Saturday, October 25, 2014

Should You Be the ONE to Take Care of Your Parents? A Question so many of us ask today

My husbands sister who lives in a wonderful retirement home with her daughter close by!


The question above is one that affects many thousands of families every year. There is no cookie cutter answer for every family. Each family must weigh this question in their heart.  Each situation depends on the dynamics between the elderly parents and the children in the situation. One must consider financial issues on both sides, health of both sides, and personality.  Other factors include the state of the patient and the severity of the mental issues involved. It is heart wrenching in many cases. This blog is on our family and our decision on this very serious family issue.

A lot of changes have come about here in the past months since I have been blogging less frequently. Most of you know, we came back to California to try and take care of his father, a retired commander. He was going to lose his drivers license and he was being taken advantage of by mail scams involving a lot of money. He was eating mostly TV dinners and sweets.  He is still playing 9 holes of golf at times but his ability to reason is slipping. He still has control over his finances and medical decisions.  He is still driving even though we have tried hard, as well as his doctors, to end his driving.   We felt in coming back here, we could make a difference and save him from himself.  So we got a house together ....he has one half of the house so he feels independent and we have the other half for privacy and our mental health.  It seemed like there was a good chance it could work with my experience in care giving. We wanted to add quality to his life.  We came back in faith to help him.  We felt he was ready now to accept our help.  He asked us to come back.  So we packed up in Nevada and moved back here to this house.

The adventure started out with hope in the beginning.  With each month his dad has become more belligerent and  defiant to any kind of change to help him.  He will not listen to the doctors either.  He simply does what he wants, reckless or not. He decided two months ago he wants to live by himself  back in the city, in a tiny apt.  He refuses to listen to any kind of reason.  He has fallen twice this week but will not hear of doing anything different.  Most people including his doctors do not see what we experience at home with him.  His thinking is normal and rational at times, then becomes clearly irrational and reckless at other times.  He is determined he does not need us or anyone else either.  In his mind he is fine. That is, even after the last accident where he side swiped a car recently. A off duty cop was behind him and saw the accident. He was clearly to blame but still he tells it that it was the other guy's fault. The DMV required him to take a test to keep his license. He passed the DMV test with 100 percent but yet he can't understand how he is not related to an ancient king of England who left him 100 million. All he has to do is send $50 bucks for shipping.  He gets 10 of these letters a day. He won't let us get the mail for fear we will not give him these scam letters. The bank and local police have told him its fraud. He will not listen.  He will not let us go with him to the doctor. He will not take their advice either. Yet, often in conversation he seems very competent.  He fools most people who are not around him every day.

This is the reality of dementia for many thousands of older adults who still have control of their medical and financial decisions of their life.  They fool their doctors, the DMV and adult protection as well for awhile, until they slide further into dementia.  He managed to talk the DMV into letting him keep his license, despite our input.  So he is moving back to take care of himself.  He has that right at this point.  We have no control legally.  He feels he is perfectly fine to take care of his legal matters. 

The past year with him  has led us to make new decisions for our life. We would never have moved back to CA for any reason other than to take care of his dad. His dad will not move from San Diego.   California is exceptionally expensive and the drought conditions here are a huge factor as well.  My husband and I need to live in a less expensive area. That is a reality of economics for us. His dad makes enough money to pay for help or move into a nice retirement home when the time comes to accept reality.  It is not a sane idea to accept financial help for taking care of him when his mood changes every day. With some patients, there is no choice except to have others take care of them.  They just will not let family do anything. You cannot save someone who refuses help.  This applies to our children, family members, parents, and friends at times.

In life we need to acknowledge with these family members we love, they need help from other sources. Some people have a self destruct button that is on overdrive.  Most of us have a family member or friend in self destruct mode.  Most families have experienced the frustration, watching them make decisions that ruin their health.  Addictions, such as drinking often play a major role in that process. His dad is an alcoholic and has anger issues.  He is a large man who still is pretty strong.  As a caregiver, you must evaluate if you are the right solution for their problems.  Can you really help them?  Are you physically in shape to care for them if they get physically worse. Or you physically strong enough to defend yourself to possible violent behavior. Are you strong enough to deal with all of the issues both mental and physical that the role of caregiver demands? In this case, we are not the right solution for his dad. If nothing else, this experience answered the question above for us.

February will mean his dad will move back to an apt in the city (his choice) until he is forced by life to allow someone to help him.  Sooner or later he is going to have a fall that is serious, one where he is given no more options. He will go down fighting this every inch of the way.  He will be a nightmare for any rehab facility and the caregivers who take care of him.  When that comes, we will try to help facilitate help for him and resources. His life will end in anger....he wants everything on his terms with his rules. It is a sad fact that in life, the destructive decisions we make determine how we live out the last days of our life.

I took care of a man who was a billionaire for three years. I still drive his beloved 300 D Mercedes. He loved that car.   I grew to love him but he was rude to most and demanding.  He was not loved by many.  In the end he was put in the lock up ward of the retirement home, because of his refusal to adhere to help or rules.  I worked 8 hours a day, hired by his family as a private care giver, to keep him out of trouble. This was in the retirement home.   He died in the same ward, in the same small room, as the other patients who were less wealthy.  His money did not ensure him a better death.  His death was determined by the facility where he had signed over his life.  His death was determined by his children who were more than happy to shorten the time they had to wait for their inheritance. The way he lived his life and treated people in the end had a huge impact on how he died. He was master of his own fate, sad as it was. 

We are moving to Tennessee in February.  

We are moving in Feb to a home in Tennessee owned by my sister.  It is a wonderful house on 17 acres, with a barn, sheds, and a well.  We can buy the house there in the future.   In California a house like that would cost about $3000 a month or so here.  There in Tennessee the cost is $500.  That is why so many people who are retired move back to places like Tennessee or Florida.  Since my husband is 69 we need to think of his health  at this point. His health has not been good under the stress of it all.  I will go back to writing articles and working on that part of my passion. There will be room to have a garden, grow veggies, have ducks again.  My husband and I can do some exploring of civil war history. One must come to grips in each stage of your life, what you can do realistically.  That is a hard one but important. Perhaps at times, you need to climb a less treasonous mountain....take it a little easier. 

The business will still continue online, just relocated to Tennessee.   My 760-458-2151 number will stay the same.   I will still be selling the quality Organic Moringa product, I do now.   I feel that being honest with people in your blog is extremely important.  I could have just said we were moving back to TN and left it at that.  Somehow, I hope that sharing this experience with his father might help some of you who are struggling with the question of taking care of your parents.

So blessings to all of you.  Have a great Sunday tomorrow.

Kate Freer, The Herbladyisin

Update: We now live in Indian Mound, TN