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Your Caregiving Questions — Answered

AARP's experts offer advice on caring for a loved one.

Here is the transcript from the Nov. 5 online chat with AARP’s caregiving expert Elinor Ginzler and family expert Amy Goyer. 

Elinor Ginzler: Good afternoon, everyone. For a little background on myself: I have over 25 years' experience in independent living and aging issues. I am AARP's lead spokesperson on caregiving, housing and mobility issues, including older drivers' safety.

And Amy, tell us a little about yourself!

Amy Goyer: Hi, all. It's great to be here with you to talk about this important topic! I am AARP's Family Expert and I've been working with families and aging/multigenerational issues for more than 25 years.

I am also caregiving for my parents now.

AARP Host: It's a pleasure to have you both here. ... So let's get started!

Question from At Wit's Ends: My father's doctor said he needs to cut back on carbs but when I try to talk about it with him, he gets really short and angry with me. What do I do?

Amy: It's hard for people who have been eating a certain way for many years to change their eating habits.... You might want to try offering substitutes that are still attractive for him.    

Elinor: I would like to add in here — it might be better for this message to come from his doctor instead of from you. And getting a list of all the foods that are OK for him would be a great start.

Amy: Also keep in mind that for your dad, he still has the ability to make choices for himself — sometimes you do the best you can and then you have to "let go."

Comment from Molly, Green Bay, Wisc.: I'm having a hard time deciding on where to put my mom (dementia) and my siblings keep arguing with me about it. Any help would be wonderful.

Elinor: Hi, Molly. I know how hard it can be for siblings to talk about and come to agreement, especially when it has to do with Mom and her dementia. If you've really given it your best shot, and communication is still breaking down, you might want to think about finding an objective third party. That could be a friend of yours, of your mom's, or an eldercare mediator, or a geriatric care manager.

Amy: I'd like to add that I've recently been through this with my parents, and it was very helpful for me to do the first screening, then take my sister to visit places. I also made a big flip chart listing the pros and cons of each place. My parents got to see the final three choices and they helped make the decision (my dad has early stage dementia).

Comment from Dorothy: I have a father who is just beginning to exhibit signs of dementia. Forgot to go to lunch one day at his independent living facility, forgot that I had taken him to see a new assisted living facility we were proposing to move him to. It's very unsettling and disturbing. I think we are making this move just in the nick of time before he gets worse and settling into a new place would be that much harder.

Elinor: Dorothy, kudos to you and your family for working through this difficult time. Change can be hard for you and your dad. Be patient, remember that his forgetfulness is his disease and not him, and hang in there.

Amy: Dorothy, in terms of transitioning your dad to the new facility — try to keep to his routines. The more you can get him into the new routines but keep elements of the old, the better he will transition. Good for you for making the move now.

Question from Jane: We need to move my mom into care (dementia also), but she is in the U.K. and I am here. My brother is about three hours away from her. I think she should move near him, but he is concerned that she won't know anyone. What do you think?

Elinor: Jane, welcome to the world of long-distance caregiving. It's hard to know what's best when you're not there, and you both are probably right in your own ways. Remember what we want is what's best for your mom. If she's got a really strong support circle around her where she is, moving three hours away might be a problem. You also want your brother to be able to see her regularly. Maybe you try one setting and see how it works for a while before making a final decision.

Amy: Jane, I can also share that being nearby does make caregiving easier ... and if your mom has dementia, she will need increasing support and advocacy from you and your brother.

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