Any advice for a newbie? (long, sorry)

c9pilotJune 27, 2008

I've been here on GW, mostly in the Kitchens, Appliances, Buying & Selling Homes, and Pools forums, but the STRESS in our house forced me to find this forum and I'd appreciate any help.

My 83-y.o. mother has come to live with us in Florida from our home state of California basically because she was priced out of housing there. Initially, the plan was to have her stay through the summer months, see if she could handle the summer heat & humidity (she has a tendency to panic and move if the weather doesn't suit her, costing us all $$$ to deal with), and save money (ha ha ha). The longer she stays, the more my DH & I are convinced that she really can't handle living on her own, and she should just stay with us.

The problem is that she & I don't get along; never have, and I've known forever that she could never live with me, so here I am. She makes me crazy with her continuous stream of questions & criticisms. I make her crazy because I'm not perfect and my boys aren't either. When I get pushed to the limit, I walk away and escape to my bedroom before I blow up. My DH is weary of being the moderator between us.

I did find a book at the library titled "Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even If They Didn't Take Care of You" which speaks to my situation, I think, having only made it 1/2 way through the first chapter, but it's written in psycho-speak and difficult for me to follow (i.e. "You have to recognize your resistance to separating" - huh? or "...we have an insecure attachment to our early mother..." - okay, what?). I also found a book by AARP but haven't had a chance to crack it open yet.

So I've got two big issues:

How to deal with the psychological problems of having an elderly parent move in, particularly one that you don't get along with anyway, and,

How to take care of all the technical details of a poor older person - medicare and various supplementals, medicaid, social security, food stamps, section 8, etc.

So here goes:

(1) Are there any other books that you'd suggest? Websites? Forums?

My DH thinks we should get counseling. I think I could go, but I doubt my mom is going to change her ways at her age. She accepts that she is the way she is.

(2) How on earth do I find a counselor? What kind of questions do I ask to find the right one?

My mother is on SS only, income about $700/mo, but I think she could have filed to get the IRS rebate check.

(3) Anybody know if she can still do it and how?

She needs to change her residency here to get a local Medicare doctor, prescriptions and all that. She doesn't want to, because she gets about $120/mo from Medical because she's poor. I think she'd probably get that from the Florida version of Medical (Medicaid?) but I don't know how to find out and how all this stuff works (i.e. Part D for prescriptions?)

(4) Any references for this?

TIA for any help. We've managed not to kill each other for three days while my DH has been out of town, but we still need to face the situation. This is only a very brief description of the situation so I'm sure it sounds really messed up and it is. It actually feels better just to vent a little bit out like this. Thanks.

Lisa A.

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I'll let others deal with your specific questions. However, I do have this overall comment: Your primary obligation is to your husband and family. As noble and appropriate as it may be to look after your mother's welfare, she is not and should not be allowed to be priority #1.

She may or may not be able to adjust appropriately to your household. Which means you may or may not be able to have her there. And she isn't the one who gets to decide.

Get on the same wave-length with your husband and go from there. If you decided the task should not or cannot be accomplished in your own home, consider other alternatives without beating yourself up over it. Acknowledgement of reality must come ahead of wishes.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 4:13PM
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"My DH thinks we should get counseling. I think I could go, but I doubt my mom is going to change her ways at her age."

I agree with asolo, "she may or may not be able to adjust appropriately to your household."

You might consider signing her up for adult day care so you can have a little time and space for yourself and the kids.

I have several friends who are going through a similar situation. I found two very helpful books at the library that I passed along to them that list resources and suggestions for dealing with one's elders.

1) Elder Rage-How To Survive Caring For Aging Parents

"A Book-of-the-Month Club selection, Elder Rage is a unique combination non-fiction novel and self-help book. Includes a wealth of practical information, valuable resources, Alzheimer’s disease information, startling statistics, long term care insurance, caregiving tips, eldercare services, long term care trends, recommended reading, and how to hire live-in caregiving help. Suitable for anyone facing the challenges of caregiving and for everyone who thinks it will never happen to them!"

2) The Retirement Nightmare-How to save yourself from your heirs and protectors. Involuntary conservatorships and guardianships.

"Dr. Diane G. Armstrong is a clinical psychologist who lives in Santa Barbara with her husband Bruce. They have been married since 1966. Mother of two adult daughters, she works as a writer and consultant specializing in the abuse of involuntary conservatorship/guardianship proceedings in today's courts. Her breakthrough book was inspired by the million-dollar court battle that ensued when four of her six siblings attempted to establish an involuntary conservatorship over their competent 72-year-old mother. It is the first book in America to focus on the abuse rather than the use of today's conservatorship and guardianship codes, exposing a web of state laws that were originally created to protect "infants and lunatics" and are now being used to strip elderly men and women of financial and personal independence during their golden years of retirement."

Links that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 6:45PM
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You've got some hard decisions ahead of you. I think it would be wise to start calling the local agencies on aging available from your country and/or state. You need a lot more information about what programs are available. Also, you might want to consult an elder care attorney. Your mom may not have a lot of assets, but you'll want to make sure you can make health decisions for her when the time comes.

It sounds like you need to set some "house" rules & boundaries. What part of the house is yours and off limits? What hours are meals? Does she have free reign in the kitchen? Does she have a room set up so she can spend part of the day watching TV, reading, etc. without having to be where you are? You get the idea. If she's going to live with you, she should not take over your entire house and entire life.

You also need to start thinking ahead to the time when you might not be able to care for her. If her health deteriorates, the physical strain may become too much. What criteria will you use to determine when you've had enough?

Another forum on elder care is posted below. If you read some of its posts and some of ours, you'll have a much better idea of what's awaiting you and the pitfalls of having an elderly parent live with you.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Elder Care Forum

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 9:46PM
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Wow. Thanks everyone for the great resources.
Trust me, having her live with us is not my idea. I've actively looked at nearby condos within 2-3 blocks of our house, but my DH just doesn't think she can handle living on her own anymore. She's gained a lot of weight back since she's been with us because we cook so she eats. On her own she picks & skips meals. She's a huge help in the household because she does all the cleaning and takes care of all the animals.
She did sell her truck and will stop driving; a blessing for EVERYONE. I know we've got all the independence issues now. She can walk to nearby shopping and we bought her a trike, but it's just too hot & humid for her to spend more than a few minutes outside right now. She has no friends here and no Japanese stores, culture, restaurants, etc for her to involve in like she had in California.
We're taking this one step at a time because we just don't have a lot of choices, so we're figuring out how to make this work.
We're remodeling the house so things are kind of crazy right now. When we're closer to being done, she'll have her own room and I hope to set her up with her own TV and DVD player so she can watch her Japanese programs. (Right now she's in the spare bed in my DH's home office, so she's not comfortable going in there when he's working. Good thing he travels a lot.)
Gotta run and get on with the day.
Thanks again for your help. I'll look up all this stuff when I get back on the computer.
Lisa A.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 12:19PM
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I read this over and had a completely different opinion on the scenario.

OMHO, but it seemed quite obvious to me that after this stay has already taken it's toll on you. Is there still resentment, justifiably or not? I think there is from what you wrote: she panics, she inflicts financial problems, and she obviously can't live on her own; then you say you never got along, she makes you crazy with questions and criticisms, you are on the verge of blowing up, you've managed not to kill each other for three day and the toll of moderating is making your husband weary.

All this has come to the surface again and after what is a short while. That is a short time in comparison to the long-term alternative of having her stay with you.

I don't feel you have to explain or apologize for those feelings. As quite similar to what you wrote about your mother, I doubt my [you are] going to change [your feelings] at [your] age. The entire arrangement sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Because your mother is older, I do not think that alters her ability to sense the discord brewing. Both of you are probably not happy with the thought of a long-term living arrangement together -- understandably your husband isn't either.

Are there other siblings? I feel this should be a family matter and a decision made jointly with everyone. Taking this on alone (albeit with your husband) is a big committment, isn't it? So what is the solution?

Books can only go so far. I have a shelf of them dealing with problems between my adult daughter and I. While I can shake my head and say "oh, this is so accurate--so true", when the book is closed, the problems are still the same.

What I recommend is a visit to Social Services. Why not start there, get an appointment and tell the truth about the strains of your relationship there. There is nothing new they can hear under the sun, your story isn't unique.

Since she only receives $700/mo, there is much more mom should be entitled to than an IRS rebate check (but then, you mention the $120 a month from elsewhere.)

That amount may have been decided on when she was living along? Things are different now, perhaps you might also want to consider her living in an assisted living facility or senior home. To get things set up, you will need the help of an Elder Law attorney.

Before she changes her residency formally, I think that appointment needs to be made. Once she actually 'resides' with you, your actual obligation might be more involved.

As a mother with a very strained relationship with my adult daughter, the last place I'd want to spend my senior years is with her, or have her spend them with me.

The Elder Care attorney will inform you of your options...and I believe once she is declared without assets of her own, there will be some.

Please make that appointment, and phone calls to Social Services quickly. Have a pen and paper besides you and move on from there.

Do not postpone the inevitable. I feel down the road you'll be forced to look at other living alternatives than your home. By that, any positive memories you managed to glean from your past relationship will have been obliterated by the present problems.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 10:33AM
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I think, but I am not sure, that she will have to reside as a resident in your state for a certain period of time before she will be able to get any assistance from the state. Of course, where she is will not change her Medicare payments or her Social Security checks.

You really do need to seek some professional advice from someone that specializes in care for the elderly.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 1:00PM
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Regarding the tax rebate question, she can file a tex return up to October 15 and still get the rebate. All she would have to report is her Social Security payments. If she lost the 1099 from Social Security, call 1 800 772 1213 and ask them to send a replacement 1099. It only takes a few days. On the personal side, my DH and I see a counselor once a week. He was recommended by our family doctor. The marriage counselor stressed that each of us must have a place to go, a haven. It can be your bedroom, or a walk in a park. You need somewhere you can go and be alone when you feel over stressed. Good luck and God bless.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 10:00AM
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Thanks again for the extra advice.

We're getting along okay right now. When things are bad, I spend a lot of time escaping in my bedroom and my mom's blood pressure goes sky-high. She called my nurse neighbor who found her home with 180/something, who then ratted out to me and thence started the whole need-to-find-local-doctor thus Medicaid-here-in-Florida discussion. So that just puts more burden on me to be more patient with her and confront her kindly when she's griping too much. My DH talked to her about toning down her criticisms & comments and she's trying, but that's just her nature. In some ways it's like having a toddler around the house because of the attention that I have to give. Although one that cleans the bathrooms and does all the dishes and laundry.

I am trying to get some answers from Health & Human Services (used to be Social Services) but they sent me over to the Department of Families & Children where I couldn't even talk to a live person, so I feel like I'm already getting the run-around. I'll just have to make a personal visit because the websites & phone calls just aren't getting me the answers I need.

I'll have to approach the whole Social Security thing again. My mom is extremely secretive about her financial dealings, so it's pretty tough. She has no assets or insurance so I'm not sure what the big deal is. I think she has loans that she doesn't want me to know about. She does not have the ability to live within her means - my brother & I have bailed her out ever since we've been able to. Right now my much-older brother in CA is wiped out and has nothing left to give. My turn. He did it ALL while I was a kid and romping around the world as a young adult (in the Navy), lost his house due to her, almost divorced, you get the picture. He's supporting his wife's family now and they're an even bigger disaster, and he might lose his job due to the economy.

Enough rambling. Must get to work on this!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 2:21PM
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Yikes! You've got a lot going on. The financial situation seems worrisome to me. If you've taken her into your house, you really should know what her assets are and what her debts & obligations are. Those could definitely create problems in the future for you. You really need to talk with an elder care attorney. And, along with seeing about programs for her, you need to find out what you need to do to protect yourself & your husband. You don't need to end up "wiped out" like your brother just when you're heading into retirement.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 2:02PM
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"My mom is extremely secretive about her financial dealings..."

Time for that is past! Take no prisoners on that issue. Financial considerations are quite basic to anyone's well being and if she's depending on you, now, this nonsense must come to an end at once. You must know what you're dealing with. Valid decisions will be impossible without this knowledge.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 2:25PM
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Goodness, I'd never thought about having to protect our own assets from having her live in our home. I'd realized that of course, if she passed on, that we'd have to pay for all the expenses involved with a funeral and contacting all the relatives in Japan somehow.
I do realize now that I definitely need to get her POA and living will and all that sort of legal documentation straightened out.
Boys just caught a giant black drum in the backyard with a cast net (?) so I need to run. Must figure out how to cook it now.
Happy 4th to anybody online!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2008 at 1:31PM
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I posted this on another website forum, and perhaps it may help some folks here as well:

On July 1st the NYTimes started a blog entitled "Our Parents, Ourselves". It generated a huge response - over 250 reader responses in less than a day.

One of the most helpful pieces of information was this one, Posting #91:

"Go straight to the professionals for answers to your caregiving questions. Every state has a network of organizations and agencies who have the expertise to guide you through the process and to provide various levels of support and assistance. Area Agencies on Aging are nationwide (although sometimes doing business under other names)."

There are also Geriatric Care Managers, explained by someone in Posting #250 as: "professionals that help families in these situations every day. We help find resources, coordinate care and services, go to the emergency room when needed, and generally can be there when a family member cant, or wonÂt. You can find a care manager by going to, and select "find a care manager"."

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 12:46AM
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I want to thank jannie for her information because my mother got her stimulus money deposited a few days ago - yippie! We did have to go thru the whole 1099 request and mail forwarded from CA to FL and such and such.

About three weeks ago, after urgent care & emergency room fiascos, I realized (during hours & hours of waiting rooms and lots of time to think about it) that I really needed to accept the fact that she is losing her cognitive abilities and that I needed to take charge and make it happen. So I dragged her down to Social Security and 4 hours later, she became a Florida resident. Then to DMV for a Florida ID, then online application for Medicaid and other Florida benefits. We're still a little stuck on the Medicaid and Medicare Part D issue, but it's in work.

I found a county-paid free elder lawyer who drew up a Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, and HIPAA documents so I could speak for my mother in such matters.

This all came up because I stupidly decided not to accompany her inside the urgent care when she spoke to the doctor and I have no idea what my mom told her, but she left happy and with a prescription for antibiotics. I had to go to the front desk and ask for the diagnosis and copy of the records. The next day, after she discussed everything with her friends back in California, she decided that the Urgent Care doctor was a quack and she needed to go to the ER. (NOTE TO SELF: eat lunch BEFORE going to the ER, because you'll be there for hours.) This time I made sure to be there with her every minute. She came up with a completely different story that she told the ER doctor (at least it was different than the story she told me to get to the Urgent Care the day before, since I'm not exactly sure what she said), and didn't even mention that she was on antibiotics (maybe that would explain the lack of bacteria in the urine sample?) so I really had to run ramshod at the ER to make sure the doc had the right story. And I'm sure I came across as the uptight, annoyed, inconvenienced daughter while my sweet darling mom charms everyone in the hospital.

Here's the kicker: She said that she had the same symptoms when she was in Virginia visiting friends early in the year. She went to an ER and then followed-up a few weeks later at a GYN. Then a couple of weeks ago I get the Medicare summary from that incident, and there's a bill for chest x-rays, influenza something....hmmm. How could that possibly be related to lower abdominal pain & frequent urination? A quick phone call to the hospital hinted to me that she came in with a cough and flu symptoms. Hmmm. Now I am contacting all of her past doctors & visits and trying to get copies of all her medical history. Very complicated, many various doctors & specialists. Even though she's in relatively good health and only takes two meds (high BP and thyroid).

Anyway, it's the county Elder Helpline that's getting me through all this. They are wonderful and explain all the services and how to use them. The services give no explanation at all nor will they answer any questions - they just administer their programs and that's it.

I've checked out all the books and links that were recommended above and did get a little bit of knowledge with each one.
I am getting along better now (as in, no fights for a few weeks now) as I keep reminding myself that she is like a toddler and that little conniption she's having over a wet towel left on floor is just like a kiddie tantrum. I'm a bit concerned about how this is affecting my kids, but I plan to ask for a counseling recommendation when I see my doctor for my annual next month.

I am still happy to read any more advice that anybody might have. My current dilemma is finding something for my mom to do, maybe once or twice a week. Adult day care (doesn't seem to exist in my county) or Silver Sneakers or SOMETHING where she can interact with others. Only problem is that she doesn't think she's old so she doesn't want to hang out with old people. Ugh.

Thanks for all the help, everyone, and hope you are all doing well in your personal situation.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 2:05PM
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