted with Alzheimers and other dementias face enormous stress and are in need of psychological support for themselves. This is true whether the caretakers are relatives or nurses. Therefore, I urge you to seek psychotherapy for yourself. It is not just a matter of taking anti depressant medications. You need to seek psychotherapy from a good clinical psychologist or licensed clinical social worker. Either way, the therapist should be someone who is well versed in the problems of caring for the elderly.

2. In addition to psychotherapy, there are self help groups for people like yourself who face this dilemma. I suggest you call the Alzheimers Association and ask them to connect you with resources in your community available for the relatives of patients. You can find them on the Internet, get the phone number and make the call. They can point you in the right direction.

3. My educated guess is that your medical doctor prescribed Welbutrin for you. While there is nothing wrong with that medication, you really need to see a psychiatrist who can evaluate and either adjust the dosage of that drug or prescribe something that would be more effective. Psychiatry is a specialty and should be handled by the specialist, the psychiatrist. Please keep in mind that it is psychotherapy with medication that works best.

4. You may object to this next suggestion but I will give it anyway and leave it to you to make your own decision. It is this: spend a lot less time visiting the facility where your parents are living. The more exposure you get to it the more upsetting for you. Now, please understand that I realize this is difficult to do. Most of us are driven by feelings of guilt and responsiblity when it comes to our parents. There are also moral and ethical along with family considerations. However, you need to protect yourself and you cannot help your parents if you are overwhelmed. I detect disapproval of your sister and perhaps you are correct but, at the very least, she is trying to protect herself from having to be psychiatrically hospitalized.

In any case, you must get care for yourself before you make any decisions about visits. Find a good psychologist or clinical social worker and get in touch with the Alzheimers Association.

As for the room placement for your parents, why not speak to the people in charge of the facility and see what they think is best?

Best of Luck and please take care of yourself.

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