I need help with my mom when I travel

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I'm new to this website. I hope you can help me and my brother with a new problem we have with our mother. Mom just turned 92 and last week we learned that she has Alzheimer's. I had suspected it.
I work full time as a video producer. My job involves some traveling--not nearly as much travel as in the past. Now my trips are about two days long. Sometimes there are conferences when I'm gone for one week but most trips are 2-3 days long. When I travel my brother, who is 5 years old than me, moves in and watches over mom. Lately, mom gets very upset when I travel and has been very difficult for my brother to handle. I try to prepare her for my trips weeks in advance and I post information all over the house because I know she won't remember the conversations we have about my upcoming trips. Still once I leave home and call her to see how she's doing she will ask me where am I and yell at me for leaving home without telling her where I am. She gets very angry at my brother for not jumping on a plane right now and bringing me back home. Talking to her on the phone and reassuring her that I'm safe doesn't help she is still afraid something bad might happen to me and still claims I never told her about my trips. She has always been very protective of me, I am the youngest in the family. Now she always has to know where I am at all times. I don't mind telling her where I am but she never remembers what I tell her and she gets mad at me anyway. It's very frustrating for me and its very difficult for my brother because she gets extremly mad at him and totally out of control. He said at one time he was afraid she might get violent. Most times my mom is a very sweet, mild woman who is kind to everyone. This new Jeckle-Hyde personality thing is really freaky and we don't know how to deal with it. Please help.


I have been the guardian and power-of-attorney for a friend with Alzheimers since 2002. I don't have the same care concerns you do because my friend has progressed and is living in a private home ("board and care") with 5 others with dementia and a caregiver.

What I can say is that the type of behavior you cited from your mother is unfortunately one of the phases of the disease and can be very troubling. The person who has dementia will feel abandoned and frightened when anything changes in their lives because they cannot learn anything new. It is very scary for them. You are doing the right thing to leave notes for your mother, but you may also ask her to write down in her own hand-writing where you are going and when you will be back. Since people with dementia feel that everyone is lying to them, if your mother sees a note in her own handwriting that gives details about your travels and that your brother is staying with her...it may help her feel a bit more at ease.

Also, while many people are uncomfortable doing so, I found that treating the depression my friend was facing as well as the dementia meant putting her on psychotropic medications. But, in doing that, she has regained her happy, jocular personality and has eliminated the threats of the combative behavior. She is not a zombie from medication...she actually functions at a much higher level then she had been because the medications are all in balance and she can have a good quality of life without being a threat to herself or people around her.

Sending you a hug...you are brave to make such valiant efforts to keep your mother with you. Please know that while she may never thank you, she knows how important you are to her...otherwise, she would not be so anxious when you are away.
I keep thinking that my situation is difficult...and it is.
But I have to just listen to others to realize my blessings.

Is there anyone else who is willing to help that your mother is familiar with?
Thanks for your words of advice and support. I will try having her write down the info about my trips. You are right about the feelings of being left behind. Mom does feel that way when I travel eventhough my brother takes very good care of her.

Mom is always extremely happy when I return from a trip. I feel bad for my brother, she really gives him a hard time. Any suggestions on what he can do to calm her down when he is with her while I'm out of town?

I've taken care of my mother for the past 2 years. Alzheimers affects each person so differently. I've noticied she picks up on others anxiety and this causes her stress and anger. When my sister watches her, anxiety sets in. My mother told me a year ago, pointing to her head that people think you are stupid with this (alz). I notice she avoids people that she feels are uncomfortable with alz. My sister recently has learned to hide her anxiety and now they get along well.

A specialist told me many alz patients like to be touched. Maybe you brother could give her hugs. One of my hired care givers (male) rubs her back when ever he see her, she seems to like this too. I'm the youngest and she looks for me when I'm gone. Do continue to encourage the writing. I let that slip for a few months and haven't been able to convince her to sign things now. Its hard, if you hire caregivers watch them too!
I just wanted to suggest one other thing in addition to all of the great advice posted so far. A tool that might help you
You and your brother might want to set up a nanny-cam with a recorder - or if you have the resources some of them have remote access via the internet. It will let you both take a look at what is happening and see what patterns triggers, or other factors you can both address. There are so many excellent suggestions, perhaps using a tool like this would help you both decide what techniques to use / when or give you other ideas.
3930 helpful answers
This, unfortunately, is dementia at work. On one hand, in her mind, you are still her little girl and she wants to know where you are and what your are doing. She needs to "protect" you. One the other hand, you are the caregiver she is used to. You are the one who does things in a specific way. People with dementia generally don't handle change well.

I had certan routines for my parents, and I was so caught up in guilt and other complex feelings that I woundn't take a day away, even though I knew they were well cared for by others, and even had visitors (my sister). But still, they wanted me to do what I did for them each day - the way I did it. So they were never happy when I did finally learn I had to take a day or two away. I slowly learned to detach from their unhappiness and do what I had to do for my own sanity (this didn't happen until years into caregiving).

Since Alzheimer's is the dementia your mother has, the acting out physically and even violently, can be part of that. She's afraid when you are gone, as her routine is changed, even though you do everything possible to keep things even. You can't do more, nor can your brother change himself into you. But it's likely fear that causes the acting out.

You'll have to work on yourself to detach and let go of the guilt. You are doing nothing wrong. Either is your brother. You may need to hire in-home help to give your brother support. If you have a short-term stay facility in your area that you trust and that has trained staff in Alzheimer's care, that is an option, but not all areas have this. Additional in-home help for your brother may be the only answer.

The time is likely to come when your mother needs nursing home care. You can't work full time and take care of someone in the later stages of Alzheimer's at the same time. You will need it for your health, and she will need it for her safety, as she will need 24/7 care (you may be able to hire this and keep her home. It depends on your circumstances).

This is a move that she will resist and she will get worse for awhile. But many people adjust and enjoy being with peers and taking part in the activities provided. Be aware that any changes will likely bring a downside, before you see improvement. That is even the case with in-home care to help your brother.
I am some what new to Alzheimers. I am just begining to think my mother has dementia. I am not even sure how to have her tested yet.

Do you think if you were able to take one of those camcorders that she and you could at least see each other while you are away over the computer, or do you think that would confuss her more?

You and your brother will be in my prayers. If you need to not call for a night, you may need to do that. Remember, your brother gets his break. Even when you are away your heart and mind are with her. You have to take some time for you or your brother will be the only one taking care of her. I have a great deal of respect for you and your brother!

In Christian Love,
Susan M. Myers
3930 helpful answers
Susan's statement that "Even when you are away your heart and mind are with her" is so true. That's one of the reasons it's so hard for caregivers to relax. When we are with the care receiver, we know what's going on. We may be hurried, exhausted and worried about our job and/or children, but we know what's going on with the elder.

When we are away, we reverse the situation. It's extremely hard to just let go and know that someone else is in charge and you will be notified if there is an emergency. It's vital for caregivers to get some real breaks, but it's hard for the caregiver to let go completely. I don't know that we ever do.

I hope you can hire some help for your brother, if he needs it, and then let it go. You are doing everything you can.

These cameras and other technology can be very helpful, if they aren't too intrusive and if the care receiver isn't afraid of the intrusion (some find it comforting), however the brother may find it disconcerting. Each family has to find their preference with the new technolgy. It doesn't replace human caregiving, but it can augment it.
You are so right. Even when I travel I think about my mom and I call her often. I am emotionally attached.

My brother is five years older than me. He lives with his family in another city that's about 45 minutes away from us but his job is in the same city we live in. I trust my brother completely with mom. He is reliable, caring and patient and he does an excellent job taking care of her. We are so lucky to have him. He is willing to jump in and take care of mom anytime I need to go out of town. I am glad that I make less business trips now than I did a few years ago.

I will look into the cameras.


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