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  • Telling My Brothers About Mom’s Dementia-Related Behavior

    Those of you who have cared for your old and frail family members know that each day brings new challenges, issues, and questions. Throw in dementia as a factor and the caregiving experience can get downright bizarre at times.

    My 91-year-old mother measures 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 98 pounds. She has always been friendly, helpful, and kind. She’s a retired Salvation Army social worker. She never swore, and she certainly never hit anyone. That all changed with the onset of dementia.

  • Old Age Unrecognizable to Many Elders

    It must be hard to be old and pretend that you’re not—or maybe it’s not hard at all. “I never thought about getting old,” said my 92-year-old uncle at the funeral for his 94-year-old wife.

    “How could that be?” I said, more as an exclamation than a question.

  • I Want Mom's Hair to Look Good

    For about two months, I have been complaining to Jennifer (the administrator at my mother’s assisted living facility) about Mom's hair. It’s long and straggly and looks like a comb’s passed through it about once a day. It’s clean, mind you, but it’s ugly. I know, I know—I should be satisfied that my mom is getting the best possible care. Correction: the world’s best care.

  • I Hate Using Medicaid for Mom’s Assisted Living

    Some Medicaid bureaucrats and state legislators have it all wrong. The commonly encountered misconception that families sock away the elder’s financial resources and eagerly await eligibility for Medicaid is a misguided perspective at best. More likely, it’s a point of view born of personal inexperience.

    I just wrote a check for $6,000 to pay my mother’s February care at the assisted living. The check for February represents the end of Reva’s money. After years of independence, thrift and pride, my mother is broke, flat broke.

  • A Reintroduction of a Good Enough Daughter

    After posting blog entries here since June 2008, I thought, for new readers, it might be a good idea to reintroduce myself, my mother, and our story. (Jane Gross, author of the New York Times' blog the New Old Age, posted a version of this entry on January 22, 2009.)

  • The Sacred Cloth

    If I said it once to my mother, I said it a hundred times, “Move near me while you have the energy to make a new life for yourself. Don’t wait until you have to move.” As many readers know from their own experiences, my mother wasn’t going to move. Period.

    It happened suddenly: multiple falls, a broken hip, profound confusion, and my monthly flights to Phoenix. Something had to give. Finally, my mother relented and agreed to move to a rehabilitation center near me. That problem was solved. Now, what to do with the condo and all the contents?

  • New to Family Caregiving? Follow Simple Rules to Stay Sane

    Rule #1: Drop all expectations of “success”; caregiving is a process, not a goal. We boomers approach life tasks as if they were projects: identify the problem, determine goals, develop strategies and action plans. Forget all that. Caregiving is a day-at-a-time effort. It begins, it goes on for some period, and then it ends. It’s a process.

  • Family Funerals: The Good, the Bad, and the Wacky

    My mother’s sister Babe and sister-in-law Dorothy died this month. I went to both services, one in Phoenix and one in San Francisco. The services were both fine. Loving and appropriate sentiments were expressed by the rabbi and exchanged among family members. But the range of behaviors, outside of the formal settings, was really the most interesting part of both funeral weekends.  

  • What Will Happen When the Money Runs Out?

    Cordelia Robertson, age 99, was recently given an eviction notice from her assisted living facility in Seattle, after living there for a decade (“Assisted-living facility tries to evict 99-year-old woman on Medicaid,” Seattle Times, June 4, 2008). She had spent all the money she had, almost $400,000, to pay for her care. Out of money and eligible for Medicaid funding, Ms.

  • Aunt Babe Died: What Do I Tell My Mother?

    I opened my email this morning to find a message from my cousin telling family members that Aunt Babe died yesterday. Aunt Babe, my mother’s younger sister by two years, suffered from leukemia for about five years prior to her death and lived in the same city as my mother, Reva. Absent the dementia, Reva would not have been surprised by Aunt Babe’s death.   

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