My mother wants nobody to know about her dementia

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a housewife in my 40s. I’m seeking advice about my mother, who lives alone in her own house.

About three years ago, she was diagnosed with initial-stage symptoms of dementia. Now she takes medicines prescribed by a doctor. She has had some trouble: For example, she talks about the same matters repeatedly and forgets promises she made. But basically, there have been no serious difficulties in her daily life.

I live far away from her house, so what I can do for her is limited to things like talking over the phone. However, when I chat with my mother, she tells me what I believe are just assumptions on her part — for example, that her neighbors speak ill of her. I feel depressed.

Partly due to the hospital’s recommendation, I want to consult with a care manager in the district soon and tell my mother’s neighbors about the state of her dementia. But my mother dislikes that idea intensely.

For a long time, she’s been overly conscious about how the people around her and others regard her. When I told her I want to tell her neighbors and other people concerned about her dementia, she said she couldn’t sleep at night because she was worried about my words.

I worry that she might cause a fire or an accident if her symptoms become more serious. What should I do?

O, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. O:

I understand how seriously you’re worried about your mother, who lives alone. Though your mother dislikes receiving help from people around her, I think it’s essential for you to consider measures to prevent the situation from worsening in the future.

Firstly, how about explaining it to her like this? “There are many natural disasters, so you need to join a network of contacts with other people near you just in case.”

This doesn’t mean that other people must be told about her dementia because she has that condition or she’s elderly. How about telling her that local networks have been set up for the prevention of damage from disasters or crimes, and there’s a system in which people keep watch over those who need help from others?

You say your mother is conscientious about her reputation among other people, so I think it’s better to tell her, “Everybody has to join this network.”

After doing this, I think you should ask other people to tell you about your mother’s condition by, for example, asking her usual doctor to introduce you to a care manager and asking her neighbors to help her depending on her needs.

You need to consider not only what you can do as her daughter, but also what resources you can rely on, such as support from other people in her neighborhood. I want you to search for other methods like that and consider how to better try to persuade your mother.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from Feb. 2, 2019, issue)Speech

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