October 23, 2017

Helping Your Aging Parents: What To Expect




One of the toughest things many of us face is dealing with our parents as they age. Watching someone you love decline is not pleasant. I will tell you my parents' story because it is probably rather typical, and the one I know best.

As my mom and dad started struggling with older age issues I had to learn as I went along. Since I lived within 35 minutes of their home, I became the primary caregiver. My brothers lived quite far away. They did what they could with occasional visits, but the bulk of the responsibility fell on my wife and me. We were just fine with that role and enjoyed a strong loving relationship with mom and dad.

In 2006, my parents had the foresight to move into a retirement community. Dad was 82 and mom was 79. At that point, both were in good physical and mental shape, certainly well enough to be allowed into the community. It offered independent and assisted living options as well as a nursing care center. They wanted to avoid the situation where one or both became unable to care for themselves or too sick to be accepted into such a facility. We had discussed other options: caring for them in their own home for as long as possible, or even moving in with us.

But, in the end mom and dad insisted that the benefit of the three level system was best. As it turned out their timing was excellent. Dad was a trouper but his failing memory and hearing loss often left him somewhat befuddled. Within 18 months my mom’s health began to take a dramatic turn for the worse. Four years after moving to the community she died. Dad made it on his own for several more years, dying in 2015 at age 91.

Anyone with aging parents knows about all the daily decisions that I faced. Can anything be done to make their independent cottage safer to help prevent falls, burns, or other accidents? Do the bathrooms have grip bars? Are the throw rugs slippery? What in-home services does the facility offer? Asking these questions directly to my parents usually didn’t generate helpful responses. For quite awhile their contention was that they could handle everything even when that was not so. Finally, I had to just go ahead and take the necessary steps.

Older folks often suffer from poor nutrition. Meals are skipped or poorly planned.  Staying properly hydrated is a major problem. If the person’s eyesight is failing or gone, even the heating of meals becomes a big challenge. Luckily, the facility where my folks lived had a few dining options so two of the three daily meals were taken care of. Breakfast at home or a light lunch was possible for the first few years. Then, too often, one of these meals would be skipped or forgotten.

Next on my list were financial issues. Again, some foresight proved very helpful. Various health and legal directives were up to date. What about paying bills and taking care of taxes?  I assume that this can be an area of conflict, particularly if the relationship between parent and grown child isn’t the best. The fear of being taken advantage of is very real for seniors. Careful explanations of the consequences of missing credit card payments, utility bills, or tax problems are required.

My dad was more than willing to turn almost all of that over to me.  I was able to interact directly with their investment counselor and make decisions. After being added to the checking account I paid the few bills that still were required.  

One the biggies I had yet to deal with was the taking away of the car keys. From discussions with friends and what I read in various blogs, I knew this would not be fun. My mom was unable to drive the last four years of her life due to macular degeneration and other injuries.  So dad was the designated driver to take them to doctor’s appointments, food shopping, and all the errands of daily living.

I checked his car every time I visited for new dents or scratches. Even though the retirement community has shuttle and on-property transportation, he liked this last bit of true independence. Finally, at age 88 he agreed he was putting himself and others in too much danger to continue. The solution was to gift the car to a granddaughter.  He didn't want to let go of the keys, but felt good about helping her. 

Each parent took multiple pills every day, so the management of that couldn't be left to chance. I met with their family doctor and had the legal authority to intercede if needed. Of course, there was no one to guarantee that the right pills were taken, at the right time, and in the correct dosage as long as they lived independently.  I watched for signs of trouble and understood that a move into assisted living might be triggered by a pill problem.

Memory loss comes with age. Already I sometimes have those frustrating “senior moments.” Both parents were having issues in this area. In my mom’s case, she broke her leg and ankle a few years before her death. That put her in a hospital for almost two weeks and then into the nursing center. She didn't remember breaking her leg. I assume some of that is the brain blocking out bad experiences. But, it is still shocking to me that whole episode was not real to her at all.

In his last few years dad had almost no short-term memory either. Luckily, he was a list-maker. His daily to-do list was written down in great detail in a notebook he carried with him always. He finally became comfortable with answering a cell phone. But, calling me always created problems.

The broken leg really accelerated mom’s decline. While she was allowed to “visit” their apartment, she was not allowed to return there to live. That awareness, along with her almost total blindness left her with little to fill her day and mind, so the slippage continued. Dad spent most of each day sitting in her room, reading the paper, or discussing doctor appointments, but that was causing his world to close in, too.


I’m afraid this is not a post that will end of a burst of optimism. Dealing with aging parents is mostly about facing reality. On several levels my folks were blessed. They had the financial resources to be in an excellent facility. They had family in town who visited at least once a week, sometimes more. Through 63 years of marriage they remained deeply in love and committed to being there through good and bad. Mom and dad were there for me. It was my time to be there for them.



 If you haven’t faced this issue yet, you may have it in your future. If you have been through this, then you have experiences I ask you to share with all of us. There are all sorts of questions, problems, and possible solutions I have skimmed over or missed completely. I would very much appreciate your feedback and comments on this subject. It may not be pleasant, but it is real.


43 comments:

  1. A story that is very familiar to me having gone through something remarkably similar with my own parents in the last few years. Thanks for the post.

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    1. You're welcome, Tim. This journey with our parents is all too common. It is one we must prepare both mentally and emotionally to endure.

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  2. Yep, we can relate right now. At 82, Ruth's father is still driving short distances although nobody else feels comfortable driving with him. To me, that says he should not be driving. I think a call to his doctor is in order, because he won't give it up on our advice. He is also having memory problems. And the big house is falling into a state of disrepair, and it's not due to lack of funds.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. W used a financial argument to have my dad surrender his keys. We made the point that if he were involved in an accident, especially a serious one, he would risk being sued and lose a chunk of the inheritance he wanted to leave to his three sons. It would be easy for a good attorney to prove that he should not be driving and open him up to major consequences. The realisation that he was putting everything he and mom had financially worked for could be wiped out convinced him to give up the keys.

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  3. I think it is worthwhile for all of us seniors to looks at your stories, which are similar to mine, from both perspectives. Someday you will be on the other end as well.

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    1. Yes, we will. Giving up the car keys will be just as tough for me as it was for my dad.

      I hope Betty and I commit to the move to a CCC before we miss the window. Neither of us want to make that move, but neither do we want our kids to be burdened. It will be a difficult time.

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  4. Well there's not enough room for our story so I'll give the abbreviated version. My father was "easy" because he was a WWII veteran so we had that for him. Plus my brother had moved in with him so there was someone with him all the time. My father didn't have much money, and luckily had just enough to live on. He passed away in a VA hospital. My mother was way more difficult because she refused to give anyone power of attorney. We later found out she had dementia. We hired an at home attendant until she needed 24 hour care. Nursing homes in NY cost $5000 per month..not an option. The social worker suggested guardianship to get her into a home since she was still legally married to my father. Anyway the guilt associated with the whole process still haunts us all today because legally we had to disown her to get her care.
    I'm still wondering today did I do my best for them. We tried Lord knows. My sister and brother were the guardians and I was the financial backup. The guilt will drive you mad!

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    1. Thank you very much for sharing this version of the journey most of us will face. The lesson from your story is for those of us with kids who will be in the position of making tough decisions: do the right thing with all the legal documents taken care of well ahead of time so they don't have to go what you did.

      As you note, the questions of did we do the right things at the right time don't end with the parent's death. That burden can be eased if everything is clear ahead of time.

      Again, thanks, Gail. Yours is an important piece of this story.

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    2. You're welcome Bob. It's a timely post.

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  5. Tom Sightings' last blog was titled "5 Questions to Ask Yourself After You Retire," one of them being - Are any surprises in store? My mother's advanced age is not a surprise but it's certainly something that is inevitable - hearing loss, vision impairment, paresthesia of the fingers, loss of stamina already exist. Any attempts to be proactive are met with resistance and attack, downright aggression at times. She was always a poor driver and now she's worse. She's independent to a fault so doesn't accept help well, especially from me, the family member that lives the closest and who has a nursing background. She has a sharp tongue and she uses it on the people closest to her. Her behavior has isolated family members and so months go by before other family members visit and I think they're a little surprised at the signs of advanced ageing. I think they're happy to leave her "care" in my hands - Mona will look after it. I will employ watchful waiting. Certainly, if I see her acting in a way that is a threat to herself or others, I will intervene. I think that the push to get seniors into care arises from a need to assuage our guilt associated with the sense of obligation. I will not feel guilty for the outcome as long as she's capable of making her own decisions even if they're not the decision I would make. All of this leaves me with the intention to be proactive about my ageing.

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    1. "Watchful waiting" is a good summary of the position my adult children must take. Your mom's resistance to your efforts is not atypical, it is just a consequence of changes in the mind that affect many seniors. Of course, that doesn't make it any easier.

      Proactive about my own aging is the major lesson I learned through all this with my parents. They took the proper steps at the proper time and made the last few years much easier for all of us, them included. I hope I will be as wise.

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  6. The place you took your parents to sounds very much like where Dave's dad went. He had an apt. in our house for several years until he almost burned it down. All the smoke detectors were blaring and I ran into his apt. to find him trying to change the channel on TV while a pot he'd put on a trivet on the stove was flaming to the ceiling. After that heart attack moment we knew we couldn't leave him alone, meaning if we went to the beach or anywhere else, he had to go with us. So we found a facility like you described. He enjoyed his own apt. for over a year then went up a level and ultimately was in hospice. The last part is difficult to see. It's all about waiting for the inevitable.
    I would rather be run over by a bus.
    b

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    1. I choose going to sleep and not waking up. The bus option would give nightmares to all the passengers!

      "Waiting for the inevitable".....a sad but true reality we all face.

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    2. Rather be hit by a bus or going to sleep and not waking up. Wouldn't we all go for that if we could but we don't get to choose do we?

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  7. My father passed away not too long after retirement so he never had the deterioration that many folks will. Mom lasted for two decades in a tiered facility, and it was great for her. It literally wasn't until the last month or so that she needed more care; chalk some of that up to her cheap Irish background, but all in all it worked out very well for all five siblings, since she gave me responsibility for her finances and I kept the wolves at bay (including family members near and far, the worst kind of financial wolves). Deb's Dad passed away in his 50s so we had no experience there, but her Mom deteriorated quickly over the last few years, living her final two years with us in TN, and only one month at a CCC facility before passing.

    I guess this is just to echo what you and many have stated, Bob. We have a lot of similarities when it comes to aging parents, and can also learn a lot to lessen the burden on our kids. We talk often about how we will lessen that burden for our daughter, and will do everything we can to not saddle her with worry. Not easy since eventually we will all get to a point of lessened capacity, but if we can do all in our power before then it will make it easier on the next generation.

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    1. As I get older I wonder what I will feel like and think as I begin the slide to the end that all of us encounter. As humans, do we have the capacity to ignore or deny some of the erosion of our bodies and minds, or are we very aware up until the end of what is happening? If the former, that might explain some of the feistiness and rigidity in attitudes and behavior that seems to take hold as folks age.

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    2. At 81, I am fully aware of changes in mind and body. What interests me is that my mind seems to continue to function as it did decades ago, with only those occasional "senior moments" beginning to occur more often. I have become increasingly aware of things my body no longer can do, or do very well, even though my mind says I still can. Adjustments are made as needed. I avoid almost all driving at night. I no longer have any reservations about asking others for help with physical tasks. Unless some dramatic change (stroke, heart attack, broken bones, etc.) occurs, believe I'll remain well aware of what is happening until the end arrives.

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    3. That is an interesting insight, Dick. Except for something like dementia or Alzheimer's I assume my mind will remain active for most of the time I have left. Is that a good thing? Your comment seems to say, Yes.

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  8. Thanks for the excellent heads up Bob. My mother is just turning 80. Luckily, she is still doing very well.

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    1. I hope for many more productive and loving years for your mom, Brent.

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  9. My MIL (94) is currently living with us and has been under our direct care for a year. Her vision was that she and dad would live in their home until she died or if necessary would move in with her daughter. This really did not work well and after dad died in 2011 we finally had to kidnap her from her home in 2015 and move her into an independent living facility. She hated it and lasted only a year before she was not able to stay there. So now she is with us Totally bedridden, unable to speak due to a minor stroke about 6 weeks ago. From the time Dad began failing about 10 years ago until now the entire process has been hard on the family as none of the 7 children lived close enough to do any type of daily or even weekly observation. We all really wish they had moved out of the house when dad started to decline but we had never had the "right" conversations with them for this to happen. We still have a 4 story house full of 40 years of stuff to get rid of- and that will be another story with 7 siblings to satisfy.

    I have said all that to say this:
    Please do not do this kind of thing to your kids. When the time comes gracefully let go, move out and into the best care facility you can. Clean out, give away, pass on, and dispose of the stuff and sell the house. Get the legal paperwork in order right now, figure out how you will give up the keys, etc. If you do not have or do not trust your kids find somebody to deal with this.

    Let's use these and others stories about caring for aging parents to spur us to not do these things to our kids/family as much as possible. This aging is hard enough for the kids/grandkids to deal with without us not having prepared the best we can before hand.

    Bob, if you want to write another "book" make it a short "Now that your 60 do this!; A guide on preparing to die without driving your kids crazy" (or you really don't have to pay them back for their teenage years) :-)

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    1. What an important story of what can go wrong during this time of life. As you say, most of what you and your family has had to go through could have been avoided with better planning and acceptance of reality. And, that doesn't even include the task still ahead: cleaning out and dividing up 40 years of living in a house.

      Your plea for all of us to help our offspring avoid what you and your family has endured is one I hope everyone heeds.

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  10. Bob,

    As I have said before, our circumstances with this issue are so similar it is spooky. My mom passed in 2012.

    My dad is 91 and although his health is relatively good, his short term memory is failing fast. He is in an "independent living" center, although I am amazed at the number of people in his facility that have hired "caregivers" that allow them to stay in such a place. It is also sad to see the number of people who have no family or friends to help them. Dad fought to continue driving, and was remarkably safe (I gave him regular driving tests), but one day he got lost... 2 blocks from his former home where he had lived for more than 60 years. His doctor contacted the DMV and his driving days were over. He is still bitter, and the loss of that freedom has increased his overall depression markedly, despite the fact that I have offered to drive him anywhere he wants to go. "You don't understand," he says. He was a professional truck driver for 45 years. Driving was part of his identity.

    We are maintaining his former home and he told me the other day that he would very much like to spend his final days in the house that he and my late mother built in 1949. He cannot possibly live there by himself, and I have recently realized that I, too need to think about a relocation to a place to "live out my days." So I am considering packing up and moving into his house (my childhood home) and taking him with me, for as long as I am able to manage him safely. After he passes I will then think about where I should live, but for now I am compelled to help him realize his dream. Most of my family and friends think I am crazy to consider it, but he is my dad. I think I owe him at least the consideration of his request.

    There are lessons i have learned in this experience. And I am certain I will be learning more of them. The lessons thus far are:

    1. Meet your elderly parents where they are cognitively, not where you wish them to be.
    2. Understand that, despite all of the popular press information to the contrary, it generally sucks to get old.
    3. I do not want to be 90. I don't know how long I want to live, but I will know when I reach my limit.
    4. Don't outlive most of your friends and family.
    5. Keep interested--in something. Learn something new every day.
    6. Try to find gratitude... for something.

    I am sure there will be more lessons emerging. Thanks for this post.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Your willingness to even consider the idea of moving back into your childhood home with your dad says a whole lot about your relationship with your parents and your love for them. That is true compassion at work. Whether you end up doing it is almost beside the point from my perspective. You have modeling the type of loving behavior we all aspire to.

      Thank you for making my day, Rick.

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    2. Rick-

      It is great you are considering and willing to relocate to let your dad live out his days in the family home. We sort of did this for my MIL - we relocated after we retired so we could help the family with her care. She started in her home, moved into an independent living facility (only by kidnapping her) and finally had to move in with her children. Over the last year she has mostly been with us and has been here full time since Easter. She is 94 and now totally bedridden. She will not get the same level of care if we try and move her to a facility so she stays with us for now. None of the other 6 kids live close enough to provide much help.

      Some thoughts to be successful (in random order)... (I'm assuming you are single from the way you talked but if a spouse is involved be sure they are on board as it will stress things)

      If you do move be aware that caregiving of an older person is a full time job. They must be watched constantly and potentially not be left alone at all. Even for you to make a "quick trip to the store". You will need some level of help. Before you go explore the availability of in-home caregivers locally. Also the availability of Medicare based help. My MIL is technically in "hospice care" which automatically qualifiers her for Medicare help. You dad probably won't qualify so medical based help may be up to you to arrange and pay for.

      If your dad will be an angry or otherwise difficult patient (as a patient is what they will become) it will get even harder. Help may be difficult to keep or find. Fortunately my MIL likes her outside caregiver (this time) so it has been a bit easier lately.

      Once a person gets out of a facility into a home it can be difficult or impossible to again get them to accept going to a facility if things get tough. It will be a battle. Consider this a one way trip.

      Sleep may become a luxury unless you have night help.

      Be sure you have a plan and maybe even prearrangements if care must be transferred to an outside facility.

      Suggest you read the book the "36 hour day" which deals with caring for a person with memory loss.

      Bob

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    3. All great suggestions, Bob. Thanks.

      I do have some potential respite help from relatives, but I know it is a large commitment and will put my life on "hold" for awhile. If he becomes dangerous to himself or others alone or at night it will be time to move him to a care facility. We have already visited memory care venues in the area and have a good idea where we would place him.

      Navigating uncharted waters, for sure. I appreciate the experience and advice of others.

      Rick in Oregon

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  11. I was lucky(?) my mom died very quickly of renal failure. Dad had prostate issues and developed an allergic reaction to the meds keeping it in check-- died 2 weeks later. Miss my folks to this day and that is 30 years ago.

    My wife's mom died at home after breakfast sitting in her favorite chair. She was 84. My father-in-law, however suffered for 25 years with dementia and Parkinson's. He was "beyond the pale"for 25 years. Tore up the family. Brother not talking to sisters. Sisters not talking to nieces and nephews. Really sad. Not even after his funeral did they "come together" as a unit. Nor at their mom's funeral several years later. A broken family over "what."
    Blog brings up so many issues.

    Yet, this is why I read you religiously. Many laughs, some tears. But still my own personal "satisfying retirement." Thanks for letting me ramble.

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    1. Absolutely, Jack. If what I write didn't inform, touch, move, stimulate, or motivate someone what would be the point? I'm very happy you find satisfaction here.

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  12. My dad died suddenly, so we didn't face some of these issues. When my mom got cancer some years later, it was my sister who was the one close to home while I lived far away. I made trips home every few weeks, but still it was my sister who bore the day to day responsibility. So my comment is more for those who are or might be in my position.

    There were many decisions and things to take care of. For me, my priority was supporting my sister in whatever way I could. Calling to check in on her, offering to take care of things that could be handled by phone. Mainly, I never second guessed a decision she made, and whenever she asked for my input, my answer was always the option that made it easier for her.

    After Mom died, my sister still had lots of responsibility and I continued to be supportive in whatever way I could. I encouraged her to use her best judgment and assured her that I would not question any decision she made. And I didn't. And I acknowledged her efforts and expressed appreciation and gratitude every chance I got.

    At times like this, we are often focused on the parent who is dying, which is understandable. But it's important, I think, to support and acknowledge the person in the primary support role, like you were.

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    1. You have made a very, very important point. Support and the refusal to second guess the person "on the front line" in a caregiver situation is essential. That is a tough job and one that could be made much more stressful if other family members felt the need to critique what was being done.

      My brothers were not happy being so far away during my mom's last years and dad's slow decline. They visited when they could (both were still working) and supported whatever Betty and I were doing. Now, as we wind down the estate they remain committed to following my lead and being fully supportive. That has made things so much easier on this end.

      Thank you, Galen. Your perspective on this appreciated.

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    2. Galen, you did a wonderful thing for your sister! I was in your situation as my parents were near my brother and I was far away. I don't know if I was as successful as you were but I tried and the experience did bring my brother and I closer together.

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    3. Juhli, I'm sure you were as successful as I was, because success is just doing the best we can, and I'm sure you did. Like you, it did bring my sister and me closer together. I felt like we were both at our best during that time. It's not always like that, of course, and my sister and I have certainly had some bumpy times, as all siblings do, but I'm grateful that that wasn't one of them.

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  13. There is a problem that we need to be aware of when taking care of our parents and their computer use. In the last few years of my dad' life he got hooked on lotteries and magazine subscriptions, hoping to win a big payoff. When he died in 1996 I found drawers full of lottery tickets from Australia and magazines on subjects like parenting and raising babies. He didn't have a computer so all this was by mail. He spent thousands of dollars in his last few years.

    Now, do we have to worry about our parents or aging relatives visiting web sites or clicking on things that could not only cost them a lot of money, but infect their system with viruses? As the aging process begins to rob them of discernment, how do we protect our parents from all the bad stuff that can happen on the Internet?

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    1. That, dear wife, is an excellent point. I remember having to deal with your dad's magazine subscriptions, cancelling them left and right. He apparently signed up for regular lottery tickets, too, so that was another issue.

      Computers increase the potential for problems. There are parental lock-type controls that can be put in place. Not having a valid credit card for purchases would also be a way to help. But, the caregiver would have to be aware of computer use and misuse and find a way to deal with it. Viruses, scams, stolen information...all are things that an aging computer user might not be aware of.

      I had not thought about this area. Thanks for raising something that needs to be considered.

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  14. So now we have to deal not only with car keys but computers, check books and credit cards. Another spot where children have to be forceful and get control of these instruments. As long as you have access to information you can freeze access to new credit being applied for, kill credit cards and close checking accounts to prevent theft or misspending.

    I have never had the need to do this but if I had a parent who would not agree to allow me to monitor spending etc. I would do this in a heartbeat.

    I know this sounds harsh but about the only way to protect them from predators is to remove their access to funds. Probably a bigger battle than the keys but if a parent would not agree to some sort of protection of assets I might consider some kind of legal remedy to gain control.

    Mostly to ensure they do not spend it all and then become dependent on me. Plus there is no one I detest more than people who prey on the elderly. Anything I can do to thwart them is worth it in my book.

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    1. Scams that target the elderly are a major problem. Not just computer scams but door-to-door salesmen or "inspectors, calls supposedly from the IRS or a credit card company all target those with less ability to separate fact from fiction.

      You hate to think that the safest course is almost total isolation since that diminishes some of the joy of life. I guess the answer is try to limit the damage that may occur. Risk is part of life and, heaven knows, younger people fall for computer garbage all the time, too. This is a new wrinkle in the role of caregiver.

      Thanks, Bob.

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  15. The thought never crossed my mind re possible computer hacking type stuff when I was (unsuccessfully) trying to persuade my elderly mother to get a computer some years back I must admit. I think the thing that is probably proving most difficult with my parents is they are both distinctly confused - and one of them (ie my mother) won't admit it. The other thing that is proving problematic is that both my mother and my brother (yep I'm female) have turned out to have been just assuming for years that I would be a caregiver to my mother come the time if she needed it. But no-one thought to check with me whether that would be okay - a. for me to be one b. for my brother to get off scot-free and leave it all to me. So I got on with planning my life myself (as freely as my brother has done) in total ignorance of the plans they had made for me - and moved across the country to the back of beyond (and I don't have a car and nearest train station is some way away). Lesson from that I guess - is parents and brothers should never just make assumptions that one child (particularly if its a daughter - with the fact that most carers are still female) will "carry the can" in case that child is totally oblivious to those assumptions and making their own plans for their life. Net result of that has been no-one has made any valid plans for my parents latter years (neither them, nor anyone else) and it is creating problems now. Personally - I do sympathise with my parents generation as a whole if they find themselves in the position of needing care though. All that's possible now in my own family is I'm urging my parents to spend on whatever help they want (cleaner/gardener/taxis/etc/etc) and not getting anywhere - as my mothers mind had been set so firmly on the assumption I never knew about that I would be "it" if it came to it. A difficult situation and I long ago made my own plans what to do if my health ever became too bad to live a normal life and, thankfully, ours is the first generation that will be able easily to put those plans into effect (ie decide we're now "leaving" and "leave"). If I'm wrong in assuming the law will let us make the choice to "go" for ourselves if I ever get to that state of health - then I've made my own "departure plans" for myself. I long ago decided I certainly wasn't going to live until 90 (as the odds of ill health have become so high by then) and I'll go any time sooner than that if I needed to escape ill health.

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    1. The "assumptions of care" problem is a big deal. You are right: the gown female child is usually expected to be the one who takes this load (and the oldest one if there are two or more girls). As your story makes clear, that is a very dangerous "decision," especially if it goes unspoken. Obviously, it is also unfair and sexist in the assumptions of female vs male abilities and availability in this area.

      Thank you for sharing this side of the issue of parental care. Everyone reading: make a note!

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  16. Both my parents spent the last several months of their lives in nursing homes, but both were able to make their own decision about what facility to go to. Both when my father was sick and in her own final illness, my mother used a strategy of asking each of her five children for different types of help (some lived a few minutes away and some hundreds of miles away), which meant that each of us felt involved but no one felt overwhelmed. -Jean

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    1. I like that idea of getting all the grown children involved in some way. That helps eliminate feelings of guilt or being taken advantage of. Excellent addition to this great conversation, Jean.

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  17. Bob, thanks for writing about this difficult topic. Of our parents, only my mom at 84 is still alive. Despite health issues, she lives independently in a two bedroom condo unit (not in a senior’s Centre) and she is still mobile on a scooter, and actively engaged in her small town community. She made the decision three years ago to sell the family home, after a difficult snowy winter when she felt isolated and shut in for months (she does not drive, and refuses to use the seniors’ shuttle or a taxi, and at that time did not have a scooter). Although family members encouraged her to consider moving to a multilevel seniors centre, my mom is very determined and preferred to purchase a ground floor condo not in a seniors’ facility. She is doing well for now, and most of those hard decisions are still ahead of us. Hopefully mom will accept help and our intervention when the time comes, as at present she is very determined to manage on her own.

    Jude

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    1. As long as she is not a serious danger to herself and others, I'd say she has earned the right to stay in her new condo until such time as things change. Giving up the larger home for her new place was a very important step.

      Yes, some hard decisions are ahead for you and her. I wish you and mom the very best. Frankly, I'd like to feel in good enough shape to think I can safely manage my affairs at 84, too. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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