DEAR ABBY: I have had an older man as a roommate for two months now. He's very kind and intelligent. He also has dementia. I didn't realize it when he moved in. He's estranged from his family, although I know of a few people he does talk to on the phone.
As his condition worsens, so does his memory and his ability to understand simple explanations. I'm afraid that, as this continues, I'll be obligated to take care of him. I am not capable of doing it, nor do I desire to. I don't know how to handle this because I have asked him previously whom I should contact "in case of emergency" and got no reply. Help, please. -- UNEQUIPPED IN FLORIDA
DEAR UNEQUIPPED: Initiating a conversation with your roommate about your concerns is critical, particularly while he is in early stages of dementia. Be open and honest about your capabilities and find out what his plans are for long-term care as his dementia progresses. Ask if his friends or family know about his dementia and if they are part of his care team.
Stress to him the importance of making future care plans now, while he has a voice and control over these decisions. As his dementia progresses, these decisions will become increasingly difficult, and left undone, others might have to make decisions for him. While it's important for you to press for answers to these important questions, try to be supportive. Your roommate may be having trouble coming to grips with his dementia. Fear, anxiety or even anger may be preventing him from taking steps to address it.
The Alzheimer's Association website (alz.org) is a valuable resource for people living with the disease, as well as for their families and care partners. Those in early stages of the disease can find help there, including access to local support groups and care resources. It also has a free 24/7 Helpline (1-800-272-3900) that provides reliable information and guidance for all who need support navigating their personal experiences with Alzheimer's or another dementia.