Q: My 87-year-old mother is not in good physical condition, and occasionally she becomes confused and "loses it." Her mind seems to be elsewhere for a few minutes, but she returns to her normal self soon. I have spoken to the doctor on several occasions, but he has dismissed the issue. I am not satisfied with his answers, and I want to make sure I have the best knowledge to help her.
What would you do?
A: You are her health advocate, so it is important to assume an active role in her care. This will require some effort on your part. Schedule a second opinion with another doctor, and get a more comprehensive view of her condition. Obviously, there are multiple reasons why your mother is experiencing difficulties, and you first need to determine what they are.
This could be happening for many reasons other than her age. It could even be caused by mixing medications. Because of her age, it may be necessary to actually count the number of pills remaining in the bottle.
If this happens regularly, she should get a complete checkup in order to track down the problem. For example, if you think she is having a stroke, the American Stroke Association recommends the following "FAST" diagnostic:
--Face: Ask her to smile. Does one side of her face droop?
--Arms: Ask her to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
--Speech: Ask her to repeat a simple phrase. Is her speech slurred or strange?
--Timing: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 right away.
Your mom is lucky to have you as her advocate. Keep up the good work!
Q: One of my neighbors has recently had problems with identity theft, and now I'm concerned that I'm vulnerable.
What can I do to protect myself?
A: There are several common ways in which criminals may attempt to steal your identity. Keeping track of the following suggestions will cut down on your risk.
Shred any documents with your name and address. Pay special attention to financial statements or credit offers, as they contain extremely sensitive information.
When paying by debit card (especially if it doesn't have a chip), cover the pin pad with one hand while typing in your PIN. Someone may have installed a camera to spy on customer transactions. Gas stations are especially vulnerable to outside manipulations, so go inside to pay.
Don't write checks to small vendors. Pay in cash or money order, as these don't list your bank information. The person you're dealing with may be honest, but you don't know how careful they are.
Never submit your Social Security number or bank account information to an unsolicited source or public network. This includes emails -- which may appear to be from your bank -- or online stores. If you're suspicious, call or visit your bank and ask if it is attempting to contact you.
Doug Mayberry's weekly column, "Dear Doug," can be found at creators.com.