What Does Mary Say?

WHAT DOES MARY SAY?

Dear Mary,

My cousin takes care of her mother who has dementia. She has several siblings in the area, but none of them help her and they are always telling her that her mother is OK and that she’s making a big deal out of nothing. My aunt still drives and the family thinks that’s OK since she only goes to a couple of stores. What can my cousin do to make them understand?

Dear Reader,

It sounds as if your noncaregiving cousins do not have an understanding of dementia; many people still believe that dementia just means memory loss. A good first step would be a group conversation with your aunt’s doctor. If that’s not possible, your caregiving cousin needs to get as much information as possible from the doctor, preferably in writing, and share that with her siblings during a planned family meeting. It will continue to be important for your cousin to provide update to her siblings as your aunt’s health declines both physically and cognitively.

Then, all of the family members need to gain an understanding of the disease progression. This will help them prepare for your aunt’s future needs and help them understand what is to be expected. The Department of Aging and Disabilities has a myriad of information on dementia that can be picked up at the office. The department also offers caregiver support groups, a quarterly informational newsletter (The Caregivers Voice), and multiple caregiver workshops. The 2015-2016 workshop schedule can be found in this edition of Outlook by the Bay, online at www.aacounty.org/aging or by calling or emailing the Family Caregiver Support Program at 410.222.4464, ext. 3043, or at caregiver_support@aacounty.org

The family should also be speaking with your aunt’s physician about her driving. While they may feel comfortable that she only drives to a few familiar stores, there is no way of knowing which day she will forget how to get home. Unfortunately, this is often the scenario when we see those “silver alert” messages about missing seniors. The safety of your aunt, as well as the safety of other drivers, is paramount.

I will be happy to place your cousins (and any interested reader) on the Family Caregiver Support Program mailing list for updates on our workshops, support groups, conferences and other information. Call or email the program at the number or address listed above and asked to be placed on the mail list.

Dear Mary,

I care for my wife who has Parkinson’s disease and early onset dementia. We can’t get out much anymore because she is so unsteady and afraid of falling. And now, it seems that even eating at her favorite restaurant has become overwhelming for her. I love my wife very much; our children live out of state and I am feeling very alone in all of this.

Dear Reader,

Rest assured that you are not alone and one of the best things you can do for your wife and yourself is to join a support group or groups. The Department of Aging and Disabilities holds monthly caregiver support groups in Annapolis and Glen Burnie. There is also a Parkinson’s Support Group for both the individual with the disease as well as the caregiver that is held monthly in Severna Park. For information on meeting dates and locations, please feel free to contact me at the Department of Aging and Disabilities 410.222.4464 or at caregiver_support@aacounty.org

Although your family is out of the area, you can still ask friends, neighbors, fellow church members to help care for your wife for a few hours a week so that you can enjoy some of the things you like to do. Look into the Department’s Respite Care Referral Program or a home care agency and hire a home care worker for a few hours. You need to take care of yourself so that you can continue to care for your wife and your wife will enjoy a fresh face around the house.

I think you will find that several of the workshops scheduled for 2015-2016 will be of interest and help to you. Check out the schedule in this edition of Outlook by the Bay and consider registering for those that will be most useful.

Mary can be reached at Department of Aging and Disabilities 410.222.4464 or caregiver_support@aacounty.org

 

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