I’m the niece of a 91-year-old man who lives alone with his 87-year-old-wife. In the past few weeks, my uncle has shown severe mental status changes and weakness, sleeping all day. He has stopped taking all his medications. He is suddenly very weak and out of breath (just a month ago he was fine—perhaps quite forgetful but not confused like now—and he was able to walk easily). The problem is, my elderly aunt does not want anyone (not even her daughters) to take over her role as a caretaker and decision maker. She has it in her head that he has Alzheimer’s, although he was never tested. He is also fairly deaf. It could be anything. I finally convinced her to call 911 last week, but she said the medics took his vitals (which were normal) and didn’t take him. I don’t know what to do.

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Does Uncle have an Advanced Directive?

Perhaps "no treatment, decline and die at home" is what he wants?

Might she agree to have a Hospice provider come and see him? Agree to comfort care?

ERs and hispitals are terrible for elderly folks. Consider asking if she will call his doc to have a visiting nurse come to see him.
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lealonnie1 May 2021
That's true! Maybe he wants to die at home, I didn't think of that.
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Either the paramedics came and found nothing of urgency wrong with your uncle, or, your aunt is lying & she never called 911 in the first place. Short of you calling 911 yourself from your aunt's phone & waiting for the paramedics to show up & examine your uncle themselves, I don't know what else you can do in this situation. What do the daughters have to say? If this were my father, I'd barge into the house and call 911 myself if I witnessed my father short of breath & suddenly weak & out of sorts, but I'm an in-your-face sort of person. I would not let my mother stand in the way of necessary care for my father. But you are the niece; maybe call the daughters and then you can march over there together and present a united front to your aunt. Then you can load him up in the car yourselves and drive him over to the ER if you deem it necessary. Why does your aunt think it's okay that he stopped taking all of his medications?? Does she not realize and acknowledge that SOMETHING is wrong here? Perhaps she herself suffers from dementia of some kind, leading her to ignore a potential medical crisis.

Sorry you are in such a tough situation and that your aunt wants to self-diagnose her husband. Best of luck!
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Adelee May 2021
Thanks so much for your concern and reply. Every one in the family has always been “afraid” of my aunt (including her adult children) who is a very controlling woman and will shut you out if you cross her. I know she’s likely struggling with early Dementia, too, and is not thinking clearly. I think my uncle at least deserves a diagnosis since anything could cause mental status changes (even conditions that will eventually cause heart attacks and strokes, such as electrolyte imbalances). I’m terrified for him. My aunt always speaks for him, and he can’t hear. I, too, don’t understand why the EMS would leave a disorientated man home alone with such an elderly woman, You’re right, I’m sure I didn’t get the whole story. I’ll be there tomorrow a few hours to “watch him” as his wife must do errands. It’s my one chance to drive him to the ER or at least a clinic, if I can get him into the car. But, like the posting below says, an ER is a terrifying place for an older person. But without a diagnosis I see doom.
Adelee, a sudden change in mental status can be a UTI. Or a stroke. Or a bunch of other things.

It sounds like in order to get care for uncle, Aunt needs to be in care.

Have you or the daughters talked to their doctor?
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