What can I do with my elderly neighbor who lives alone and has dementia?

My neighbor who is 88, has been living by herself, and has 2 distant cousins she doesn't get along with and doesn't trust. She has been our neighbor for 30 years, and was becoming increasingly feeble. She has no husband, siblings, or close friends. She is really alone in this world. I've never seen someone so isolated. She knows my husband from when he was young, and when he inherited his old home, we moved in and she became our neighbor (and responsibility!)

I've become her power of attorney and pay her bills. She was within a day of having her lights cut off when I took over her bills. She was unable to handle money, paid bills 2 and 3 times over a month, and was awash in huge debts from credit cards. She had creditors calling all hours of the day and night.
Her finances were a shambles and she didn't have the presence of mind to be concerned. She backed her car through her garage wall and I was the only person around willing to be with her when she went to get checked out at the hospital. And that's where it all began!

She looks to us for everything. When I was able, I took her out 4-5 times a week, made sure she had food, medicine, doctor visits, and took care of her needs. I have become recently disabled and can no longer care for her as I was able to. We found a beautiful supported-living home, where she would have her own kitchenette apartment with bath, all meals prepared in a beautiful dining room, and all the amenities: activities, laundry room, trips, you name it. My parents are gone, but I wouldn't have hesitated for them to live there. It was high-quality care and ideal for her, as she will get her medication and be cared for in a stimulating environment with new friends.

Well, she changed her mind and decided she wasn't going to go, even though she was enthusiastic when she took a tour. After all the paperwork and arrangements were done, she was approved, and she was well within her pension and SS, she just decided at the last minute the answer was "no". I was heartbroken and so defeated. Her dementia was in control. Sadly, her psychological assessment earlier this year was that she was competent to make all her decisions. (At the time, when her doctor screened her, OF COURSE she was having a lucid moment!) I just couldn't force her to leave her home, although she is unsafe by herself and her doctor has said she needs
24-hour care.

I've been working on getting her household help, but it would be only 3 days a week, 4 hours a day, which is not nearly enough. So until that goes through, she sits day after day, alone with a little TV I got for her last year.

I'm torn between doing what the doctor has said she needs and leaving her there in her home. She can't afford 24-hour in-home care. But I don't want her hating me for the rest of her life! I could never drag her out of the home kicking and screaming, and that is what that would take. I am not her guardian, or for that matter, even related to her! If it wasn't for me and my husband, there isn't anybody else who even cares about her.

I have been on the receiving end of some incredible abuse from her. She flies off the handle and as is common with dementia, has incredible mood swings and hostile, suspicious behavior often. There have been times when she's screamed at me and I just wanted to turn on my heel and leave her. I just wonder sometimes what is going to happen to her. We can't be there for her all the time. She could set herself on fire, walk away and leave the burners on, or any number of misfortunes. I just don't know what to do for her.

Should I have put her in supportive living? I do have power of attorney for her finances and she has a living will. What to do? What to do? She's unsafe there by herself, but what should I do? I'm really in a quandary. My husband supports my decision, but he doesn't have to be around her, nor is the focus of all her emotions. I feel all alone with this responsibility, and it's killing me.

Thanks for reading this. It's long but I just had to get it all out.

Answers 1 to 9 of 9
It's hunting4sanity here: I forgot to mention she is frail and debilitated. She doesn't eat and has lost 10 pounds from an already very thin frame. I can't be there to make sure she gets her medications, and she is not medicating herself properly at all. I go over there and her medicine is in plain view, but she insists it's lost. Bad situation!!
Get in touch with your state's Dept. of Aging or Alzheimer's association and see what they recommend. I'm sure there have been other incidents like this. Good luck!
Top Answer
You could be describing my Mother. The lashing out verbally to the only person willing to help (me), the already thin person not eating, paranoia, won't even consider leaving her home. I arranged to have a caregiver come in twice a week for 4 hours, which is all that my Mom can afford. Mom can't stand anyone being there IN HER HOME, and so she accuses this woman (and all who came before her) of stealing anything imagineable. In reality, my Mother is "putting things away for safekeeping" and then doesn't remember doing it or where she has stashed the missing items. Right down to forks and spoons and towels. You name it.
I just try to help my Mom in any way I can. Even if that means being sneaky.

I have put all of my Mom's bills on automatic payment from her savings account. I put her accounts online so that I can check to make sure that bills are paid and I can also make sure that no suspicious charges have appeared (since she says things like bank books and charge cards have been stolen). As long as she doesn't get it into her head to call the bank or credit card company, we're okay. (She has done both of these things several times, so that really creates havoc when she does that.)
Do you have Meals On Wheels in your community? You could try to set that up for her. Prepared meals delivered daily really entices them to eat, and they also have brief contact with another person, which can be important. I believe that the charge for this service is based on ability to pay, so it might be very affordable and it also decreases the need to buy as many groceries.
Another option, if more cash is needed, is taking out a reverse mortgage on her home or a home equity line of credit, which can be paid back automatically with monthly deductions from a savings or checking account. This extra money could pay for additional help during the week. Maybe someone coming over for 2 hours a day to help with bathing, cleaning, meal preparation, etc.
I got my Mother to accept a twice a week caregiver visit by telling her that Adult Protective Services insists that she needs 24/7 help at home or to be moved into a nursing home. She refuses to even consider moving, so she grudgingly accepts the home help. But I have to remind her of this every time she says she wants this woman out of her house.
As far as Mom starting fires, or falling, etc. I have to just cross my fingers that she will be okay...until she's not. I call her a few times a week to check on her, go over once every other week (or more often if needed), and the caregiver calls me if there's any problems or needs, etc. I am trying to keep to Mom"s wishes as closely as I can. But she does take all her anger and frustration out on me. She has dementia and just doesn't have the ability to see things as they really are anymore.
By visiting this site often and reading what others are going through and taking some suggestions on how to handle problems, I can sometimes avoid causing myself and my Mom more stress. It's hard not reacting when you're being yelled at or being accused of all sorts of things that just have no basis in reality. Definitely something that has to be re-learned over and over.
Good luck. Just remember to do what you can and don't feel guilty about what you can't change. Don't be afraid to just say, "I'm going now. I can see that I have out-stayed my welcome. We'll talk later." AND THEN GO! Don't leave in anger. Just cheerfully leave. ALSO, if you have an answering machine, use it! Screen her calls and don't pick up the phone if she's spouting off with crazy demands. You'll know that she's okay because she's calling you and she'll get the idea that you are not always available for her. You have a life too! Don't forget it.
Remember you have to take care of yourself and your husband's health and well-being before you take care of others. I agree you need to be in touch with the Agency on Aging for your region. Her other physicians and her attorney who did the power of attorney to you might be resources. Also, your local Alzheimer's association office.
I think I would place her in the home and visit her as much as you do now, then gradually cut back. Kicking and screaming? Too bad. Kids do that, too, but it doesn't make us change our minds or back down from doing the right thing. It is good of you to take the responsibility of POA, but you cannot let her ruin your life. I agree with Sheryl: contact an elder social worker and get an objective person to help sort it out. You are a Blessing:) hugs, Christina
Contact your "Area Agency on Aging" through your state or county for possible alternatives. Your friend's safety is #1 and she is not safe, regardless of how she reacts to the situation.
This sounds like my mom...@ first , when i noticed her dementia was getting worse, i suggested we'd get someone in, to help her...she said she didnt want anyone coming in, and "bossing her around". The thing about dementia, is, once you think you have a handle on it....alll the rules change, again. My mom was diagnosed w/ stage 5 Alzh. She showed some improvement, before the holidays, so i postponed my plan to move her to a 24 skilled care, for dementia. All of a sudden, her sheets were wet, eveyday when i went over and her apt. smelled like urine. I read on this wonderful site to follow your instincts and if you think they are a danger to themselves, dont second guess yourself.....MOVE forward!! Two weeks after Xmas, she was falling and crawling on the floor(i ended up seeing rug burns on her knees)....i didnt know that, but the last day she lived on her own i went over after work and let myself in...she was on the floor, trying to pull herself up. I told her i was going to help her and she asked me to leave...she said thats getting up is only going to get harder and so she has to learn how to do it, on her own. It broke my heart and i said "NO you dont" and you cannot live by yourself. The next day i brought a caseworker from the state over and she was on the floor , again. I said "see"... she needs help....she would not let us help her up so we called 911 and told them we were not sure if she'd fallen or not. They took her to hospital and Doc said she was emaciated from not eating, eventhough i brought food , twice a day. She spent 3 days in hospital(to get stronger) and they transported her to NH...(medicare will pay for amb. hospital and almost a month in NH//rehab.)...where she will stay. Sometimes, im afraid you need a trip to hospital, to get things moving!! Now i go and see her everyday, she is eating hot food, has company and is safe. Has a clean bed to sleep in and i can spend tquality time w/ her. She doesnt HATE me and i thought she would....when she has lucid moments she thanks me for saving her life. She will adjust, your neighbor, that is. And maybe she doesnt have to die, all alone. I would call the state , like mentioned, prior to my post. You seem like a kind, caring person. As soon as i moved my mom ,a HUGE relief(for the whole situation), came over both of us...i can see it in her eyes:)
I have an elderly neighbor who comes down to my mothers house 4 or more times a day asking to use phone to straighten out a phone bill and the problem has been resolved and she will have o money to pay for several days yet she comes back wanting the same thing to call sevral times a day to get her phone back on and will not take no for an answer who do you contact to help this woman she lives alone.
Adult Protective Services. You should also call the local Area Agency on Aging to alert them to this.

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