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We lost my dad last Christmas so 89 year old Mom lives alone now. She is alone a lot because she's shy. She likes her family, but has no interest in social activites or hobbies. We kids are her caregivers.
She is quite healty but weighs only 85 pounds. She is a very small person, but still, that is malnourished according to her doctor. We've tried to get her to eat more but she just can't. Congnitively she seems to be declining a bit, but I notice she worries about things, and that directly affects her cognitive functioning.
The other day, as I was leaving, she quite matter of factly said, "I think I'm just wearing out." Then she said, "I know it's natural." I questioned her a bit, and the only thing she mentioned was that she doesn't see as well as my sister and I. Then I found out the next day she told my sister the same thing, she's wearing out.
Yesterday she was having trouble and thought she was losing her mind (dementia). I asked some questions and found that she thinks that her kids are going to move away and leave her alone. My sister and I are her primary caregivers. We are both thinking of moving eventually, but not anytime soon, but Mommy worries and thinks it's going to happen very soon, and maybe that's why she is more confused sometimes. I notice the difference when she is worried.
Last night when I was leaving, she mentioned she wanted to call her 90 year old cousin, and other people "while she still can." This morning she added a little more detail, saying "before she gets too dopey."
Do you think based on these things that maybe she knows on some level she won't be around too much longer? Or is she just getting worse cognitively?
Now that I write it down, it sounds like she's more afraid of getting dementia, but when she told me she's wearing out, it made me feel like she's getting ready to die.

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We didn't really notice my MIL's decline really until last year even though it's been going down for a few years. Looking back, there definitely were signs, but it's hard to know because she can be a bit of a drama queen. She'd been going to doctors thinking something was wrong, but no doctor found anything even though she had AFib, which caused some of her falling issues.

However, during an MRI at the beginning of the year, it turns out that she had had a mild stroke in 2008, which no one knew about. This could have enhanced the AFib and dementia. She'd been getting crankier and crankier, but again, it wasn't fully out of character.

Babalou, your mother sounds like my MIL, not a joiner at all and not social unless it's on HER terms. Glad she found fun activities with her friend.

My husband has been caretaking in stages. First, he would be over with his mom in the evening, making sure she had dinner. Then, last September, he started working from her house and spending most of the evening there as well. In March of this year, he started living at his mom's full-time. I'm at our house, which is just over a mile away, to relieve him when he needs to go to work, one day a week. Otherwise, he can work from home. At the moment, I'm not working and spend more time with him and her so it takes some of the burdens off of him.

She has anxiety that we're going to leave her, but then she'll turn around and want us to leave immediately. There's no rhyme or reason to it. My husband says that my presence make her a little happier and I know that it helps keep him calm so I try to be here as much as I can while I'm not working.
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Cheryl my mom and dad moved into the place near me together. They had moved into a retirement place where they lived (3 hours from me) until it got to be too much for me to run down there whenever there was an emergency. So I moved them up near me. By that time, they were used to living in a senior living place. So it was much easier for me than what you're experiencing.

Some places have "buddies" that they'll match a new resident with - people who already live there who will help your mom adapt. When you look at places, ask about that. Or suggest it to ease your mom's transition. Good luck!!
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omg, really? Yes, your mom sounds like mine: "I look so awful," LOLOL!
I just know if my mom got one on one with someone she would make a friend or two. She really doesn't read or watch much TV except at night. Her fingers are numb so it limits what she can do. But my sister remembered that she liked to play dominoes and cards years ago, so she's going to try to see if mom would be interested in playing some games with her, which I thought might bolster her confidence to just play a game and be good at it, not to mention using her brain, but more important, eventually down the road, if/when she does go to a facility, those could be actiivities that she could participate in and make the transition easier. How did you get your mom in there? Did she want to go or did you have to talk her into it?
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Cheryl my mom is very similar to yours. She lives in Independent Living and says things like, "I don't like to go out, I look so awful." She's lived there for 13 years and initially (when she was 82), she made friends with some of the individuals she sat with at lunch and dinner. Over the years, they've all died or moved out, so now she's happy to stay in her room most of the time. She never did the activities the facility put on (bingo, church, singing, chair exercise, crafts, etc). She loves to read and watches TV and does word puzzles. She no longer eats in the dining room (I bring her all her food), so she doesn't socialize that way. But she tells me over and over how happy she is, so I think just knowing she can go out and see others if she wants is very helpful to her psyche. I take her out as much as I can, just to be around young people and to see that there's still life going on...so it worked well for my mom to live in IL.
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I'm sorry to hear that Cheryl. I've had spectacularly good luck with Zoloft when I needed it. Mom took it once (one pill) and declared it made her feel suicidal. But after her stroke, they put her on it ( she didn't know) with no troubles. She's now on both Lexapro and Remeron with good results. I've been very impressed with the ability of the geriatric psychiatrists and the psych Nurse Practioner in getting her on the right meds without doping her up.
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Oh, you mean for the obssessive worrying about what other people think? Well, I personally have been on them a few different times and I haven't had a good experience with them. I know sometimes you have to try a few different ones to see what's the best fit, and I was never willing to sit through another 6 plus weeks of trying to get past the side effects and see how you're going to feel on a different one. I know they're successful when you find the right one, but my sister and I are trying to avoid that, if possible.
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Is your mom on antidepressants ? You might think about talking to her doctor about this issue, or getting her to a geriatric psychiatrist for an evaluation.
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Babalou, that's really encouraging to hear that your mom who is not a social person actually adjusted and made friends and tried new things. It gives me hope. I was just sitting here looking at facilities, and when I read a list of the activities offered, it's like nope, my mom wouldn't do that, or that, on down the list.
My mom suffers from such low self esteem that she's afraid to try new things or participate in anything for fear of failing or looking stupid. I mean, it's really bad. Today she told me, "I wonder what the neighbors think when they see me out in my same old clothes." When she says something like that, I just tell her, "Mom, they don't know it's your old clothes, and they really don't even think about you that much anyway to notice if you are wearing the same clothes or not. People just don't think about you that much! They probably just see you and say, Oh, there's Addie, and that's it!"
And, I actually did find a place that offers a trial period, like you guys suggested. That's the way to go for sure. Thank you for the help and encouragement!
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With regard to a "trial period" we did that with mom. The I L we were interested in (and since this was after two disastrous weeks in an AL where other family members resided) had a temporary studio apartment that they used for situations like people needing to be out of homes during renovations, bad weather, etc. Mom agreed in October to go for the winter, since she lived on top of a hill that was difficult to get to in bad weather.
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Some assisted living facilities will allow a trial run to see if the resident is happy and adjusts well to the new environment. My mom's facility allowed a three month stay before requiring the initial "buy in" to be paid. (Once the buy in was paid, the monthly rate was less.) It sounds like your mom is afraid of being alone, which is understandable since she lost her spouse recently. Even if she is slow to join in activities at an AL, she would still have the comfort of knowing that help was always available if needed.

Another option would be to hire companions to visit with your mother when you and your sister are not available.
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My mom went to Independent Living due to anxiety and Mild Cognitive Decline. She was never a social person and hates Bingo and activities like that. But she was able to connect with folks at the IL one on one (she'd sit in the library and read the paper, and find like minded folks that way). She was able to develop at least two real friendships in the year or so that she was there, and went to some activities that she NEVER would have selected herself (stock market club, jewelry making) because her friend was going to be there and invited her.

The staff at these places, when they are run well, know how to encourage folks to participate.
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Well, I spent the whole day with mommy today and she was fine! We went shopping and had lunch and no cognitive problems at all. So all this anxiety seems to be related to when she's alone. And she knows it. She even said today, "If I start to worry, I know I need to get busy doing something else!"
So now I have another question. If she has no friends and no interests, how or what can we do to keep mommy from being alone and isolated on the days that we can't be there? Any suggestions would be much appreciated. My sister and I are thinking about assisted living for the social aspect, but I really don't know how she would adjust. She could either come out of her shell and join in, or worse, she could stay isolated in her room. She is more of a one-on-one instead of a group kinda person, but is there any way to test or tell which way she'll go before just doing it? Or any other thing that we can do so that she isn't alone all day if she stays in her home? When she is alone, she's like a little wilted flower that just needs some water and she perks right up.
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Since she is worried so much, I would try to get her some help to relieve that. I would get her evaluated for some medication that could help with that. Sometimes with anxiety, it comes from the brain and no amount of reassuring can stop it. There are some medications that do not disrupt their normal personality and activities, but just eliminates the anxiety.
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Cheryl, one thing I realized after months of agonizing over "why"; why does matter. The big symptom that your mom is presenting with is anxiety. That and rumination. Get her to a geriatric psychiatrist and get the symptoms treated and that will improve mom's quality of life. As I said, no am out of logical reassurance helped my mom, because the "organ" that was able to process logic was damaged.
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Babalou,
Thanks for your response. It's helpful because I wonder if my mom had a stroke or something. On July 24th, something happened to her and I didn't find out about it until the next day, when she told me she was so scared because she couldn't read the calendar and make sense of the days and the dates. Poor thing was all by herself and she didn't call any of us. She said she thought that was "the end."
We took her to her doctor, who did some physical tests to look for signs of stroke, and mommy did fine. She did a urinalysis (fine) and yesterday had a CT scan.
I think something happened that day, because now if she is alone all day, she becomes really anxious about her mental state. I talked to her tonight and she was sure her judgment was going, and of course her eyesight always gets brought up. I reminded her that yesterday she had a great day. She was out and active with my sister all day long, and I talked to her a few minutes in the evening but said I wanted her to rest and I'd call her this morning to hear about her day. This morning when I called, she was so alert! She told me all these things about yesterday with nary a pause to think for the right word. She kept saying how exhausted she was and she missed her nap yesterday, but she sure was none the worse for wear because of it. But tonight, she was almost like a completely different person. I did jolly her out of her suspicions of losing her mind and she ended up conceding that it could be because if she's by herself she thinks about it too much. But ever since the 24th, she's been having days like that. Yet when she was out and about and being stimulated yesterday, it sure seemed to have a positive effect on her. So when you said you didn't even know your mom had a stroke, it made me wonder about my mom.
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Words are life-giving. I am not recommending denial, but if we would choose different words, maybe we ourselves, as caregivers would feel better, and then our patient may feel better too, even if dying with a terminal illness:
Use these words: Mom is LIVING with cancer, Mom is LIVING with a terminal illness, instead of Mom is dying.
Please do not take offense, none is intended here. Try it, to help yourself.
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A friend of mine is 83 and he's been talking about how he's "going to go" for over a year and a half now, so I suppose you never really know. Just yesterday my mother was giving me sad goodbyes, like this was it, even going as far as to tail off at the end of the sentence, close her eyes and keel over, almost like she was practicing. All you can really do is take it a day at a time, as it's just out of our control. I do my best to change the subject. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
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Cheryl, you sound like such an amazingly caring daughter. I have one thing to add to the good advice you've gotten here.

It may be that mom is becoming anxious BECAUSE of her cognitive decline, and not the other way around. I'm not any kind of expert, just my experience with my mom. We did not see the cognitive decline, but it affected EVERYTHING. Mom didn't eat well (she could only really figure out how to do chicken thighs and cauliflower in the crock pot). She stopped going out because of problems with fecal incontinence brought on by her confused used of laxatives and immodium. She obsessed over her eyes because of her dry eyes:she misinterpreted something something her eye Dr said about wet and dry macular degeneration. In short, she had no more reasoning ability and panicked over everything. When she was seen by a neurologist for a workup, it transpired that she'd had a stroke we didn't know about. By this time, we'd gotten her into an Independent Living facility and on appropriate antianxiety meds. We reassured her all the time, but it didn't really help for very long.

You might want to pursue investigating mom's cognitive and/or emotional state. Mom saw a Geriatric Psychiatrist due to the anxiety and it was that doc who recommended further testing of mom's cognition. It was a real "aha" moment for me when I saw the test results. Best of luck to you, and let us know how this is going.
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Hi blannie,
Thanks for your input. Yeah, we keep reassuring her that nobody's going anywhere and we would never leave her alone, but you know how it is when someone gets something in their head, especially an older person. It's like it's stuck there and just repeats in a loop over and over. Same with her eyes. She was almost blind but we found a doctor willing to remove her cataracts, and what a difference! But she focuses more on how it's not as good as it used to be. So a lot of the same issues and we just answer the same things over again when they come up. But our response made me feel better, because I'm the same as she is, lol. I've just been worrying so much about her the last week or two that I've got myself in a state of high anxiety! Thank you for that.
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My mom, who is 95 probably tells me 15 times a week she's "ready to go" but she's still going strong. I doubt your mom is getting ready to die (i.e. her death is imminent) but it sounds like she's worrying about things that are happening or she thinks are happening.

Can you and your sister reassure her that you're not moving anytime soon and that you'll always be there to care for her? And that even if her eyesight goes, she'll be fine and well cared for? If you have a way to ease her general anxiety, it sounds like it would do a lot for her mental state. I think it's very hard on some elders to be dependent on others and to feel the change in themselves and the loss of their abilities.
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