Care From A Distance

Biggest Challenge:  

My mother is 94 years old and lives in an assisted living facility. My wife and I recently spoke to her on the phone. She told us stories of seeing the hatred in the eyes of a caregiver just before being hit in the eye by a ball that was being tossed in an exercise class. She attributed the ineffectiveness of a cataract operation on the impact of the ball. 

Being hit in the eye by a ball happened. But my mother has very little eyesight and could not have seen the eyes of her caregiver. Her story of the caregiver's motivation is her own delusion and paranoia. I fear that she is expressing depression and/or dementia. I have encouraged my sister, who lives close to her, visits her several times a week, and is my mother's primary caregiver, to discuss the situation with the physician who visits the patients in the facility. I asked her today to ask the physician if my mother should be examined by a qualified mental health gerontologist to see if any tools are available to improve my mother's mental health. I do not want to see her on yet another medication, but I do want to be methodical in addressing a problem that is diminishing my mother's quality of life.

Although this explanation is based on one phone call and one incident, it is behavior that my mother exhibits not infrequently in other contexts.  Any ideas? 

--Tom

Response from DM: 

Dear Tom,

Being concerned about someone who is at a distance, in this case your mother, is very disconcerting. As you stated, your mother is in an Assisted Living Facility and your sister is the primary caregiver because she lives close by. Under these circumstances, those who are closest, who can see firsthand what is happening, are best able to serve your mother’s interests. It is a good idea though to bring in another professional to give a second or even a third opinion such as a psychiatrist, neurologist or a nutritionist, to make sure that your mother’s needs are not being overlooked. It is hard to see our loved ones get older and change. It is our job to see that they get the best care that can be provided for them. Thank you for being so concerned for her welfare. The best thing you can do is to continue to keep the lines of communication with your sister open, and to remain as supportive as you can.

Sincerely,

Dr Marion

 

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