Senior Savvy: Worried about mom's forgetfulness

Debbie Gitner and Linda Sullivan/DAILY NEWS CORRESPONDENTS

Q: My mother has forgetfulness. I see this through her inability to recall what she did the day before and things we discussed, and how she’s having trouble learning something new, like a new cell phone. My mother's medical doctor is not concerned about it. He told my mother that her forgetfulness is nothing to worry about. Should I take my mother to a specialist, and what kind of doctor should she see?

A: If you are concerned and seeing changes with your mother, then it is something to investigate. It is possible that your mother minimized her forgetfulness with the physician. A call or a faxed letter to the physician showing examples of your mother's forgetfulness may cause the physician to reconsider.

At any time, you can take your mother to a neurologist and or geriatrician. A neurologist is a specialist that has been trained in diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system, including the cerebral cortex and diseases of the brain. A geriatrician is a physician who is a specialist in treating older people and has the ability to understand the multiple medical problems, including Alzheimer's, chronic pain and everything in between.

Not all medical institutions have geriatricians on staff. Contact the local hospital for names of specialty physicians, ask friends for referrals and speak with your mother's physician as well.

Q: My husband and I are going to spend one month in Florida during the winter months. My father is still at home and driving. I do some food shopping, clean the house, visit with my father and help out as needed. Is there someone who can stop in to visit my father when I am gone?

A: Yes, there are three ideas that come to mind. The first option is to contact a home care agency that can start services before you leave. A home care agency staffer can visit from one day a week to seven days a week (your choice) to prepare some light meals, clean the house, be available to your father as needed and even do some food shopping if the weather is bad. The caregiver from the agency can play cards with your father, watch sports and also provide companionship.

The second option is to hire a geriatric care manager who is able to oversee that all is going well in the home and be available should there be a medical crisis. A geriatric care manager would keep you updated if your father's health changes, if he needs to go to the hospital or if he needs to go to the physician. The geriatric care manager can accompany your father to any medical appointments.

The third idea is to have your father move into an assisted living facility for "respite" care. There, he will have three meals per day, activities on a daily basis, laundry, cleaning provided by the facility and socialization. Many assisted livings offer respite care for one month.

If interested, contact the assisted living facility of your choice to discuss respite care. Insurance does not cover for respite care at an assisted living, however. Remember, it is important to discuss with your father all three options and to allow him to choose what he wants.

ElderCare Resource Services is a partnership of geriatric nurses and social workers that helps families to investigate, assess and recommend medical and non-medical care and resources for seniors.

Send questions to or ElderCare Resources Inc., 29 Gano Road, Marlborough, MA 01752, or call them at 508-879-7008.