In Absentia – Mea Culpa


Apologies for the lack of a post today, TKZers. I’m dealing with an increase in personal demands regarding my aging parents. My siblings and I are fortunate that our parents are in reasonably good health and are still living in their HUGE home, but that’s where things get crazy. None of us want to intervene in their decision making process. We’re sure that will come eventually, but it’s hard to know what’s best for them when they still have steam left in their mid to late 80s.

Are any of you dealing with something like this?

My dad is adamant he wants to stay put or move into a bigger home, when my mom wants something smaller and newer so there are no maintenance issues. We’ve discussed my husband and I living with them or moving into a situation where we both buy homes next door, but I am a firm believer in privacy for married couples. My dad is hard of hearing (and won’t admit it) and has the TV blaring all day on news stations. I couldn’t work under those conditions. We’d have to invest in a headset or make sure he has his own needs taken care of, independent of the rest of us under the same roof. There is no easy solution to the living arrangements, but they are realizing something needs to happen.

They also need services to help them day to day. Services like: grocery delivery, maid service, perhaps assisted living, but my father refuses to start anything that reminds him he is aging. Weird, I know, but his outlook has kept him “young” with an active mind so it’s hard to tell him otherwise and I don’t know if I want to. He’s still driving, but his days of being behind the wheel are numbered. He’s beginning to realize it.

So this week my mom has leg pain and is wheelchair bound or on a walker. We’ve got med appts lined up and I’ve been taking her since I can question the doctor and make sure she’s getting his replies right. She writes down her ailments and goes down her list to make sure she covers things, but it helps to have someone younger with her to make sure she’s explaining things right. That way we can both talk about it after and I can discuss further with my siblings.

So I’d appreciate any input from you on how you’re dealing with aging parents. I need commiseration, people. Any help?

Thanks my TKZ family!


24 thoughts on “In Absentia – Mea Culpa

  1. Jordan, slightly different situation with my father, who divorced my stepmother and moved to a retirement village, at which he progressively moved from independent living to assisted living to a unit for patients with Alzheimer’s before he passed away. None of this is easy, and you have my sympathy and prayers.

    • Thanks, Richard. It would’ve been easier if they had moved out of the family home before now. Letting go is hard and moving is never easy. We don’t want to interfere with their independence, but we hope decisions can be made this year. Thanks for your comment and prayers. Appreciate it.

  2. My sympathies, Jordan. I’m guessing most of us have been in your shoes or will be. My husband and I had almost the same situation with his parents (also in 80s, declining health and stubborn). They are both gone now but it was a rough couple years. We also had a friend who recently had a major health setback at age 62 and has no family or other friends. We couldn’t get him to accept any in-home help and he eventually ended up in an assisted living place. Which was stupid because it could have been avoided. The only advice I can offer is to make sure all the siblings are sharing the load. Because the more support you have, the better things will go. Your mom sounds like the “sane” one…would that all folks would downsize before it becomes an issue. Especially if the home has stairs. As for in-home care…it can be a lifesaver. But it needn’t be actual live-in help…there are some pretty great services these days that offer shopping, chauffeuring, daily-life stuff. Man, this just isn’t easy…no way around it. Email me privately if you want to talk.

  3. You have my awe as you deal with this. I lost both my parents at a fairly young age as well as all 4 grandparents, so I have never been in this situation.

    However, in 2009, a freak accident left me the full-time caregiver for a paraplegic. It took me 4 years to extricate myself.

    From that situation, the only thing I can say is:

    1. Maintain your privacy and sense of self or the situation will devour you. Sometimes you will just have to walk away and change channels, go to a conference or hang out at TKZ. Think about what your personal boundaries are.

    2. Look into all of their benefits and other financial situations and see what programs might be available to help with caregivers. The demands are only going to increase, not decrease.

    3. Think about the inevitable final arrangements and have a game plan. That includes living wills and DNR orders. I had to make those decisions standing in an emergency room at 4 a.m. after a lifeflight carried him to a hospital 2 hours away. I got the knock on the door at 1:20 a.m.

    4. If you think your parents will consent, get power of attorneys set up now and privately, think about the final resolution.

    5. Know that we appreciate you and understand if you have to go off the grid at any time. But you’d better come back!


    • And watch the driving thing. My ex’s family let one of the grandfathers stay behind the wheel far too long. It all came to a head when he caused an accident that nearly killed a young mother. Even then they had to physically take the keys away.

    • He just got his license renewed. Thought he wouldn’t pass but he still is a good driver under daylight conditions. He accepts rides from us for most family get togethers, nut I wish they both would ask for help more. We can’t help if we don’t know what they need.

    • Boy, Terri. I can hear the wisdom & experience in your words. Great advice. We’ve tag teamed on getting some of these things done, but you have a great list here. Thank you.

    • Know a lot about what you’re going through, Jordan. In fact, your dad could be my father’s twin.
      My father was going blind with macular degeneration and my mom had Alzheimer’s. Still, Dad insisted they needed no help. He could manage. He wanted to think everything was as it always been — wanted it so much, he believed it. He refused to have anyone come in the house other than me and my sister. Said he’d feel “invaded.” To make a long story a bit shorter, I capitulated. For four years I was their caregiver. For two years after Mom died, I was Dad’s.
      Terri’s advice is right on. You (or one of your siblings) should absolutely do each of those things as soon as you can. The final arrangements part may scare your parents, but you at least want to have a “casual” talk with them so you know their wishes regarding living wills, etc. Getting the POA is good insurance. There will come a time when they’ll say ok, you can have it — but convincing the legal community and a Notary they know what they’re signing is another thing altogether.
      With those things said, I’ll emphasize my biggest piece of advice is to get outside help in as soon as you can. I went along with my father’s wishes and we never had help come in. I was WRONG. I should have insisted. It would have been both better and SAFER for Mom AND Dad. It would have increased the quality of our lives immeasurably.
      Surely your parents have someone come in to clean? (If not, they should. That should be immediate.) If they accept that person coming in–someone who can do the cleaning better and faster than they — , they’re on their way to accepting more help from other professionals. Sorry to go on so long — but one last thing: if you start out being the only go-to person, you will ALWAYS be the go-to person. So just don’t go there. Keep your siblings involved. Get professional help.People say there is a time when we have to parent our parents. I agree. But my parents were absolute teenagers, on their way to becoming deliquents! They will test your patience, your strength, and your sanity…sometimes even your love. But you did it/are doing it with your children. You can do it one more time.
      Best wishes and my prayers,
      Kathleen Brown

    • Lots of truth in your comment, Kathleen. Plenty I didn’t say about my dad but sounds like you understand. My mom is or isn’t doing the cleaning. We’ve tried hiring services but they adamantly say No (in the past) because they are so afraid it means they’re old. Ha! They don’t want to give up control. But they are starting to see they can’t do it anymore. We’re concerned they aren’t eating right either. Lots going on, but great advice. Thank you.

  4. Jordan, my heart goes out to you! We’re not dealing with this with our own parents yet, but have been on the sidelines of a similar situation within the family.

    My father, who is now 76 and thankfully in good shape, has become the sole caregiver for his uncle who is 86. (The uncle is a half-brother to my father’s father.) We’ve all been very close to this uncle all my life and love him dearly. He and his wife never had children and he was widowed in 1986. He was a distinguished professional man and always lived alone. Over the past 7 years, though, his diabetes has become more difficult to control and he developed dementia. That in itself presented challenges, but things got really interesting once the money-grabbing woman showed up and inserted herself into his life. (Yes, I could write a book about that!)

    Long story less long, my very sweet father with a heart as big as our home state of Texas has been dragged so far out of his comfort zone in recent years I don’t know if he’ll ever find his way back. He’s been forced to make some heart-wrenching decisions that simply had to be made in order to keep my uncle safe and eliminate the risk that he would die alone in his house. He’s now in a nursing home. Not where any of us wanted him to be, but he’s safe and well cared for, and my father and step-mom visit him every day.

    You’re so blessed that you and your siblings are on the same team. My brother, cousin and I have rallied to provide whatever support we can in this situation and are constantly grateful that everyone in the family has the same goal — safety and quality of life for our uncle, and support for our dad.

    Based on my family’s experience, I’d say Terri’s advice is well-placed. Get those legal documents in place before it’s too late. You’ll be glad you did.

    That line between giving your parents the respect and dignity they deserve and keeping them safe as they age can get very blurry!

    It sounds like you’re being an incredible daughter. Keep up the good work, but don’t be afraid to muster up the courage to make those hard decisions when you have to.

    We’re cheering you on!

  5. You have my sympathy and I send you a virtual hug from afar. We’re only just starting to deal with similar issues and it’s so hard! Luckily so far (fingers crossed) our folks are still pretty mobile but still we know the big issues are coming. Hang on in there!

  6. Well, JD, it’s just a real tough situation is what it is. Sorry your dad is in denial about this. Probably you are going to have to piss him off and there will be a lot of tears there. It’s a bridge to be crossed, one way or another. First off, you have to cross it with him. There’s no “best” way. No “happy” way. Once it’s done, he may sign right on. My father-in-law did. What a surprise that was.

    I always worried that my mom would get hung out to dry. It didn’t turn out that way, and I was able to jump in and help her get settled in a great environment when my dad passed. Did the same for an aunt, too.

    My dad was in more denial about advanced age (88) than I realized. I thought he would leave everything organized and labeled. Nope. Nada. So I sorted everything, with the help of a great attorney, who did everything for gratis. He always liked my dad. Lucky there.

    Now my wife and I are facing the same thing. Whoa! We just finished putting her brother on the accounts and doing advanced directives. Been cleaning out old business attire I’ll never wear again. Gave it all to a guy in business school, where they make the students dress in suits and ties.

    Thanks for coming out with this. I certainly feel that we can all benefit by facing these things with the support of our friends.

    • Thanks, Jim. Personal stuff is part of writing. It can really drain you, or put you on a euphoric high. Hard to keep motivated when I feel a shoe ready to drop.

      I love my dad, but he is a challenge. He’s been that his whole life. My mom is easy. Poor thing. She would like to “retire” but the big house & cooking, etc present a problem now that her health is fragile. Their needs are different, but it’s hard to know how much to push. As a family, we’ll have to figure it out.

      Thanks, Jim.

  7. I am so sorry you are dealing with this, Jordan. Been there, done that. No part is easy, but it has to be done. One thing going for you is that your siblings are all on your side. At least you don’t have to deal with the petty bickering that so often comes with your situation. My prayers are with you.

    • Thanks so much, Dave. I feel fortunate that my brothers & sisters talk about everything. One of my sisters is a physical therapist who works with the elderly. She’s been amazing on any medical issue. Her twin (my other sister) lives out of state, but she’s been keeping up with paperwork on my parents (health records etc.) One of my brothers is a landscaper who does their huge yard. And we all call them lots and visit as often as we can, but we’re seeing they need more daily looking after. Lots of this is falling to me since my husband is retired & I am trying to be flexible in my writing hours, but it’s stressful and more demands are coming. I appreciate your prayers & kindness, Dave & everyone. Thank you.

  8. My parents are both deceased. I was lucky in that my mother stayed active and alert, and she could manage my father’s care or make these decisions for him when he deteriorated. When her turn came, she was adamant about staying in her apt. Fortunately, she had long term care insurance that paid for a sleep-in aide. So as not to burden your own children, buy your own policy now. The younger, the better. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

  9. Oh my goodness, can I relate. We had my sweet, 94-year-old father-in-law living with us until he passed away, and are currently monitoring other dear parents from a distance with increasing anxiety. I’m forever grateful to my two siblings who live close enough to my mother to enable her to continue living comfortably at home, while another one of our parents is vigorously pursuing a program of “aging in place,” almost like a military campaign. There’s a low level of concern that never quite disappears. Hang in there!

Comments are closed.