Ask Nancy

When daily tasks become problematic


A New Column

Ask Nancy is a new feature in Neighbors that will run every Sunday. Its focus is on issues related to aging and caregiving.

For the Miami Herald

Q:My 85-year-old mom alternates between completely on the ball and totally confused by the details of daily life. I have gradually assumed responsibility for many things — bills, doctors’ appointments — that have proved difficult for her, and she is quite grateful. I am thrilled to be able to do this for her.

However, in the moments when it dawns on her how much control she has ceded, she becomes angry and argumentative, feeling insulted and disrespected. On several occasions, I’ve given in to her demands to take back the reins on certain things — only to have things go badly off track, creating more stress and anxiety for both of us.

Can you give some advice for

navigating these issues and de-stress this situation? I’d really love to enjoy this time with my mom, but find we spend far too much time wrangling over these things.

Lisa L., Miami

A: Your question addresses many of the issues and emotions that family caregivers often experience. While we want to help our aging parents, this constant “one-step forward, and two-steps backwards” results in a lot frustration and anger. Aging is associated with loss of roles and responsibilities, and it’s likely very difficult for your mother to adapt to this new role reversal and and it’s making her feel anxious.

Melissa Friedman, a neuropsychologist from Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, is aware of this issue.

“In some cases, taking time out to talk about underlying issues, or what the loss of such responsibilities may represent to the aging parent, can provide a feeling of relief for the parent,’’ she said. “Sometimes they are simultaneously experiencing other difficult changes, such as loss of driving, decreased ability to participate in hobbies, increased social isolation, or loss of other duties.”

It’s possible your mother is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, or that her agitation may be a symptom of a progressive dementia process. Friedman suggested that a psychiatric, psychological or neuropsychological evaluation can be helpful to understand the nature of the problem and to identify appropriate treatment, which may include psychotherapy or psychiatric medications.

Finally, she noted, “Helping the aging parent to establish a routine of physical and mental activity, that is meaningful to them, can also have a beneficial effect on their mood and outlook.”

Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. You can contact her at nancy@

Read more Lifestyle stories from the Miami Herald

  • Cook’s Corner

    Cook’s Corner: Behold the new colors of Easter eggs

    Radiant Orchid, Pantone Color Institute’s color of the year, not only is the hot spring fashion color, but it has made its way into the Easter egg parade. Forget the pastels of yesteryear; what’s trending now are vivid colors. McCormick developed these formulas for making vibrant dyes.

Linda Bladholm

    A Fork on the Road

    A Fork on the Road: Choices Cafe gives vegans plenty of flavor

    In a sign of the times, a small vegan café has opened a larger outpost, offering meatless burgers, wraps, soups and salads. Choices Cafe doubles as a juice bar with cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices and innovative smoothies such as the Miami Heat with mango, jalapeño, lime, plantain, ground flax and chia seeds and agave.

  • The Edgy Veggie

    Edgy Veggie: Eggless ‘Egg Salad’

    This must be the egg industry’s favorite time of the year. There’s Easter eggs, egg-rich Easter cakes and cookies, Easter brunch omelets, casseroles and eggs Benedict (eggs atop English muffins and in the Hollandaise sauce). Eggs also play a big part at Passover. They’re on the Seder plate and in matzo balls, kugels and Passover desserts. Eggs, though, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be for cholesterol avoiders, allergic folk (eggs are among the top eight food allergens) and vegans. Plant-powered egg alternatives mean we still get a place at the holiday table.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category