Expert answers to questions about Alzheimer's, geriatric care managers and moving to an assisted living facility.
Q: My wife is four years younger than me. We have been married for more than 50 years. I worry about some changes in my wife that I've recently noticed. Examples include forgetting to pay some bills and making math mistakes in the checkbook. She is always cooking the same foods, she prefers to stay in the home rather than go out with people, she is shopping less, and now she is getting short with me, something she never did before. I read an article on memory loss and I wonder if my wife has Alzheimer's disease.
A: It is important for you to discuss your concerns with your wife's physician. Either phone or send the physician a fax describing your keen observations. The physician will need to examine your wife, and perform blood work and MRIs to see if there is something medical that could be causing these symptoms. Often, a neurologist is helpful in making a diagnosis.
The Alzheimer's Association has a list of 10 warning signs. Contact the association to talk with someone about the warning signs or, if you have access to a computer, go to www.alz.org. The Alzheimer's Association is a wealth of information and a resource to families. The phone number is 800-272-3900.
Q: My mother lives about 1,500 miles away. I speak with her daily; however, I also worry about her ability to manage. Right now she is managing well and has help from her neighbors. I am looking for a resource to have available to contact when/if my mother's health changes or she begins to require help, or for me to call just to express my concerns. I cannot burden the neighbors. My mother refuses to move closer to me.
A: A geriatric care manager is just the person you need. A geriatric care manager can handle all of your requests and more. He or she can be the liaison between you, your mother, her physicians and others involved, can coordinate services in the home, put together a plan of care with short- and long-term goals, provide advocacy and education to you and your mother, and is someone who is familiar with the medical system and resources in the community. They can drive your mother to medical appointments and give you an update after the appointment. A geriatric care manager can provide information on rehabilitation facilities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and can be available during a crisis.
It is important to discuss fees and services, and to ask questions. You and your mother need to feel comfortable with the person you have hired. You can find a geriatric care manager in your mother's geographic area at www.caremanager.org or by calling 520-881-8008.
Q: My parents are ready to move into an assisted living facility. They want to sell their home and downsize. My parents are trying to decide if they should move to an assisted living in the state they live in or make the move closer to my home. Do you have any information that might help us with this decision?
A: It is not an easy decision. First, they have made a good decision to downsize, and they will make another good decision about location. Wherever your parents move, they will make new friends who are in the new living environment. We suggest you make a list of the pros and cons and look at the list. Weigh each pro and con, and the decision will come to your parents.
Remember, people move all the time. If your parents stay in their own town they can always decide in a year or two to move closer to you. Compare facilities, cost and services in both locations. Sometimes finances drive a decision and that can be the most important factor.
Debbie Gitner, a licensed certified social worker and certified social worker care manager, and Linda Sullivan, a registered nurse and case manager certified, are geriatric care managers and owners of ElderCare Resource Services helping families investigate, assess and choose medical and non-medical care and resources for seniors.
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or ElderCare Resources, Inc., 29 Gano Road, Marlborough, MA 01752, or call them at 508-879-7008.