Mom is afraid of everyone who comes to the house. How can I help?

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Q: My mother is afraid of everyone who comes to our house. She sits in the dark most of the time and does not talk to anyone except the dog. I don't know what to do. Should I contact her doctor about how she chooses complete isolation?

A: ABSOLUTELY! Better yet, make an appointment and take your mom to the doctor so you have a better chance of being able to discuss this in depth, because unless you have Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) on file with her doctor, they will not be able to discuss your mother's health in detail over the phone—even with you, her daughter! Be aware that the reason is strict HIPAA laws that protect our privacy: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa. To get a DPOA in place, contact an Elder Law Attorney through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys: http://www.naela.org/.

Also, realize that her extreme level of depression and paranoia may be symptoms of dementia, so be sure to ask the doctor to evaluate her for that. I would also ask for a referral to a neurologist specialized in dementia to get the most thorough evaluation and treatment. Your mom can be helped and needs medical attention ASAP--please don't wait.

Jacqueline Marcell is a former television executive who was so compelled by caring for her elderly parents (both with early Alzheimer's not diagnosed for over a year) she wrote "Elder Rage." She is also an international speaker on elder care and host of the popular Internet radio program "Coping With Caregiving."

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