My 93-year-old neighbor needs help!

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I have a 93 year old neighbor who lives alone. She is amazingly healthy, athough her short term memory is beginning to slip. She is on no medication but has not been to a doctor in a long time. Her home is horribly cluttered, dirty and infested with roaches and I see signs of rats. Both of her daughters live out of state and rarely visit. I have been emailing them updates as to how she is doing, but feel like I am crossing boundaries since I am just a neighbor/friend. She still drives, but has quite bad eyesight and it worries me. How can I help set up someone to come in a couple days a week to help her out (she has Medicare). She is a lovely, warm, upbeat woman, albeit stubborn. Please, any suggestions would be much appreciated!

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Hi Elona,
My mother is in her 90's and has short term memory loss also. You can only help by being there for them at that age. I certainly would not let my mother drive a car as reactions are definatley not up to what they need to be. I did help my mum with a cognitive enhancer and this helped a great deal.
I went to this site to get the information on
I wish you well and I think that you are are star for caring for your next door neighbor.
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Hi Elona,
My mother is in her 90's and has short term memory loss also. You can only help by being there for them at that age. I certainly would not let my mother drive a car as reactions are definatley not up to what they need to be. I did help my mum with a cognitive enhancer and this helped a great deal.
I went to this site to get the information on
I wish you well and I think that you are are star for caring for your next door neighbor.
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Quite a few years ago now, my husband's mom and dad were gradually slipping into this state as well. They refused all help, and when my husband's brother tried to set up home health, they threatened to call the police and would not let them in. We ended up waiting until one of them had to be hospitalized and social services was involved because of behavior towards neighbors, and finally we all got in to clean the house after the other died. It was beyond horrible. It was ugly and stinking and dangerous. I insisted on taking a few pictures in case the one who was hospitalized ever tried to insist on going back and living alone again, over brother's objectins - he was ashamed and embarrassed that things had gotten so bad. But the nice lady from social services assured us that she had seen worse. She did tell us it was time for us to take over and make the decisions, even over parental objections, and that was something we needed to hear.

More recently with my mom, a sweet, caring neighbor like you saved her life and was the one to call me when she fell and had an MI at home and was taken to the hospital. What the neighbor and my mom hadn't told me was how much help she was really needing and getting - she kept the main floor clean, but was just bed-bathing and sleeping in a chair, and got everything delivered or paid the neighbor a little extra to do her shopping for her. We figured out later that she was having her buy all kinds of things she already had, and her thinking skills were slipping too. Not that she would have willingly accepted help anytime sooner either...

So why am I telling you this....well, I guess I hope you could go ahead and more bluntly convey to the the out-of-state children how things really are, maybe including pictures if you can get permission (Hey Mrs. X - you look so nice today - could I try out my new digital camera phone and send your daughter a picture? I know she'd love it! ) and that they might be able to intervene more humanely. We can be in denial about our own parents' problems and may really need someone to clobber us over our head about them and give specific guidance about what to do. (Hey - I'm just a neighbor, but, I visit a lot because I'm worried about her and things are really looking bad over there - I saw animal droppings and x number of roaches and the smell is.... well, it looks like its time that you will have to start coming in more often to check on her and help clean, find her some help, etc. ) If they can't get her to accept any help, then you would have the option to call adult protective services with or without their approval, or they might find they need to go that route themselves. You would not be out of line to ask her if you could arrange for some volunteers to come visit and help her out; after all you might know the state or community resources better than out-of-state children. And if she says yes, place a call to an Area Agency on Aging group or something like the Ursulines who could do things for her that you can't or don't want to. Roaches and rats, filth and obstuction with clutter (not just a little dusty or messy) are not an acceptable way to live, period. She probably did not live this way until pretty recently.

Driving is another issue. I gues it was a blesing that my mom had given up driving already. If you observe genuinely dangerous driving, someone would need to tell her doctor or the DMV, and probably that should be one of her children, unless it is to the point of needing to call police about property damage or a series of near-miss accidents.

Otherwise, its just a matter of waiting for the inevitable crisis when she falls or gets bitten or otherwise acutely ill or injured. Sometimes there is nothing else either you or even family can do. When it is a gray area, agencies err on the side of leaving the individual full autonomy rather than striving to get them adjudicated incompetent. But, in any event, BLESS YOU for caring.
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