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Andrea Brassard Answers Your Caregiving Questions

AARP's expert offers advice on caring for a loved one

My mom has been forgetting things recently (such as paying her bills). Is this simply absentmindedness or could it be serious?

Has this been a problem for your mom in her younger years? Some people just forget to pay bills. But if you've noticed this change and other concerns, you do need to evaluate whether this is a more serious problem. The Alzheimer's Association has a helpful resource online. And ask your mom if you can help her with getting her bills paid on time. Good luck!

My mom is getting released from the hospital soon. How do I prepare best to care for her? She will be with me for a while.

You need to talk to the discharge planner today! Your mom may be eligible for Medicare home health services. You also can talk to the nurses who are taking care of your mom and ask them how to best prepare to care for her. It's wonderful that you're getting prepared and being so proactive.

Both my 87-year-old father and his wife have been assessed and advised that they need to move to an assisted-care facility. Dad is willing and understands the need. His alcoholic wife adamantly refuses to even consider it. She falls down frequently and neither one can prepare meals, so nutrition is suffering. Dad will not move without her, as he feels she will die. What can be done when one half of the couple will simply not cooperate and the other is effectively held hostage by that refusal? Finances are not the issue here.

This is very difficult. Who else in your family can you go to for help? Does your father's wife have any adult children who can get involved? Sometimes people need to hear the same message — "Mom, we're concerned about your safety" — from many different people. You could also talk to your doctor about an adult protective services referral. Be sure to use the phrase, "I'm concerned."

Can the system be changed so that seniors don't have the burden of having to reevaluate their drug insurance policies each year?

I'm sorry, but this isn't my area of expertise. Hopefully my colleagues at AARP's Public Policy Institute can advise. Go to

I am in Georgia. I am curious if there are any special licenses one needs to start a nonmedical home care business.

Although I'm not specifically familiar with Georgia, in every state there are regulations for home care businesses in order to protect the public. Start with your state's Department of Health website. Here at AARP, we think it's important that all home care workers have criminal background checks. It's not an easy business to get into. Good luck.

Am concerned that not all my dad's doctors know all the meds he is on. Seems a recent change is not going well. Where do I start?

Start with your pharmacy. Ask the pharmacist to give your dad a list of all the medications he is taking. Also tell the pharmacist your concern and ask the pharmacist to check for drug interactions. Your question reminds us why it's so important to have all your medications filled at the same pharmacy. Pharmacists are an underutilized resource. When you pick up a new medication, don't automatically check the box and decline counseling. Get your questions answered.

What's the difference between hospice and palliative care?

Good question. Hospice ususally refers to a Medicare program that pays for services for persons with terminal illness. Palliative care is more expansive. It is a philosophy of comfort care, not a payment mechanism.  As our loved ones become more frail and sicker, with repeated hospitalizations, please talk to your doctor or nurse about palliative care.

What's a nurse practitioner?

Thanks for asking. A nurse practitioner, or NP, is a registered nurse with advanced education and training. Nurse practitioners provide primary care or chronic care in doctors' offices or their own house-calls practices.  Go to for more information. Go to to find out more. Look for the picture of the NP on her bicycle making house calls.

I'm a nurse and work in a large hospital. I deal with a lot of older patients. Do you have any tips for working with seniors?

We applaud you! By any chance is your hospital a NICHE hospital? This organization's website has many resources for working with older adults and their family caregivers.

AARP: We want to thank all of you for tuning in and contributing to a great discussion. We also want to thank Andrea for being here!

Andrea Brassard: My pleasure. I hope to join you again soon. For further information and resources, please check out AARP's Caregiving Resource Center.

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Remember to go to the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp.


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