Alzheimer's Care Taking

Real Estate Agent with (617) 388-3151 | Century 21 Commonwealth

This started out as a longish comment to Paula Smith's blog Rolling With The Punches about taking her grandchild on a showing.

One time in my law practice I had to take my Alzheimer's suffering mother to a half-day wage claim administrative appeal trial in front of a judge because I couldn't find anyone to watch her. She also had mobility problems, so I took her in a wheelchair. I put her in the front of the seating so she could hear. She went to law school decades ago, but never practiced, so at least once-upon-a-time she knew how the law worked.

I was busy into my trial, and at a break the bailiff comes up to me and says I need to do something about my mother. Turns out she was muttering comments out loud as if she was at home watching Judge Judy on TV. Fortunately she had enough brain cells left to understand that she had to be quiet for the rest of the trial. It is funny in retrospect.

People understand it when children behave like they do, but this not automatically the case with Alzheimer's sufferers. I had some cards that I got from the Alzheimer's Association that I used to hand out to people. The cards explained that the person I was with had Alzheimer's and might not behave properly, and please understand and forgive in advance. The cards were great because I didn't have to say anything to the other person that might embarrass my mother.

One time we were at Famous Dave's bar-b-que and as the manager walked by and asked how we were doing, my mother irritatedly said she would be fine if that waitress ever would get around to bringing her a cup of coffee. He said he would take care of it, and went over to talk to the waitress. Melissa and I just looked surprised at each other, because my mother had never ordered coffee. I kept my mother entertained while Melissa went off to explain to the manager that the waitress had not done anything wrong. She also explained it to the waitress who was greatly relieved. You bet I left a huge tip for that meal.

In my case I was the primary caretaker for my mother. At first she was fine to be a home during the day. I took care of my work during the day, and her and her affairs at night. As her illness progressed I had to essentially "child proof" the house. This started with turning off the circuit breakers to the kitchen, so she would not use the microwave or toaster over. It is amazing what will happen to something that is microwaved for 50 minutes instead of 50 seconds.

I had previously removed her car key from her key ring and replaced it with a different car key. This kept her from driving, since she had her license taken away, and since she could never quite figure out why her key would not work. I never had to upset her by confronting her and taking away her car key.

As her illness progressed further I could only get away for brief periods of time. I altered and reduced my practice accordingly. Finally I could not get out at all unless I took her along, which was mostly not possible, so I reduced and altered my practice even more. Eventually I had to shut down my practice altogether.

In March of 2008 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was very difficult to get her to undergo the diagnostic procedures. By the time we found out her cancer was very progressed. I had to make the very difficult decision to forgo any treatment for her. Treatment would have only extended her life a few months,  during which time she would suffer further deterioration from Alzheimer's. She would have suffered from the cancer treatments, and she would not have been able to understand why she was suffering. She would only know that she was suffering. She would not have put up with the full treatment series, so the few (maybe only one) that she would undergo would not do her much good. So her doctor put her on hospice care and she died in May 2008.

The number of Alzheimer's cases is increasing rapidly as the baby boomer's age. Alzheimer's care is very expensive with residential care running from $3,000 to $10,000 per month or more. Medicare and other health insurance does not pay for this type of care. People used to be able to use the equity in their homes for this care either by selling their home or using a reverse mortgage to pay for the care while the care taking spouse lives in it. Today's real estate market makes this impossible for millions of people. This is yet another hard done by the real estate bubble.





Comments (4)

John McCormack, CRS
Albuquerque Homes Realty - Albuquerque, NM
Honesty, Integrity, Results, Experienced. HIRE Me!

Melville,  My father is an Alzheimer's patient and I completely understand that whole scenario..Embarrassing moment, explanation to others for behavior etc.  He is progressed to the point he knows no one, barely knows how to eat and conversation of anything understandable is long gone.  Enjoy your Mom while you can!

Sep 10, 2011 03:30 AM
Bonnie Jean Hart
Home Smart Professionals-La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Indio, CA - Indio, CA
Bonnie J. Hart - 25+ yrs Exp - Real Estate - L


You are absolutely right...the economic crisis has affected far more than we even realize.  We work in a 55+ development and we have seen a lot of people get hurt.  You had a wonderful way of meeting the needs of your mother.  I went through similar situations with my mother.  She had such a good sense of humor her whole life so when some of these off the wall things would happen in her last years they appeared embarrassing but humorous as well.  Once we were visiting my daughter in Pensacola for her college graduation and having lunch at Applebees.  In the middle of lunch she took her teeth out and put them in her water and swished them around.  We waited a moment thinking she had some food she was trying to dislodge but when it went on I finally got her to put them back in her mouth.  Then there was the time she couldn't get her door open to her motel room right next to ours so she wrote a note and put it in the window saying "Help I can't get out!"  God bless her soul she did embarrass us alot but kept us laughing too.


Sep 10, 2011 04:11 AM
Julia Maher
Nestings: Connecticut Home Staging and Model Homes - Fairfield, CT
Connecticut Home Stager

My heart goes out to you!  My Dad had Alzheimers too, and our good senses of humor kept the rest of us sane.  One thing we learned was to never give him bad news.  Every day, he'd ask about his parents.  Of course, they'd passed on years ago.  When we told him that, he cried.  Then he'd forget about it, and then ask the same question the next day, and cry all over agin.  We ended up deferring those kinds of questions.

Sep 10, 2011 09:32 AM
Robert Hammerstein -
Christie's International Real Estate - Hillsdale, NJ
Bergen County NJ Real Estate


Your story brought me to tears as I was just getting ready to call my own Mother.  How terribly difficult it must have been for you.  Life sure can be a challenge. You are a good person for taking such good care of your Mother through such a trying time.  Surely you must know that someone is watching over you.  They say that we only receive what God knows we can handle and that which doesn't kill us will make us stronger.  So I bet you must be a very strong person.  Thank you for sharing such a touching story with us.

Sep 13, 2011 04:15 AM