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. To get power of attorney, HIPAA and other caregiver forms and documents in place, contact an Elder Law Attorney.

Also, realize that her extreme level of depression and paranoia may be symptoms of dementia or a urinary tract infection, so be sure to ask the doctor to evaluate her for that. If additional signs of dementia are present, 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.

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