Me and my Parents


#1

Sorry for the long post.

I am a 46 year old man, the second youngest of 6 kids. Originally from the St. Louis area, we have scattered a bit. My sister is the only relative I have who lives near me. I have one brother in Alaska, two others who remain in the St. Louis area and I have one brother who prefers to live under a bridge, whereabouts unknown, generally. I am divorced, live alone (well almost), and expect a ruling on my annulment in about a year.

My parents are both 83 and will celebrate their 60th anniversary this December. When my dad retired, my parents, like so many other retirees, wanted a nicer climate. The Midwest climate was just too much and they wanted to enjoy their new freedom. So they moved to Anchorage Alaska.

Old age has caught up with them. My mother, whose hobbies were photography and reading at least 6 newspapers a day, lost her eyesight to macular degeneration. She also has heart disease and many other health problems common with the elderly. So my mom eats a low fat, low sodium, low cholesterol diet.

My father, a heavy smoker for 70 years, is now on oxygen 24/7. He does not have heart disease. Eating is difficult for my father because he has lost all his teeth. Combine that with only 15% lung capacity and he would get too tired while eating. So he quit eating! About 6 weeks ago, he suffered a serious of very minor heart attacks due to starvation. This formerly 5’11" man weighed 100 pounds. He has since gained about 10 pounds and quit smoking. My father has low blood pressure, enviable cholesterol levels, but is frighteningly underweight. He needs a high sodium high protein, high fat diet, the opposite of my mother’s. I once quipped to a doctor that I should feed him a stick of butter. He said “If you can get him to eat it, do it.”

After my father had his mild heart attack last month, my sister flew to Anchorage and essentially forced them to move down here. Her real plan was to get them into a nursing home. Despite her mid-six figure income, she forced her very own parents to reimburse her for her travel expenses!

Anyway, she called me ordered me to take time off work and help them move. I did not even know she was there and what was going on. She told me it was their idea to move and why should she be stuck doing everything. (She did not have to order me, I would have been happy to volunteer!) I flew there, bundled my dad onto a plane and drove my mother down in my dad’s car. It became clear on the drive down that my parents could not really make it on their own anymore and that my sister wanted to institutionalize them.

It was several days before we got back to Portland and my dad was staying with my sister. That was all the time it took for my sister to “prove” they needed to be institutionalized. She was shocked when I told her that I had already invited them to stay with me and strongly discouraged it.

My one-story house with the three of us would work out well. I knew they did not need that much help. They are bright and alert; so what if they move slowly. They need help with meals, shopping, cleaning up and a few other things. Also helping to coordinate their health care is important.

Shopping is an adventure. Dad hates it. Mom uses those motorized carts available in many stores. But there is a problem. My mother is legally blind. She has her peripheral vision, but she cannot see anything she looks at directly and her depth perception is quite poor. And she likes to drive those scooters at full speed!

My dad is a WWII combat vet and qualifies for VA of benefits that help both my parents. While none of us are wealthy by any stretch, money is not tight.

We all get along pretty well, but my personal life has come to an abrupt and complete end. I have had to drop out of all my pursuits, weekly Bible study, weekly spiritual direction and my ballroom dancing as well. I have not been able to make daily Mass very often since they arrived and I really miss it.

And I can pretty much forget about dating.

Anyway, I just thought I would start this thread about those who are the primary care givers for their elderly parents or grandparents. I am not really looking for advice, as we have things under control. I guess I was looking for experiences and difficulties that others have had.

For example, here is a problem I encountered over the last few days. I was in excruciating pain for the last two days and was in the hospital. One possible diagnosis was gall stones. I became quite concerned. What if I needed surgery? How would my parents get along before I was able to help them again? Fortunately, it was an intestinal blockage which has cleared and I have recovered.

While I was at the hospital, my mom grazed from the fridge eating only those foods guaranteed to shorten her life, accidentally making a mess in the process, the cats did not get fed for 2 days and my father did not eat nor changed his clothes or bathe. Sigh.

What are the experiences of others?


#2

I wanted to tell you this: I discovered that my father, as a WWII vet, was eligible for all kinds of help through agencies not well known to most people. When his wife died, he was left to care for his 92 year old mother-in-law. He was not well himself and I worked full time and could not provide the kind of care she needed.

I started researching, with the help of the Vet Association in my area, and found this program that would pay for in-home help (so many hours a week) at something like 8 dollars an hour. We filled out the paperwork, he was evaluated and they determined that they could pay for 24 hours a week of in-home help - little things like light house cleaning and helping his MIL take showers, prepare her meals, etc. We had to hire the help ourselves which took some time but what we were able to do was pay the person to work 40 hours a week, with the program paying for 24 of those hours.

It helped so much!

You also should look into in-home care programs through your county and through Catholic Charities.

What you are doing is wonderful and you can do it - but you will need some help…it is out there but you need to be proactive and look for the available programs.

you are in my prayers!


#3

Your letter describes exactly why your sister felt it was necessary to put your parents into an assisted living center. They cannot do for themselves and no one person can reasonably be expected to provide the care that they require.
Be glad that they will be close enough that you can visit them often. My in-laws were in north Florida and we were living in Michigan when their health began to fail. I can’t tell you how much time and money was spent by my wife as she went back and forth during that trying time. Dad ended up in a nursing home and was quite content there during his last days. They are both now at home with the Father.

Matthew


#4

Perhaps I’ll post more later, because I don’t want to fire off some glib, one-off advice from someone who is not in your situation. For the moment, however …

You need to pray very carefully about what you feel that God is asking you to do about your parents’ situation. You seem to indicate that they are mentally alert despite their ill health and the accompanying physical difficulties. Okay …

First question … do they require constant supervision around the house, in your opinion? In other words, are they a danger to themselves if left alone at home while you step out for a bit? Is your father likely to take a tumble down the stairs,for example, or could your mother safely do things in the kitchen despite her eyesight problems or is there a danger that she will injure herself or set fire to the kitchen?

Second question … if other members of your family are unwilling or unable to spend some time looking after them each day, what are the possibilities of hiring a part-time housekeeper or a nurse to give you a hand with some of the chores and things, and who could keep your parents company on those evenings that you may have to step out? I understand that you’re not wealthy, but would your budget permit something like that? Would your siblings be willing to pitch in to help cover the cost?

This second option may be acceptable to your sister, if not her first preference. It’s sort of an intermediary step between complete independence and sending them to live in a nursing home.

I don’t have a problem with nursing homes per se, but I think that an awful lot of people (not everyone, so please don’t start flaming me here :slight_smile: ) are a little too quick to opt for the nursing home option when a bit of re-organization and sacrifice on the part of the members of a family might be sufficient to solve the problem.

(Obviously, I’m not talking about those whose parents are suffering serious health problems and need constant medical supervision, but you seemed to me to indicate that this was not the case here.)

As I said, pray about the situation and consult with your spiritual director too.


#5

your parents probably qualify for a provider paid for by SS or veterans who will come in during the day and take care of necessary medical care while you are at work. But your story pinpoints the reason why it may sometimes be necessary to choose the nursing home or assisted living, and a child should not feel guilty when it does become medically necessary. Your sister did have their best interests at heart, and it sounds like nobody did much for them until she stepped in. Maybe her methods were not the best, but there is no need for a family squabble about it. Maybe since you two are the ones closest to the problem and most concerned you should practice your communication skills with each other.


#6

LSK … could you please PM me and tell me of these agencies my dad is 84 and is WWII vet. He is having problems with affording hearing aids and I am courious if any could help.


#7

rpp - Dude, my hat is off to you. <There isn’t a thumbs-up smiley big enough to fit here.> How great is it to see someone that really honors his parents?

No advice from this member of the peanut gallery, just admiration.


#8

You have gotten a lot of good advise. I too recommend the in-home care as opposed to either assisted living residence or nursing home but don’t discount them for the future ;).

There are many different assisted living types of services that help the elderly stay in their own home, look into them. LSK hopefully will pm you with her actual experience, otherwise start googling things like “elder care” specific to your community. If you don’t have the time pm me with your zip code at the very least and I will do some googling for you and pm you back with some info. for you to look further into.

I am a firm believer in people living in their own homes, or in your parents case, your home, until they need 24hr. a day care!

Brenda V.


#9

I don’t have any advice to offer you but I just wanted to say God Bless! That you have even taking this giant step and made this sacrifice says worlds about you. I hope when my parents are old I am brave enough and willing to sacrifice of myself just as you have done!


#10

When I was 11, almost 12, my grandmother had a stroke that almost took her life. My family (parents, me, siblings) moved in with my grandma and her sister (my great-aunt), and we provided care for her for a few years.

The experience was invaluable to me, and I have thanked my Mom for it on numerous occasions. Because of the situation, I found a relationship with God, and many years later, was led to the Church. Unfortunately, Mom doesn’t share my opinion about the situation, and has highly encouraged me to “just put her in a nursing home” if anything goes wrong when she reaches old age. :frowning:

We had a nurse that came by every day to help with care, as well as a physical therapist to help my grandma regain movement in her arm and leg (which ended up not working out). It was hard to care for her, and sometimes, as a 13 year old girl, I wanted to do things like go to the mall with friends instead of care for my grandma, but it taught me so much about sacrifice and love for family.

And without those years of caring for my grandmother and all the family stress that goes with that kind of situation, I don’t know when I would have started searching for faith (I was “nothing” and unbaptized prior to joining the Church).

I don’t have any advice, but I wanted to encourage you in such a noble pursuit. It’s challenging, for sure, especially since there’s only one of you and two of them. I believe you will receive many graces through what you are doing. :signofcross:


#11

I just wanted to post an option that isn’t considered often…

Have you looked into any “caregivers” that may assist you in helping your parents?

My mom worked as a caregiver for a while, which is how I became familiar with the service. (I had never heard of this before.)
She would work with an elderly woman 3 times a week… taking her out shopping or to doctors appointments or just out to lunch. This gave the family some relief and allowed the elderly woman to get out of the house at a very slow pace and provided a little frienship/companionship for her as well.

I don’t know what sort of caregiver options are available in your area, but it may be something worth looking into!

Edited to add…
I don’t believe caregivers need any sort of medical training. They aren’t nurses… just people who can assist the elderly in their everyday life.


#12

I echo what Em in FL said. Look into perhaps getting a caregiver. If there is a local senior center call there and ask if they know of anyone in your area who is needing a caregiver job or call a retirement home or nursing home. Many people where I live will also hire caregivers even if they are in a retirement or nursing home to help them or simply sit with them. If this isn’t an option then ask around about an adult day care center.

I realize that you feel like your life is over but believe me it get’s easier with time. You will feel overwhelmed at times and very frustrated as well but hang in there. You will adjust and make a new routine for yourself. You will be able to do some of the things that you used to do but maybe not all the things you used to do. I would not trade any of the time I have spent with my grandfather for all of the money in the world. I have come to realize that he is the best man I have ever known. I would have missed out on this if I had made the decision to not move in and help him.

One of my favorite verses is Sirach 7:28

Hang in there and know that people are praying for you.


#13

Your personal life is very important to your mental health. I think you should carve some time out for yourself. This will help you be a better caretaker. Taking care of the elderly can suck the life out of you. My inlaws were in their 80’s when we started having to get involved with their care. They are both gone now, but it was a long road.

Remember, your parents are not going to get ‘better’. Things will only become more difficult as you can see. This is why you need to keep yourself healthy mentally and physically as you take this journey with them.

And as for dating, I would hold off on that until you get the annulment.


#14

:thumbsup: I agree ! BUT, you must take care of yourself as well. Check your local Vetran’s Administration for help. Also, contact Social Security to see if they are eligable for help.

Best of luck to you.

Kim


#15

First, thank you all for your encouragement. It is fortunate that at this particular point in my life I am in a position to step in and help my parents. No kids at home, no attempt-at-a-wife (or whatever you call the person you used to live with and who took all your money after the Church grants an annulment) who hates my parents, a house with no stairs, wide doorways and a walk-in shower with a built in seat. Yes, the timing is good.

To the many who have suggested in-home care and looking into various agencies to help, I am well into that process. We have already met with the social worker and have determined what my parents qualify for. Here in Oregon, they have unified the veterans and elderly and disabled services, both state and federal, under a single agency with one contact. That makes it a lot easier! I am already looking over the lists and plan to start interviewing people next week.

Before they moved in, I already had a housekeeper who came every 2 weeks, did my laundry dishes and major cleaning. I also have a lawn service so those major chores are already taken care of. My housekeeper is coming every week now, however.

As for my siblings, my sister is the only one who lives nearby. My brothers are either in the St. Louis, Missouri area or Alaska (or under a bridge somewhere.) And my sister is absolutely committed to getting my parents institutionalized. She tried to get them to sign a power of attorney and name her as executer of their will. She has also made a number of other comments that make my parents suspicious of her motivations. While she compliments me letting my parents stay with me, she says it in a way meant to discourage. Like “Wow! I do not know how anyone could have the emotional strength to put up with that every day, you must be superhuman.” Or my favorite, “Even the Pope would not have the patience you have with them.”

The reality is that my parents are alert and bright. They are not depressed or have mental problems in any way. Well, my mom is a bit absent minded, but not so bad. Since she is virtually blind, I do worry about her in the kitchen and she does tend to make a mess without realizing it. But she knows her limits and stays away from the stove and is very careful with knives.

Anyway, as soon as we have someone hired to look after them during the day, then it will be easier for me to resume my extra-curricular activities. I realize that I will burn out real fast if I do not live my own life. But worse than that, it will make my parents feel guilty about monopolizing my time. Remember, they are not just objects here. They are very much aware that they can be a burden at times. and that is something that my combat vet and engineer father and my farmer’s daughter mother, both raised during the Great Depression, cannot stand. So together, we will make sure that no one gets overworked.

One last point, when I made the suggestion to my dad, he was a little hesitant. He absolutely did not want to go into an assisted living or nursing home, but he did not want to burden one of his kids either. I looked at him and said, as I emptied his catheter, “You changed my diapers and took care of me, I am just returning the favor.”

I will conclude this post by say that if it had not been for my conversion in 2003 from atheism to the Catholic Church, there is no way I would have been able to say that or do what I am doing. Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory.


#16

What a beautiful attitude. :angel1: You are such a blessing to your parents!


#17

I see you have things well under control. Then all I can give you are prayers and kudos for doing “the right thing”.

Brenda V.


#18

I’m concerned about the animosity you have towards your sister. After all, she is the one who first confronted the problem with your parents. She is the one who flew to Alaska and forced them to move. Where were you? It’s hard to be the one to make the first difficult decision. She did it…I respect her for that.

And I’m concerned about your comment that she has a ‘mid-six figure income’ and that she ‘forced’ your parents to pay her back…especially when down your post further you let us know money isn’t really a problem. (not your exact words). So, why shouldn’t your parents pay for what they need when they have the funds? That seems completely legitimite to me. No offense, but you sound kind of jealous. I think you should try to repair things with your sister. She doesn’t sound so bad. She obviously has a different life than you, but you both care about your parents in different ways. And you both have different strengths.


#19

rpp
I tend to disagree a little with newf although it’s hard for anyone from the outside to see the whole picture. The fact that your sister wanted power of attorney and that your parents were a little leery of the whole thing would give me pause. It’s one thing for them to pay for their own expenses, but for your sister’s air fare? I agree that should not be necessary.
Otherwise you seem right on target getting more help for them and with them as they will need more and more help the older they get. A lot of good advice and help in this thread.
Wish I had a son like you! May God bless you for your love for your parents.


#20

The difficulties between my sister and the rest of my family are old, deep seated and not open for discussion. Suffice to say that my sister is not motivated by altruism or love for my parents. There is a history of my sister abusing my parents. Beyond that, I will not discuss the situation.

You may, if you like presume the best about her,. that would be the charitable Christian thing to do. For my part, I must prevent her from harming my parents yet again.


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