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In just a matter of weeks, my 69-year-old sister, diagnosed with Alzheimer's/Lewy-Body Syndrome about three years ago and went from walking, talking, eating, and living at home to being bed-ridden in a nursing home on Hospice. She has to be fed and barely comprehends anything that is said to her. Doesn't this seem like a rapid decline? I suspect her daughter, her primary caregiver, had something to do with it. She met a man and began to neglect her mother, leaving her without calling or checking on her for days at a time. I want to help her get back on her feet, but is this is even possible now?

Answered by David Troxel

September 18, 2013

In just a matter of weeks, my 69-year-old sister, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Lewy-Body Syndrome about three years ago and went from walking, talking, eating, and living at home to being bed-ridden in a nursing home on Hospice. She has to be fed and barely comprehends anything that is said to her. Doesn’t this seem like a rapid decline? I suspect her daughter, her primary caregiver, had something to do with it. She met a man and began to neglect her mother, leaving her without calling or checking on her for days at a time. I want to help her get back on her feet, but is this is even possible now?

I’m really sorry that your sister is experiencing this at such a young age. While it’s not typical, someone with her diagnosis who has been on a slow progressive decline can suddenly begin to go downhill, especially if she has other health conditions.

It’s unclear to me whether your niece left her mother while she was in her own home or after she was in the nursing home. Assuming the later, it is possible that your niece may have needed a break and assumed that her mother’s needs were being met in residential care.

Sometimes family members who are caregivers exceed expectations, and sometimes they disappoint. Think about what you want your relationship with your niece to be like after your sister is gone. Since hospice is already involved, why not take advantage of their excellent social services and spiritual counseling, especially to deal with your feelings of anger and loss? They can also carefully review her medical situation to see if something has been missed.

Ultimately, you cannot compel your niece to spend time with your sister. Instead, forge your own best relationship with your sister. Have the staff help you get her in a wheel chair and spend time outside on a nice afternoon, bring her ice-cream, sing to her, read to her and enjoy your relationship.

This will be the best gift you can give her, and yourself!

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