Carol Bradley Bursack
Dear Carol: My father-in-law has late-stage Alzheimer's and he no longer knows the family. My husband's heart breaks when he sees his dad, and he doesn't want to spend his own Father's Day going through that pain. I think we should make the effort. Our kids from out of town will call, and our daughter and her family have invited us for an evening dinner. There's plenty of time to go to the nursing home to see Dad early in the afternoon. I think that I've talked my husband into going, but I'd like more insight. To me, it seems important that we visit even if I can't express why.
Dear Carol: My dad has been in the hospital for open-heart surgery. He's now being discharged and will come home with me until he recovers enough to go back to his home, where he lives alone. Long-term, his heart problem should be taken care of, and other than that he's healthy for his age. What I'm worried about is the discharge process and taking care of him after he comes home. People aren't kept in the hospital very long now so families often have more caregiving to provide than in the past. What questions do I ask when Dad's discharged?
Dear Carol: I quit a job that I enjoyed, one with good benefits, in order to be a caregiver to my parents up until their deaths just months apart. They did help some financially and I don't regret doing what I did, but now I need a change. I'm 57 years old and must go back to work. Before I even worry about that, though, I'd like to take a vacation. I've been planning a cruise with a friend, but my brother has me reconsidering. I didn't inherit a lot of money, but I have enough to cover the trip and still retain some savings.
Dear Carol: My dad cared for Mom for seven years until she died from Alzheimer's. Now, Dad needs a little help. He knows how hard caregiving can be, and with my working full time, he's worried that I'll burn out or get sick if I take on his care. He has money to pay for some hired help at home, which is where he wants to stay. He has a personal alarm and is safety-conscious. I live with depression, though I'm treated. Still, I have kids at home so I do have limits in what I can do for Dad. When I read about caregiver burnout, I worry about that happening to me.
Dear Carol: Because of repeated strokes my mother couldn't live alone, so I moved her in with me. As years went by I struggled to transfer her from her wheelchair to her bed or commode so I tried in-home help. That didn't work, so I had to place her in a nursing home. The facility was excellent, and I was deeply involved yet I still feel guilty for not being able to keep Mom in my home until her death. Intellectually, I know that I wasn't capable of providing what she needed, but when I read about abuse and neglect of elders in nursing homes I feel like I'm being directly criticized.
Dear Carol: My dad is 86 and quite healthy other than his eyes. Recently, he developed the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and needs to get regular injections in his eyes to slow the leaking of the blood vessels. Dad tolerates the treatment well, so I've been taking him to the clinic for this, but my sister is having a fit.
Dear Carol: I've been reading a lot about if it's time to force a parent into some kind of care. Your position seems to be that it's the older adult's decision unless there is dementia present. I can see that working at 70, but my mom is 90. She's mentally sharp and still likes her home and her garden, but she refuses extra help except for hiring lawn care, snow removal and grocery delivery. She gave up driving on her own, but she is adamant about not wanting to move to assisted living. At what age do adult children finally say enough and use our Power of Attorney to force a move?
Dear Carol: I'm 78 years old, and I have lived with my son and his wife for two years. I'm feeling hemmed in, and I think that they may feel the same way. They are kind, but my daughter-in-law seems stressed when we're together too much even though in the past we have always gotten along well. The house doesn't allow much privacy which may be why we get on each other's nerves. I also miss being around people my own age.
Dear Carol: I have several friends who are caring for their parents in various ways. They talk as if their parents have become the family children and it upsets me. My parents are living in their home and doing well. We've been planning for the future with the necessary legal documents, and I know that they'd like to stay in their home as long as possible but if a move is necessary, they will do it.
Dear Carol: I'm wondering if you have advice for people who are shamed by others who judge their caregiving. I am an around-the-clock caregiver and have been for several years. I love my dad unconditionally and owe him everything. We live in an extremely rural area and don't have access to agencies that can come in for a few hours so it's me or no one. I get stressed and emotionally tired. Then, when I do take a little time away, I hear from outsiders about how I'll regret it and how they'd be thrilled to care for their parent and would never complain.