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Posted: January 10, 2005

Practical Caregiving

Common Problems, Different Solutions

Teri has a problem that is very common ? loss of hearing in her elderly loved one. Her uncle doesn?t want to admit he has this problem, making it very difficult to be comfortable around him.

Maureen?s question also relates to a common problem ? falling. The situation differs from Connie?s in my December 27, 2004, column, but the question is whether a wheelchair would solve the problem.

These questions from my e-mailbag affect many of you. I hope my answers are helpful.

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Dear Jean:

My uncle is 87 years old and he is driving us all crazy. He needs a hearing aid but won?t get one. He says he can hear fine and that we have the problem. We have to yell as loud as we can before he can hear us. When he watches TV he turns it as loud as it will go. When we visit him, we can hear the TV several feet from the front door of the house! Talking on the phone to him is impossible.

When he is calm we can talk about a hearing aid, but he says it costs too much and that he doesn?t have any extra money. But he has enough money to spend on bingo! What is wrong with him, anyway?

Teri D., Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Dear Teri:

The main problem with your uncle is his age, and you can?t change that. His problem also could be a couple of other things. One might be his impression of someone who relies on hearing aids. When he was younger, hearing aids didn?t work as well as they do today, and medicine couldn?t help someone the way it can today. Only ?old? people wore hearing aids, and then they still had problems understanding everything. He probably doesn?t want to be ?old? in this sense the way he remembers ?old? people. Things were different when he was young, and people tend to retain the ideas they develop when they are young.

The other thing might be that he wants to continue socializing. Perhaps he is afraid hearing aids would make him look weird or strange. Or, he might have to make a choice between going to bingo and other social activities or buying a hearing aid.

Why don?t you and other family members talk about what they are hearing ? or not hearing. Ask him if he heard something. When he says he didn?t hear it, tell him what a beautiful or interesting sound it was, or something to peak his interest. If there is a child in the relationship, ask him what he thinks about something the child said or verbally acted out. Is there something he would be especially interested in hearing? If so, put this opportunity in front of him.

Can you check with a good doctor and/or hearing aid company about the possibility of Medicare or his insurance paying for a hearing aid? If he doesn?t want to go out to have his hearing checked, some companies go to a person?s house to test their hearing. Ask them for suggestions. They encounter this problem all the time, and they may have some good suggestions.

If he could just hear the difference I am sure he would be very surprised ? even shocked, maybe. That?s when he might be interested in wearing a hearing aid.

Good luck. It is a difficult problem, but it is something you probably can resolve with your Uncle.

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Dear Jean:

My mother is homebound and on oxygen. Over the last couple of months, she has fallen several times because of weakness. She is in her third year after being diagnosed with emphysema. She lives alone and I worry about her all the time. How much would a wheelchair help, and what is the best wheelchair for a person in her condition and on oxygen? Thanks.

Maureen H., Macon, Georgia.

Dear Maureen,

I don't know enough about your mother's situation to give a good answer, but I'll tell you about my ex-husband. He is using my father's wheelchair today. My ex-husband has COPD and is on oxygen all the time. The wheelchair has helped him, but he has fallen occasionally ? but less often than before. The wheelchair has improved his life tremendously. He now feels like sitting up more and rolling around the house. I don't know which wheelchair would be best for your mother. The one Dad used had inflatable tires for a softer ride and the arms are made so they can fit under a table.

I would suggest that you talk to your mother's doctor about her situation. You may have to get her permission for him to talk to you because of HIPAA privacy regulations. If your mother won?t give that, at least you can ask about the wheelchair.

As I told Connie in my December 27, 2004 column, there is always the possibility that your mother might fall and not be able to get up until someone finds her. I know you don?t want that to happen.

Also, it?s time for you to check into other living arrangements for your mother. After you have information about those facilities available in your area, talk to your mother. Explain your concerns. She may not want to think about moving, but you should insist that she think about it. Take her to vi`sit the ones you think would be best for her both financially and emotionally. She might find that they aren?t as bad as she thought. When Mom and Dad first went to a senior citizen meal (at the insistence of a friend of theirs) they were both completely surprised. They found that it wasn?t old people there. It was their friends they had known for many years. They went to those meals for several years after that. Your mother might have a similar experience. She may find that it isn?t old people there. It?s people like her.

Please let me know what you decide about your mother. It?s so hard to know what to do - and it?s so hard to gradually take over the care of your mother. It sounds like you need to start that trip, though.

© 2005 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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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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