My mother is 94 y/o and is very short. At 4’7″and about 108 lbs, white haired and lively, she is made over by all. She was an only child, and has been pampered all her life: a prima donna of the worst kind. We were pushed into taking her into our home 2 1/2 yrs ago when my mentally ill sister abandoned her in Los Angeles. We live in WA. The years since have seen us become her staff of servants in our 70′s; a time when we expected to be enjoying our retirement. She has good health and we can expect her to live a lot longer judging from her relations, who lived well into their 90s. She is stone deaf, making us feel badly because the only way to communicate with her (even with hearing aids) is to yell at her. We, too, are looking for a place to put her, but the guilt keeps holding us back. There is nobody else to help us and she refuses to go to a senior center or adult daycare. My health is suffering from this problem. Would someone please help? I could use some ideas/suggestions!
My intent was never to become a caregiver. I have always been a career girl, encouraged by my parents to be self-sufficient and independent. Never, they’d say, ever EVER would they lean on me in their old age. At the same time, I have always been a pleaser – wanting everyone to be happy and having a difficult time saying “no”. Lately, this combination has become toxic.
Last year my parent’s health began to decline. As they lived in another city, I was always dashing back and forth when I would receive a frantic “emergency” phone call. Yes, I’d be there. Yes, I would drop everything in this crisis. Yes, I’d cook. Yes, I’d call the doctors. Yes, yes, yes… As an only child, I had no other siblings to rely on. It became apparent that my parents were increasingly becoming less able to care for themselves and that they just didn’t want to try. My mother, in particular, suddenly went from being the one in charge to the one who had no interest in anything but her needs! When I hired help to come into their home, the cost quickly shot through the roof, close to $10,000 a month.
Soon it made more sense to move them closer to where I live. I selected a retirement home that had both independent and assisted living, which I thought would please my parents. It is a lovely place with lots of activities, transportation, beautiful surroundings and a seemingly caring staff. However, my parents refuse to use the transportation and participate in any activities except the nightly dinners provided in the dining room. I soon found myself doing their shopping, driving them to endless doctor’s appointments and such. Have I enabled them – yes? In my need to please, my life has turned into a nightmare, affecting myself, my work and my family life. Do I know how to extricate myself – no? No matter how hard I try to push them to take charge of any part of their own lives, they refuse to do so.
It was 1961 when we met in. We lived in a Baltimore suburb & attended 5th grade. I had moved to the city 2 years before. Val had recently lost her father in the line of duty (police) and found herself in a new community and a new school. Val was seated beside me, and a friendship was born.
We were in school for 5 years together, before we were sent to different high schools and then my family moved away. But, our bond was deep and would not be broken. We grew up in an era of strict parents, some fabulous music (the Beatles) and all sorts of world-changing events. Recall the show/movie, “Hairspray.” We lived that life! From the start, I always admired Val’s sense of calm and her loyalty to our friendship.
Letter writing and an annual visit back to Maryland kept us connected. We were maid of honor in each other’s wedding, and were there at every life event, although Val lived in Maryland, and I moved around the country. Holding her daughter in my arms at her baptism was an amazing experience. We became immersed in everyday life with 5 children between us. My father went into a coma; she visited me daily in the hospital and was at the funeral. Twenty years later, when I returned to Maryland to help my mother with a serious health/life crisis, she was right there with her usual calm and strength, providing me with resources and emotional support. This past year, she struggled in a life and death battle of her own with her daughter’s life-threatening Lupus. When a kidney transplant was the only answer, Val said of course, she would donate her kidney.
Now that our children are grown, we make the time to meet somewhere each year. In October, we will be celebrating our 50 years of friendship in Key West, a vacation that Val declares will be “the vacation of her life.” It will be a special time indeed, of reflecting back, enjoying the moment, and dreaming about the future!
News at my end – While my Dad hasn’t improved, we received results today from the MRI he had last Friday. He will be having a steroid shot to the spine tomorrow morning which they hope will give him relief. He has a disc herniation pinching the left side of the nerve root. The injection takes about 3 days to work, so here’s praying that this helps. Alternatives are trying to see if it will heal itself in 4 – 6 weeks (no sign that is happening during the past 3 weeks!) or surgery which they definitely hope to avoid due to his age.
Then three weeks later….I had to drive 3 hrs to see them, as I got a call from my brother that my mom was in the emergency room. She had dislocated a rib. Got here at 7 pm and IT WAS A MESS! I will be was there for three full days getting more care set up.
OH AND ALSO, my parents came to the conclusion that they need to go into assisted living. Unfortunately they have no idea about their insurance coverage. Neither of them are familiar with the details of their health care policy. Guess who needs to take that on before my parents know what their options are? M E !
I had a frantic call from my father at 5 pm yesterday when I was at the grocery store. My mom was in agony with back spasms and couldn’t walk or move. I called my first cousin to see if she could go over to their place and evaluate. I could not think of anything else to do as they live 3 hours from me (by car). In addition, I am fighting a cold & would not want to risk giving it to them.
Luckily, my cousin called back that evening. May have to take Mom to the emergency room. She will wait & see. In the meantime she was getting some food into them (they hadn’t eaten). HUGE mess.
Now I am starting to get a knot in the pit of my stomach about going to NYC on Thursday to visit my daughter & grandchildren. Today is like a terrible sitcom. Tell me again – what’s a mother to do?
My husband, Jon, & I are having a discussion these days around whether my father-in-law should continue his radiation or not. My father-in-law is 89 yo and has skin cancer. He has completed almost two weeks of radiation therapy. On one day he says,” the radiation is difficult because I have to lay on a hard table but I feel better when it is over”. The very next day, my father-in-law says that he does not want any life sustaining measures taken and is not interested in continuing the radiation treatments. It is hard to know what to do since it seems that he is not thinking clearly. Really what is the point of radiation on a man of his age? We have decided to consult a geriatric specialist as well as an oncologist for further evaluation. In the meantime NO MORE RADIATION APPOINTMENTS!
My father was still driving at 92 but it was becoming apparent he was no longer able to navigate unfamiliar neighborhoods. My suggestions to call me for transportation were not well received! When I accompanied him to a doctor’s appointment with his geriatric specialist, I called ahead to alert the physician of my concerns regarding dad’s driving. During the appointment, the physician asked some leading questions of dad regarding his driving experiences of late and clearly stated to dad that he should no longer drive. The geriatric specialist said furthermore, as his physician, he had an obligation to report dad to the licensing bureau if he did continue to drive. That was the end of his driving days, thankfully.
What happens when handling the finances becomes an overwhelming burden for aging parents? Many transfer their funds to children or other family members and multi-millions are lost each year in the ensuing confusion. If you find that you are the one taking on financial responsibility, we suggest taking a look at Bill Swan’s “The Complete Guide to Managing Your Parents’ Finances When They Cannot: A Step-by-Step Plan to Protect Their Assets, Limit Taxes, and Ensure Their Wishes Are Fulfilled. Available through Amazon (copyright 2010), it really is an organized “how to” with chapters to guide you through the basics of money management, discussing money issues with your parents, how to deal with the stress of financial care-giving, and financial and legal procedures. From medical bills to taxes, wills, trusts and burials, the book walks you through each in well explained yet easy to understand terms. It also includes worksheets to get you started. A truly valuable resource guide.
While researching home care service options for seniors, in response to a blog query, we ran across www.helpguide.org This site addresses a number of crucial topics from mental & emotional health to family relationships. One topic that caught our attention was their tips on how to discuss challenging topics with your aging parents.
Try to find the real reasons behind resistance. A seemingly resistant loved one could be frightened that he or she is no longer able to do tasks that were formerly so easy, or chronic untreated pain may be making it difficult. It might be more comfortable to deny it and minimize problems. Perhaps he or she is grieving the loss of a loved one, or frustrated at not being able to connect with friends. If your loved one has a hard time getting out and is losing support, he or she is also at risk for depression.
Express your concerns as your own instead of accusing. A loved one might be more open to your honest expressions of concern. For example, instead of saying “It’s clear you can’t take care of yourself anymore. Something needs to be done”, try “I’ve really been worried about you. It hurts me to think that you might not be getting everything you need. What do you think we should do?”
Respect your loved one’s autonomy and involve him or her in decisions. Unless your loved one is incapacitated, the final decision about care is up to him or her. You can help by offering suggestions and ideas. For example, what home care services might bridge the gap? If you’re worried that home care might not be enough, what other options are available? You can frame it as something to try temporarily instead of trying to impose a permanent solution.
Enlist other help. Does your loved one know others who have used home care services, or have had to move? Talking to others who have had positive experiences can sometimes take out some of the fear of the unknown. You may want to consider having a meeting with your loved one’s doctor or hire a geriatric care manager. Sometimes hearing feedback from a disinterested third party can help a loved one realize that things need to change.
We are building this blog the old fashioned way – one friend at a time! Please join in the conversation. Contribute a post, sharing the gifts and challenges that concern you most about providing care to aging loved ones. Also, comment on other posts and send another person to our site. (Note: please limit posts to 500 words or less.)