Topic Author
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:20 am

Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Thu Apr 12, 2007 11:09 am

6 weeks ago we had to have my elderly, (83 years old), mother move in with us. It started about 3 months ago when we found out that she was ill and didn't tell us. By the time I found out and took her to the doctor she had a irregular heart beat and both her lungs had fluid in them. She was kept in the hospital for a week, given several prescriptions and follow up visits with a heart doctor were arranged. 2 weeks later she fell in her apartment and broke 3 ribs. Back tot he hospital. They kept her for 3 days this time, because they had to be careful with the pain killers and the other medicine she was on. About 4 weeks after that she became very ill again, and I found out she wasn't taking her medicine. I took her back to the hospital again because she couldn't breathe and had pains in her chest. They kept her for over a week because they couldn't get the medicine levels right in her blood, and put her on a very strong blood thinner along with several other meds. The Head doctor took me asside and explained to me she could not be released unless she would be living with someone from now on. So I agreed.
That brings me to where I am now. She is now living with us, but she is literally just a shell of herself. She has lost alot of weight, her mind is going, and she has 2 doctors appointments every week. It is very hard to watch her waste away.
She is now (for the last 4 days), constantly talking about people that have passed away a long time ago. Especially her parents. She demands to know why they haven't come to see her. When I explain to her that they are dead, it is like it is the first time she's hearing about it. Should I not tell her these people are dead? Is there anything I can say that would make it better?
Today was by far the worst yet, When she awoke this morning, she was crying and telling me she didn't want to go to school. I assured her the best I could that she didn't have to. we slowly got over that, and then she went into what I can only call a tantrum of some sort. She pulled all the towels in the bathroom down, threw all the papers on the kitchen counter all over the floor and then finally threw a small vase across the room. Again all because she didn't want to go to school. My wife called the doctored, and he heard her screaming and yelling, and told my wife that he is calling a prescription in for a sedative. My wife picked it up, we finally got her to take it and she has been calm again for the last while.
I am fearing that the time is approaching quickly where we will have to start looking into a nursing home because I just don't know what else to do for her. Any one out there dealing with something similar? Any words of advise?

Thanks for the help in advance
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RE: Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Thu Apr 12, 2007 11:29 am

Almost sounds like she is suffering from dementia (but by your description...she has never had it). My grandmother had dementia, and would loose it often. She got progressively worse by the time she passed.
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RE: Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Thu Apr 12, 2007 11:53 am

Quoting Charger (Thread starter):
I am fearing that the time is approaching quickly where we will have to start looking into a nursing home because I just don't know what else to do for her. Any one out there dealing with something similar? Any words of advise?

I went through a similar situation with my grandfather, only he insisted upon staying in his own home until one day he could no longer get out of bed, and it took 3 days of yelling for one of his neighbors to hear him, since he couldn't reach the telephone to call for help--the phone call from the neighbor on a Christmas morning wasn't the best way to start a holiday, but I digress.

The only advice that I can offer is that you schedule an appointment with your mother's doctor to go over her behavior and an honest estimate for the amount of care your mother will need both short-term and long-term, so you may determine if you're able to provide that in your home. Tell his receptionist that upfront when you make the appointment in case he thinks there would be a different doctor to go over those concerns with.

It's a very difficult decision to put a loved one in a facility of any type, and if money is a consideration, a good nursing home will be able to either recommend financial alternatives or a specialist in these types of matters. We hired someone who did all the paperwork for us to get my grandfather into an appropriate facility while he was still in the hospital--someone who knew what needed taking care of. That assistance was a great relief to have, since it literally smoothed the way from one place to another, and we knew things were being done right while we were taking care of other things.

Hope everything works out well for you and all concerned.
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RE: Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:54 pm

Hi, Charger,

First off, make sure your mother's doctor knows about her behavior--some of it may be a function of her illness, and it's important they keep tabs on any changes.

Second, you might inquire into home care services. My mother in law is 91 and had been living mostly on her own until last fall, when her health took a drastic turn for the worse. After being hospitalized for three weeks she was discharged, but hasn't regained the mobility she had before entering the hospital. Anyhow... it turned out that she had purchased a long-term care insurance plan, which has become a lifesaver for all of us in that it covers about 2/3 of the cost of a live-in caregiver. Even if you don't go the live-in route, it might be possible to have in-home nurse visits on some frequent basis, which are helpful for monitoring any changes in your mother's condition and can give family members a much-needed break.

I'd probably start by getting back in touch with your mother's physician; if she's recently been hospitalized, she probably has a case manager/discharge planner/social worker who can help you. They may want to arrange for something called a "clinical assessment," which, in this case, would be their means of determining her needs for ongoing care. You might also try contacting your local office of Jewish Family Services; they provide a range of non-sectarian services for seniors and their familes, and may be able to help you navigate the elder-heathcare landscape. Believe me, if someone wrote a "For Dummies" manual for this, I'd buy it in a nanosecond.

Good luck,
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RE: Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Fri Apr 13, 2007 5:21 am

It sounds like dementia to me, but it could also be a medication issue or some other type of illness. Don't tell her that the people are dead. She's going to have grieve for them every time you tell her that. If she'll accept that she'll see them soon, give her that answer. It's really hard to take care of a family member in this situation. It takes a lot patience and a certain amount of bravery.
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RE: Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:04 am

Many pain medications (which I assume she is on the for the broken ribs) can cause serious mental/emotional side effects in the elderly that are rarely seen in younger adults. A clinical assessment, as SaxDiva suggested, is the best thing to have done. One hospital where I did a clinical said they would no longer prescribe Darvocet or Dilaudid because of these side effects.

You can specifically ask for a pain management consultation. Although you will usually see an anesthesiologist for this type of problem, it's not about "knocking out" a person... rather, anesthesiologists are more specifically trained in pain management and pharmacology than most other physicians.

If you contact a local social service agency, you may be able to get a short-term placement for your mother until her medications are properly adjusted and at a therapeutic level. She will probably need more than one medication. In a nursing facility she will be more carefully monitored. Most nurses have now been educated on how to evaluate a patient's level of pain based on physiological symptoms as well as multiple modes that a patient may use to describe pain. It is then the nurse's responsibility to chart and/or report progress to the patient's physician. Also, many "nursing homes" now specifically set aside beds for rehabilitation and respite care. They cannot keep your mother beyond her needs.

Good luck.
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RE: Help! Dealing With An Ill Elderly Parent

Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:42 am

Thanks for the replies. We went to the doctor today and he thinks she is suffering from old age dimensia. He has scheduled some scans to make sure she is not having mini strokes. She has to go twice a week now to monitor her medication levels in her blood.
It just seems odd to me that she can be fine and perfectly sane all day and then go into these episodes, demanding to know where people she knew 50 years ago are, (they're all dead). I stopped telling her they are no longer with us because I just couldn't stand watching her break down every time. I now use the excuse that they live far away and will come to see her when they can.
We also arranged today for a home health care worker to come in and help us out for 4 or 5 hours a day. Hopefully that will help some.
Thanks again for the replies.

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