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Posted April 16, 2009

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Elderly Care: Dealing With a Loved One's Obsession

Q.  My 87-year-old mother has become increasingly obsessed with her blood pressure. She takes it every 15-30 minutes. She has been on blood pressure meds for more than 20 years, but these days it seems to be on her mind constantly. What can I do to help her? 

Kathye H., Gualala, California.

A.  I would recommend having your mother evaluated for depression and dementia.  You can do this by discussing your concerns with her physician either via telephone or in a letter to him or her. 

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help. Start by asking your mom if she is worried about her blood pressure and express your concerns about her "obsession." This may give you some insight into the root cause of the behavior.  Engage her in activities she enjoys that will distract her from taking her blood pressure; for example, take her out, have her go to a senior center or adult day care center for socialization (depending on her cognitive abilities), or invite some of her friends over for coffee or tea.  Any activity that she enjoys will likely get her to forget about wanting to take her blood pressure.

 This answer is provided by Dr. Vivian Argento, a trained geriatrician and member of the geriatric medical team at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Dr. Argento is an expert in memory and medical problems affecting the elderly and serves as a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She’s also a consultant both in and out of hospitals and cares for patients in various locations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in their homes via a house calls program. Dr. Argento can be reached at


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