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01/31/2012 09:06 EST | Updated 04/01/2012 05:12 EDT

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WASHINGTON - Alexis McKenzie's mother had mild dementia, but things sounded OK when she phoned home: Dad was with her, finishing his wife's sentences as they talked about puttering through the day and a drive to the store.

Then their phone service was cut off. "I mailed that cheque," McKenzie's father insisted. No, he'd mailed the phone company a bank deposit slip instead. McKenzie visited and discovered spoiling food. Dad the caregiver was in trouble too.