Independant/Assisted Living VS Living at home

mango-princessFebruary 25, 2007

I have been reading the threads on this forum, in hopes of trying to find help and or support with my similar situation. Like many of you, I have 2 elderly parents, both still alive. My mother no longer wants to stay in their spacious home, and my father who is an extremely difficult man, doesn't want to move. I plan on getting Power of Attorney, in case I need to make decisions for both of them, based on their needs. My Uncle didn't want to leave his home either and was found dead in his home, after a 3 week silence, when the neighbors took note that perhaps something could have happened.

Is this what one wants for their loved ones? I keep telling my mom (and dad for that matter), that they can sell their now worth, million dollar home, and move into an independent apartment with utilities paid, and have the comfort of a gated community, no property taxes, gardeners, cleaners, care-givers, etc to pay for. Honestly, it wears on myself and my siblings, knowing they don't need that extra large home. My father on the other hand is a cross between Jackie Gleason and Fred Flintstone. He screams when he talks, the neighbors are not fond of him, he treats everyone, basically crappy, and he will be my biggest problem of all, if he survives my mother, because he will not want to move out of that home, and I will not move in.

To paint a better picture, my mom was an immigrant. Here almost 50 years later, her English has not improved. She never drove a car, can not take a bus more than 5 miles without feeling like she is in a foreign country. She doesn't have Dementia, she and her sisters have always had this 'fuse' missing, and I could never figure it out, growing up. My father on the other hand, is a Diabetic, blind in one eye, drives locally only. He won't be able to drive in the next 2 years, and I do help them out alot, as I live a few miles away. This is where the Power of Attorney comes in, because the DMV refuses to talk to me about my father when they send him his yearly information to re-take his driving test. Grrhh!!

Anyone else in this situation? Really, after reviewing the retirement facilities that resemble home without the headache, I honestly don't see why one would want to stay at home only for someone else to discover their dead bodies. Hate to be so, to the point, but we can't ignore reality! Our parents really become a burden for us, and I believe there comes a time when we have to make the decisions for them, and hopefully it won't be with force.


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Though assisted living didn't come to pass in my situation, it was something that was investigated - particularly those places that had the facilities to move one "through the system" providing escalating tiers of care.

Because I was able to, I retired early and came here to assist aging parents. Dad passed away six months after my arrival leaving me as 24/7 caregiver-companion for my Mother who was exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's type dementia. At no time would either of my parents have considered apartment or assisted living; always in single family homes and seeming to need the big yard and gardens to putter around in and liking to do the maintenance a home requires. Dad was in his 80's before he relented to snow removal and lawn cutting services. At least he had the sense to know when he shouldn't be driving anymore. Poor Mom, though now in a nursing home, would still be driving if her car hadn't one day magically disappeared.

Yes, it is a shame that things often have to reach a point where all control and decision making is wrested away. To me, preparing for the possible loss of independence should be as much a part of the process of getting older as is aquiring wealth to make the older years easier. Having had a lot of elderly relatives, I came to observe that their idea of independence was no more than being in their own home - it mattered not that another relative, kindly neighbor, or paid help was chauffeuring, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundering, dispensing meds, making sure bills were paid, etc. Although grateful for help, it never seemed to register that each normal task that was relegated to others somehow chipped away their "independence".

Probably all you can do at this point is make sure their wills, end of life directives, DNR's, Powers of Attorney and all the legal documents are in order. Comes in handy to have your name added to one or both of their checking accounts. Have a family meeting to make sure you and your siblings are on the same page. Invariably, it seems to be some kind of health crisis that forces the hard decisions - a trip to the hospital ends up with a determination a nursing home is needed for rehab or for long term care.

This role reversal is tough. As a child I remember resenting being made to do things I didn't want to do even though it was for my own good. How can reasonably intelligent adults (dementia notwithstanding) completely ignore what might be in their best interests?

What's frustrating is there aren't any easy answers out there. If it's a crisis event that removes the onus from you, it's almost a relief to be spared the hard decisions. But, if that never happens, all you can do is the best you can and NEVER feel guilty that it wasn't enough.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 3:56PM
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duluthinbloomz4, thank you so much for your post. I read every single word, and very likely, will read it again in a few days.

The part about puttering about in the yard, hit home. Mom has never had any hobbies, has always been the black sheep, if you will, in her family. Always complaining about others, including myself (the only sibling left, that is local), and most of all, complaining about my father's wood shop in the garage. He builds beautiful birdhouses and other fine things. He lives for his hobbies, and I watch as my mother tries to tear him down, because she has no hobbies. While I help them out quite considerably, only to hear my mother say, "I never do anything for HER", to which I reply, "What I do for either of you, I am doing for both", then explain they are a "we" in marriage, not an "I". Needless to say, she still has her on and off relationship with my sister, that causes my mother alot of stress, but there is nothing I can do about it, since they both display a sort of bipolar type behavior. I just try to stay out of it.

A Will is something my demanding, extremely difficult father refuses to do, and I will be forcing him to do it, very soon here, by downloading a free form, asking the questions, writing them down, transferring to the wordprocessor, getting it notorized, etc. This is one reason I will need the Power of Attorney position as well. Luckily, my siblings and I get along rather fairly, and all agree they should give up the large home at some point, but then again, I am faced with my dad and his hobbies. Without them, I am a firm believer, that people go down hill at a much faster speed, when the hobbies and pleasures they live for are taken away.

I try to put my mothers enigma aside, as I continue to help them, while brushing aside the criticism of my "singlehood", not by choice mind you, and then the excuses I have to make to prospective employers as I contemplate a career change, never quite knowing what or how to tell them briefly, that I am part of the sandwich generation, and my parents must come before work, yadda yadda...

At the very least, I have explored options and I am pretty much ready to make the appropriate moves, as come up. Luckily, also being so close in distance to them, I do manage my mother's finances, which she keeps completely separate from my father's, who will eventually have to allow me to assist him as well.

I brush aside the thought of any hired person assisting my father, due to his screaming and yelling at people. I can just see now, how many would quit because of him. I don't have an easy answer, nor will I have an easy way to handle it, other than to bring it forth up front to anyone that has to deal with him, in hopes there are people out there trained to handle, someone of such unusual behavior.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 4:54PM
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Mango, what Duluth said is so true. It's so hard to know the perfect things to do with your parents.

My mom moved into an assisted living facilty two years ago at age 90. Her slightly younger & widowed sister still lives in her home. She now has two 24-hour aides. My mother-in-law moved into a continuing care facility a year ago. Each option has its good & bad points.

My mom is in a safe situation, and if I'm sick or on vacation, I don't have to worry about her. The assisted living facility has several daily activites and monthly outings. So her social life is so much better than it would be if she was living on her own. She has her own apartment with a kitchenette, so she's got a lot of independence too.

My aunt is still in her home. She interacts with her aides, and they take her on outings from time to time. But it took a long time before she found aides she trusted & liked. Now most of her days are spent propped up in an easy chair in front of the TV.

My mother-in-law is in a retirement apartment now. She eats in the dining room for one meal daily and participates in several activities. When the time comes, she can move into the assisted living building. There's also a skilled nursing facility on the property for convalescing after hospitalizations, etc.

There are lots of options available now including adult day care. I agree that you need to get the paper work taken care of. Wills, trusts, powers of attorney for financial matters and for health care, etc. should be drawn up by a qualified elder care attorney. Unfortunately, as Duluth pointed out, it's usually a health care crisis that triggers getting all the paper work in order. And, of course, you need to consult with your siblings.

I certainly sympathize with you regarding your father. My dad was hard of hearing, could not speak or understand English very well, was very self rightous & judgmental, kept my mom under his thumb at all times, and was just a basically disagreeable person. He was also 17 years older than my mother. This may sound terrible, but I prayed for years that my dad would die before my mother. In the first place, I wanted my mom to have a few years of peace & happiness without my dad before she died. And I, too, worried about taking care of him if he survived her. I knew he couldn't live with us, and I didn't think he could fit in at any retirement facility.

He died in 1988 and my mother was able to enjoy several years of friendships, travel, independence, etc. before old age finally caught up with her.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 9:26PM
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Be aware that you cannot have power of attorney unless it is freely and competently given to you. Even then, I don't believe you can use it to sign a will on anyone's behalf. As long as your parent's are legally competent, they're still in charge. I know this is a tough time of life. I hope things may smooth out a bit for you.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 10:46PM
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Connie Kru

As far as hiring help who will put up with your father-You might be surprised, especially if you pay a little more than what other's will pay. They are not involved emotionally like you are-they will let things bounce, that you won't or can't. You may want a male aid and your dad may not talk to them like he would a women.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 9:53AM
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I feel for you in this situation but all you can do is "the best/most that they allow you to do". One should be able to find peace in knowing that they did that much. They have their minds, make their own decisions no matter how difficult it may be for you to see.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 11:50AM
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In the past few years I've gone through a similar, but not identical, situation with my mother. She was a very strong willed and intelligent woman, and the family struggled with her physical decline. My father died in 1980 and she coped with the house for several years afterwards. But eventually it was too much for her. She moved in with me 9 years ago, then into an independent living facility 3 years ago. She passed away just a couple weeks ago. (Guess that explains why I'm sitting at the computer sleepless at 3:30am!)

The decision to move from my home into independent living was very painful for all of us, so I'm sympathetic with what you are going through. I guess it was about a 6 month process from the time we first started talking about it until it happened. With 2 parents involved, your process will likely take a little longer. We were able to finally convince my mother that we would handle all the parts of the move that she didn't know how to do, that we would be there often to help with church, doctor visits, groceries, weekly dinners out, etc. Our biggest concern about having her still at home was that she had no social life, no one close to her age to talk to and share with, and no one around for too many hours in the day. We were only here in the evenings and both my husband and I had to travel some for our jobs. It's very important for elderly folks who are on medications to eat at the same time every day so they can take their meds. With our work schedules, even though I changed jobs to be home more often, meal time wasn't as standard as she needed it to be. And she started falling down a lot. No injuries, but we knew it was only a matter of time. Like I said, it was a hard time for us all. She felt like we were kicking her out and we felt like we had failed and could not take care of her.
But after checking out a couple places, she found one that appealed to her. She declared at the time that she would be dead in 6 months, but with so many stresses removed she lived 3 years and made many good friends. I won't tell you she ever stopped complaining but her life there was good and the people around her valued her friendship and the support she gave them.
Asolo gave you good advice: without having your folks declared incompetent by the court, you can't force a power of attorney. They have to willingly sign it. And under no circumstances can you sign their Will. However, you can write the Will up and ask them to sign it - be sure to have it witnesses! I would recommend you keep it as simple as possible - maybe even just one page that states you and your siblings will split everything equally - that way you have the greatest chance of your father agreeing to sign it. Part of his grumpyness may be fear. It's scary to realize you aren't in control of your own life anymore and in many people that fear comes out as anger. If he was like that before, it will only get more pronounced as he ages.

Your parents are lucky to have you there to help them and to try to make things easier for them. Be patient and take it slow. They are used to taking care of you, so it will be hard for them to see the roles switch. Let your parents have as much control and dignity as possible; they've earned it and they need it now more than ever. For my mother, depending on someone else felt like failure to her and there was no way to eliminate that. We just tried - and sometimes failed - to make it as easy as possible. But it was worth the effort.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2007 at 4:44AM
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