memory loss – a helping hand

As a geriatric care manager with Geriatric Care Consultants, LLC in Larchmont, NY, Amy Lazar, LMSW, works with many   families who are trying to coordinate care for an aging family member. It’s never easy. Often the burden of responsibility falls on one person: the spouse, the child who lives closest, the one who feels most obligated. Even in families where the load is shared more equitably, very few understand what they’re in for.

Among Lazar’s cases is a couple in their 70s, still in good physical health except for the wife’s Alzheimer’s disease. Their four married children live close by or visit often. The family is kind, close-knit, and committed to working together to help their parents as their mother approaches the later stages of dementia.

Though mom struggles for words and often forgets the front door alarm code, she claims her memory is good. Dad insisted on the couple’s independence until he had a fall, requiring several weeks of rehab. It was clear the couple needed more help, and the siblings rallied around their parents to make the hard decisions together.

With Lazar’s guidance, the family hired a physical therapist and a housekeeper to come in several times a week. A registered nurse periodically pours the couple’s meds. The children have learned to how to be tactful and evasive with their mother. When she says, “Why do I need a housekeeper?” they’ll reply, “It’s such a big house.” When she questions a decision to move the laundry room from the basement to the ground floor, they’ll say, “Let’s not wait until something bad happens.”

“There’s no shame in deciding that caring for an aging parent is too much to handle,” Lazar says. Offspring have full-time jobs, growing families and multiple responsibilities. The care of an aging parent, especially one with memory issues, is extraordinarily challenging.

“My goal is to help the family find the safest, most affordable solution,” Lazar says. At the appropriate time, she will assist them in their next set of decisions.

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