Ageing parents dilemma

floyd_devoidMay 13, 2008

I am currently trying to find a way to deal with my ageing parents. Mom is 89 and dad is 82. He has been taking care of her for several years as she has been slipping further and further into dementia. He obviously can no longer take care of her and we kids have been trying to convince him of that but we canÂt get him to move on it. IÂve been trying to get him to move closer so we can help or get someone to come in and give him a break watching her. He says things like "IÂve tried telling her that IÂm going to get someone to come in and every time she has a fit." He just doesnÂt get it, that sheÂs not capable of making these decisions anymore. He gets angry when he has to keep repeating himself and acts like she should remember what he said. It seems that he just hasnÂt come to terms with the truth yet. All the while I wonder at how ironic it will be if they do move closer to me so that I can take care of them. My father is a devoted husband but never gave a fig for fathering and was never in his life there for me. Yet this motherÂs day as I was visiting I found a lot of empathy for him. Anyway, itÂs getting to the point of intervention. If he doesnÂt take steps soon I think my sister and I will have to take some kind of action. The house is becoming unfit to live in and mom is getting dangerously out of it. My two older brothers are acting as if nothing is wrong.

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I can understand your situation, I think as children it is very hard on us to see our parents loosing control over thier lives. We know we have to step in but gosh, they were always the ones telling us what to do, how can we now tell them what to do?! However you know that some thing has to be done for the safety of both so just make your choices and don't regret them.

As for your father not really being there for you, well I can sort of understand. We were a very screwed up family, but now that my parents are both old, and mom had her massive stroke and dad having dementia I dug deep to put aside the past and will just focus on the now. WE both know that when our parents are no longer here we will miss them terribly, right? So hang in there and take the steps you need to take to keep your parents close as long as you can!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 7:50AM
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Been there - particularly in the case of an elderly Aunt. Denial and role reversal is just part and parcel of all of this. Your brothers just might just see the big picture, not paying attention to the details, and believe your parents are still functioning pretty normally.

What oftentimes happen is some critical event that forces action and takes some of it out of your hands. It could be a fall or mishap - even a UTI that results from the breakdown in personal hygeine which is so common with dementias. A trip to the hospital and the doctors might determine she can no longer live at home; the social workers would get her placed in a "space available" long term care facility. Then you try to get the rest of your siblings on board and make hard decisions.

None of this is going to be easy for you, and it's all emotionally crushing.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 11:56AM
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From your description, your father is losing rationality also. "Intervention" is the appropriate word. Get your brothers on-board first. If that proves impossible, you will likely have to act on your own. Be prepared for the fallout/non-cooperation. Hopefully, you may be able to avoid it. Your brothers will be with you long after your parents are gone. It would be a shame to have this event be something that results in estrangement when rationality should prevail.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 8:13PM
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Family conference NOW! Get all the information together, talk to social workers, medical personal etc and make sure all the legal stuff is in place. Who takes over, It is called tough love. Are you really prepared to take over? If you have a spouse/kids how do they feel? How do your siblings feel? Remember, when parents get like this someone must step in and be the parent. I did it and probably some day my kids will have to do it. Do not act on your own --start a note book--what Dr's they go to, meds, friends addresses, organizations they belong to, religious stuff. And document as much as you can.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 10:55PM
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I think we're making progress. I got my dad to talk to a social worker. He was very sceptical of their programs before but he seems much more inclined to try them now. My wife is fine with them moving closer, even in with us and the rest of the siblings seem to think that would be better too. Of course, no one else wants them. Even when mom had her wits about her she had no boundries. She would walk into any room she choose and say anything she wanted. We all realize that mom should have round the clock care it's just that my older siblings are willing to believe either that dad can handle it or they are unwilling to face him about it. They are willing to share the cost of a part time sitter but not the cost of a nursing home. I can't afford it either which means mom would become a ward of the state. She's a very strong willed person and I'm afraid they would drug her and strap her down to get her to obey the rules but what can we do? We can't watch her night and day.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 12:33AM
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What a mess, but one that can be handled. First off, nursing homes do not drug or strap down any more, most are not allowed. Second, she would probably be put in the dementia care unit, which in most nursing homes is a locked unit where the patient can wander around at will and most have enclosed court yards where they can go outside on nice days.

Round the clock care can become more expensive than a nursing home! The way the laws are written in most states Medicaid will kick in when Half the assets of your parents are spent down. Medicaid patients get the same care as those that are private pay. I know because my mom is private pay right now (until the assets are spent down) and my brother (also in a nursing home) is on Medicaid. I see both sides and there is no difference and in fact my brother actually has more covered under Medicaid than my mom!

Please go look in to nursing homes in your area, you can go to to find ratings on nursing homes in your area, plus lots of other useful info! Please do not think that being on medicaid is the end of the world, my parents have always been comfortable in their life, but nursing home cost are outrageous so most seniors end up on medicaid when they are there long term. Taking care of mom at home might prove to be very difficult, especially if she starts "wandering" more, she could get out of the house and well, you understand.

Linda J

Here is a link that might be useful: Medicare

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 8:06AM
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OOPS!!! Sent the wrong link, go to to compare nursing homes in your area. Both sites are informative and may help you to decide the best course of action for your parents.

Linda J

Here is a link that might be useful: Medicare compare nursing homes

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 8:15AM
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"My wife is fine with them moving closer, even in with us and the rest of the siblings seem to think that would be better too. "

Before you move them into your home, you had better stop and have a very long talk with your wife, if you haven't already.
You said she is "fine" with it, but have you discussed the actual day-to-day concerns and responsibilities?
Who will do the hands-on care?
Or are you just assuming that your wife will fulfill this role?
No offense, but you two need to discuss this and be on the same page before you take such a drastic step.
If your wife agrees to it, good - just make certain before you bring them into your home.

good luck

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 10:54AM
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Ditto sirens. Even non-dementia care-giving can be exhausting. It's a huge consideration. Be sure your wife understands all the dimensions of "fine".

    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 4:30PM
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Your wife may be fine with the idea of having them there, but is she the type of person that will be able to change diapers and clean up messes? For that matter, are you "fine" with the idea of your wife having to do this type of thing for your parents? Would you be "fine" with having to clean your mother's bottom yourself if she needed it? Would you help your father with his bath, or would you expect your wife to handle his private parts?

The days when people were kept drugged and strapped down is long gone. It's time to start shopping around for custodial care. Find the best place that suits so that you won't have to make a decision in a hurry. Get the names on a waiting list if you have to.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 12:22PM
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I'm just confirming things others have said. Linda mentioned that round-the-clock care can be more expensive than facility care. I found that true when my mother spent a few months with us.

Regarding having a person suffering from dementia living with you -- it's definitely not as workable a solution as you might think. That kind of person needs almost 24 hour oversight. If your father is frail in health or not understanding of your mother's condition & limitations, that would mean you and/or your wife would be bearing the full responsibility. As others have said, that's a heavy burden emotionally & physically. My mother only lived with us a few months, but the experience left me in constant back pain that has not gone away.

Having them living close by may not be a perfect long-term solution either. Again, it sounds like your mom will need 24 hour in-home care. That will cost money, and that's something that you or your wife can't provide even if you're next door. Your parents might need to provide a private bedroom & bathroom for the caregiver(s). So you'd want to take that into account when purchasing a new house for them in your neighborhood.

It sounds like there's a lot of denial going on. The whole idea of a part-time sitter for someone suffering from dementia is unrealistic. When could you leave your parents totally on their own? At night? That's when the elderly get up to go to the bathroom, slip & fall, and break their hips. During the day? That's when they'll leave something cooking on the stove & start a fire.

As others have said,now is the time to do a lot of research. Get as much information as you can, and, as Asolo suggested, get their names on waiting lists on several facilities. Although my mother is living in an assisted living/memory care facility now, I've got her name on a waiting list for a skilled nursing home in my city. They call me regularly just to see if I still want her listed.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 2:26PM
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"At night? That's when the elderly get up to go to the bathroom, slip & fall, and break their hips. During the day? That's when they'll leave something cooking on the stove & start a fire."

Exactly. Even small events can have huge consequences. It's a big deal. Something will happen. Something always happens.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 3:29PM
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