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Posted: October 29, 2007

Practical Caregiving

Finding Innovation in Fighting Caregiving's Many 'Fires'

The day-to-day tasks and dynamics of caregiving can exhaust a caregiver in several ways mentally, as well as physically, for example. When one is doing their best to both make their loved one happy and provide them with dependable care, the last thing they need is the headache of a parent who won’t cooperate or siblings who want to "help" but could, instead, have a definition of help that makes them, and their motives, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Dorene in Chicago and Georgia in Madison, Wisconsin, know what I mean. They’ve been wrestling with these types of situations in their own caregiving and are now asking for some advice.


Dear Jean:

Mom moved in with my husband and me several months ago. She has had trouble with urinary tract infections for several years, but now she has Alzheimer’s disease. She has lost her ability to understand that she needs to drink enough fluids and that certain foods are necessary for her good health. Her last urinary tract infection seemed to make her Alzheimer’s worse.

I am trying to do everything I can to keep her healthy and out of the hospital, but she will not cooperate. She insists on drinking tea every day. The caffeine is bad for someone with frequent urinary tract infections. She gets angry with me when I won’t give her tea, so I usually end up giving in and letting her have a very weak cup.

I don’t think she is getting enough fluids. She won’t drink water, fruit juice, broth, flavored water, or anything else I try. I have even tried to force some down her, but it just upsets her so much that she won’t drink anything for several hours. Do you have any ideas on how to get her to drink more?

Dorene C., Chicago, Illinois

Dear Dorene:

Your mother’s Alzheimer’s disease will get worse, whether she has other health problems or not. When she doesn’t understand what you want her to do or why she should do it, she will stubbornly refuse. I can understand that feeling because I would feel the same way if I didn’t understand.

Try looking at things from her perspective when you want her to do something. Look for other ways to help her understand what you want her to do. You will have more success if you can find a variety of ways to help her understand.

She will also pick up on your feelings. If you are frustrated, she will feel that and then become frustrated and more confused. When you are frustrated, step back for a minute to calm yourself before trying to get her to do something.

There are little things you can check to tell if she might be dehydrated. Ask her doctor or nurse how to tell if she might be getting dehydrated or if there is anything they can give her to help keep her hydrated.

Remember that a person can receive liquids in many ways. You don't need to actually drink liquids. Jell-O and soup have liquids, as do many other things. What about Popsicles? Try to think of anything containing liquid that hasn't been cooked out. Even cooking vegetables in more water than normal will add liquids to the vegetables.

Is it possible she is having trouble swallowing and therefore won’t drink much? Dad had that problem, although he didn't know what the problem was. I thickened his water with unflavored Jell-O and he was able to swallow it without choking.


Dear Jean:

Dad needs help, and there are seven of us children who want to help him. Some live far away and can help with money, some can help by taking him to doctor appointments, cooking, cleaning, and many other things. Each of us is willing to help.

One of my brothers wants to sell Dad’s house to get the funds to build onto his home so he can move Dad in with him and his wife. After Dad has moved in with them, they want to get a full-time person to help care for Dad. The rest of us don’t think that would be appropriate, and it looks like they are trying to increase the value of their home while taking the inheritance from the rest of us.

Will his estate be less if they do this? I know it sounds cold, but it seems like this is a way for them to acquire Dad’s assets and leave the rest of us with nothing when he dies. Where can I go to get answers to these questions so the rest of us can be protected?

Georgia W., Madison, Wisconsin

Dear Georgia:

With so many of you willing to help with the care of your Dad, there may be other ways to solve the problem. Does anyone already have a house that would accommodate caring for your father? Can several of you cooperate so someone would be there on a daily basis to help? What other solution do you think would work? You all need to look at all the alternatives before any decision is made.

You also need to talk to a lawyer who specializes in elder law in the state where your brother lives, and the state where your Dad lives. Each state has different laws regarding this type of situation. Look in the Yellow Pages and also go to the website called the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Click on the big blue button that says, "Public," and then click on the link that says, "Locate an Elder Law Attorney."

Another area that comes to mind is guardianship. Is it possible that your brother would want to become the legal guardian for all decisions? If a person has guardianship over a parent, they are free to spend the parent’s money on their elder care, but there is also the possibility they would spend it on something not related to the parent’s care. Go to the National Guardianship Association website for information about this, and talk to the lawyer about this.

© 2007 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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