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How Do I Handle My Mother's Decline?

Question:

My 87-year old mother has been independent all her life. She’s paid her own bills, managed two homes, lived on her own happily. She’s a very bright lady, but she’s losing her memory and doesn’t get around as easily as she used to. She’s aware of this and is frightened. So am I.

I’m relieved that in a month Mom will move into an assisted living residence, but this doesn’t change the fact that my mother is changing before my eyes. I hate the thought that my mother can’t manage her own affairs anymore. I’m afraid that one of these days she might not know who I am and I’m ashamed to admit that I’m hoping she passes away before this happens.

I need to help her face her frailties, but it’s so hard when I’m having such a tough time myself. I have a sister but we’re not much help to each other. We live a distance apart and I’ve become even more frantic when I talk with her because she’s having a harder time with this than I am.

How do I accept my mother’s decline? I realize I’m not alone. Many adult children have had to face what I’m going through but I feel alone with this. What advice do you have to help me get through this difficult time?

Thanks.

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Answer:

Please try not to feel ashamed of any of the feelings you are experiencing about your mother and her decline which is probably due to Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia. This one of the most difficult crises that a family can go through. It involves feelings of loss long before the loved one has actually passed away. I agree that it is good that your mother is in a supportive living arrangement for now. Please try to understand that, depending on how much her cognitive decline worsens, eventually she may have to be moved to a nursing home where there is even more supervision and support services.

There is no answer to your question of how to accept what is happening to your mother. I wish I had an answer but all you can do is take this one day at a time. If her condition does not worsen count yourself fortunate. If it does worsen then you will have to make important decisions about where and how she can get the greatest and safest care available.

You are asking another difficult question having to do with how to help her when she is so fragile. For one thing, she needs to be helped to understand how important it is for her to make her final plans for the family. Much like a will, there are things she may want to say to people, and plan for where her money goes and who gets what. She needs to clarify that now when she is still capable enough to make rational decisions for herself, including issues such as “do not resusitate if she goes into a coma. This is painful but necessary. The professionals at the residence she lives in may be able to help.

Better than that, I can direct you to two invaluable organizations to help you and your sister with this.

I suspect that you and your sister are just as fragile as your mother in this moment in time. Please seek these support services:

They are:  

1.  The Alzheimers Foundation of America at:

http://alzfdn.1mobb.com/1319215825.php

They will provide you with information and lots of support services for her and for you and your sister. There are phone numbers for you to use.

2.  Alzheimer’s Association at:

http://www.alz.org/

Here you will also find local Associations that you can turn to.

In both cases you will find the kind of help that will answer your questions, put you in touch with those with similar problems, become part of very helpful support groups. You can also get all of your questions answered.

Most certainly turn to them for you questions and how best to handle things. That would be better than to  rely on anything I have said here.

Best of Luck

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