Caring for your aging parents

My dad called yesterday afternoon saying that my mother was having a medical problem. She couldn’t speak for a few minutes.

I told him that was a sign of a stroke and she needed to go the hospital immediately. They meandered home from work and I went to my parents’ house to take my mother to the hospital with a sense of urgency they apparently weren’t having. My dad had to deal with their dog and eat dinner. (My dad is like Shaggy on Scooby Doo – always needing to eat!)

Her speech became slurred in the car going to the hospital and that was scary. When we got there they took her immediately back. (If you think your parent is having a stroke or stroke-like symptoms please tell them that and don’t wait in the ER.)

After checking her in the ER they decided she had had two mini-strokes and admitted her for more testing.

When she woke up this morning she immediately combed her hair, brushed her teeth and put on lipstick. She was offended when the nurse told her it was written in her record she was confused. She said I was perfectly clear on the fact that I couldn’t talk. (I love my mom!)

They’re running a bunch of tests today and she’s meeting with a neurologist. My brother is sitting with her now so I could come home to keep the baby. My brother, whom you recall had a heart transplant last summer, was happy it wasn’t him in the hospital bed for once!

She seems fine now but they’re searching to see if there are any blockages in her body. (She’s not overweight. Her cholesterol level was awesome but her blood pressure was high, which is hereditary.)

I knew at some point I would take care of my parents and I’m happy to do that. I’m just surprised it’s so early. My mother is just in her early 60s and is fairly healthy and active. She could leave the hospital just needing to take an aspirin each day. That’s what we are hoping for.

I may be in and out over the next few days while we’re figuring out what’s going on with my mom. So I’m sorry if I don’t get a new topic up every day.

Have you experienced an aging parent needing your help? How did you handle it? What are your expectations for the care your parents will need in the future? What do you do if you don’t live in the same state or town as your parents?

79 comments Add your comment

Jesse's Girl

May 26th, 2010
6:42 am

Many prayers for you my friend. Love you you bunches.

JJ

May 26th, 2010
9:03 am

I am SO thankful my mom is healthy. My dad passed away at 67. Mom just turned 80 last month. She is just now starting to slow down, and she absolutely HATES it. She is fiercly independent, and hates having to depend on ANYONE. She does aerobics three times a week, plays bridge twice a week, does light gardening (pots on her deck, she has a lawn service), still drives, cooks all her meals, still has all her teeth and hair…LOL.

But I know, one day, soon, she will have to start relying on others. I am the one she will come to live with. Neither my brother nor I can stand the thought of her in a home. ( We had to put my grandfather in a home, he had alzehiemers, and that just about killed us). We have talked openly about it. Mom even bought insurance for a nursing home, should that happen.

I don’t care about the money, the inheritance. I will take care of my mom with all the love I can. I love my mom and would rather have her here, than have her money. She took care of me when I was unable to do so, and I think I need to repay that.

Andrea

May 26th, 2010
10:09 am

Theresa, I pray your mother is okay. My mother took in her mother when she was 82 and my grandmother lived with her until her death at 84. For the caregiver, your emotions do run the gamut. I watched my mom mask her feelings of anger, frustration, exhaustion in front of my grandmother. But, for us, there wasn’t an alternative. My grandmother was not going into a home. If my mother ever gets sick, she won’t go into one either. It is not an easy situation but it should be a decision that your family makes collectively and with an informed independent party. The 3rd party can address your questions and concerns realistically.

God speed to your mother, Theresa.

JJ

May 26th, 2010
10:20 am

My mother not only took care of her eldery mother who was living with them at the time, she took care of my extremely sick father at the same time. Her mother was 90 and feeble, and starting to lose her memory, and my father had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, lung cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis. He had to be on oxygen, radiation & chemo all at the same time. Meanwhile, her mother is living in the house with them. Did I mention my mom was a Nurse? I know she definately chose the right profession!!!

My mother is a very strong woman and I am VERY PROUD of her!!!!!

There seems to be no help

May 26th, 2010
10:24 am

I take care of my 80+ year old father-in-law. He has never been a kind man. In fact, he is down right mean. Now he has dementia, is constantly confused, and he is still mean. I have no idea of what to do. I just go over everyday and listen to him ramble for 30 minutes to an hour and do some light housework. If I bring up a home, he blows up at me. This has been going on for years and just gets a little worse everyday.

JATL

May 26th, 2010
11:16 am

@There seems to be no help -I have no idea what the financial situation is with your 80 year old FIL. However, if he has dementia, he will HAVE to go into a home or live with you at some point. He will not be able to stay by himself. You may want to start investigating social services and different homes/alternative living situations now so you can have a plan. If he’s constantly confused, it sounds like he may need to go somewhere soon. I have an uncle with dementia, and he was leaving the stove on all day, trying to drive his truck, running away where no one could find him, etc. Because they’re confused and flitting in and out of reality, these people are often angry and sometimes even become physically violent because they literally are not in their right minds.

Does your husband have siblings? Have they or he thought about the next step? Something will have to be done, and it sounds like the sooner the better! Does your husband or one of his siblings have Power of Attorney? That needs to happen, and if FIL won’t sign it over to them, then there are court proceedings you can go through to have someone declared mentally incompetent. This needs to happen so at some point you can sell his home and possibly use that money to help care for him at a nursing home. Soon going to a home will not be his “choice” but something that just has to happen. It’s sad, but when someone has deteriorated mentally, it can be impossible to handle without professional help.

Mom to 2

May 26th, 2010
11:37 am

to JATL, my heart goes out to you. My Mom passed away from a brain tumor 2 years ago. It was her 2nd bout with brain cancer and she did so well the first time, we all thought she’d do it again. She was 77 when she died. Her last several months were hard on all of us. Luckily, she wasn’t in pain, but she did become confused a lot. It was almost better when she was confused and thought she was busy or younger or in a better place. It was when she was cognizant of what was happening that it was so sad. She would say she never wanted to end up like this and there was nothing I could do. It was awful when she died and for a long time afterwards. My father passed away about 20 years ago so I really did feel like an orphan. I tried to make her comfortable and give her the care she needed but it was hard to watch my active, funny, outgoing mother fade so quickly. I don’t mean this in a harsh way, but it may have been kinder for your mom to pass quickly and not linger, although it wasn’t kind for you.

Theresa, responding quickly to a stroke is very important. My husband’s aunt had a stroke and unfortunately it wasn’t realized for several hours. By then the damage was irreversible. If she had been able to get medical help quickly this wouldn’t be the case.

Many of my friends are dealing with aging parents and it just sucks. It’s hard to watch people we love deteriorate. I was glad I could take care of my Mom and return some of the gift she gave me by taking care of me so often, but it was still hard and sad.

Denise

May 26th, 2010
11:49 am

Theresa, I will keep your mother and your family in my prayers.

This is a rough situation on so many levels: emotionally, physically, and financially. NO one wants to see their parent in a sick/weakened state, requiring care. Not all of us are capable of providing quality in-home care and Lord knows, not all of us can afford to put our parents in a facility.

I went to speak to my financial advisor last week and she asked me if my parents had long-term care insurance. Of course my father’s answer to that was “yes, my children”. I do not live in the same state as my father. My brother does but I am the most financially stable. My parents are young (60) and are in good health so prayerfully I won’t have to deal with any long-term care issues any time soon. It will be a fight because my father has already informed me that he won’t be moving anywhere even if I am the only one to care for him. I told him I’m sending him to Shady Pines (Golden Girls reference). I am not sure how my mother will want to be cared for. I need to discuss this with her.

catlady

May 26th, 2010
12:56 pm

Off topic, but I’d like to share this with “the family” on this blog: I have a new grandchild (number 3) born Monday! A fine boy–9 lbs 6 oz. Our lives go in circles, don’t they? (Sometimes so fast they make us dizzy.)

I concur with an earlier poster, Teresa. Could we have a day of funny things kids have said?

LH

May 26th, 2010
1:07 pm

I tried post yesterday, but it didn’t appear.

If you have any concerns about your dad’s ability to care for your mom: ask (make) your mom put you on the HIPAA form for her doctors. This makes it easier for you to call/contact the doctor’s office and you’ll get better information than if you rely on your parents to tell you what’s going on. You can’t make medical decisions for her, but at least this allows the doctor’s office to tell you what’s going on.

You could also get your mom to give you (or someone else) a Durable Power of Attorney for Health care. This one will allow you to make medical decisions for your mom.

After having to deal with my dad’s medical problems I always put my husband on HIPAA forms.

penguinmom

May 26th, 2010
1:55 pm

@catlady – congrats!

@There seems to be no help – there are organizations that will provide you with caregiver assistance which is sounds like you need. You cannot shoulder the burden completely alone or you will eventually break down. Check into Alzheimer associations or support groups. I agree with JATL, dementia can cause many dangerous situations. Your husband and his siblings (if there are any) need to already be taking steps to protect your fil (and you). There are also day programs that you can take a dementia patient to so that they can ’socialize’ with other patients and it can give you a break.

JATL

May 26th, 2010
1:59 pm

@Mom to 2 -thank you, and I take no offense! I alluded to that earlier in my post, because if this had to happen at all, I’m thankful it wasn’t some long and drawn out nightmare with her not in her right mind. My mother said all of my life that she hoped however she died, she just didn’t lose her mind. A month before the surgery she had suddenly -very quickly -gone downhill and had lost most of her mobility, speech and was increasingly confused. I knew she was SO angry, and she couldn’t even communicate that. When the hospital and doctors were going to all of these heroic measures to bring down her brain swelling, the doctor mentioned that she would “never be more than we saw right then” which was a lifeless rag-doll of a woman in a bed. Her pupils were blown at that point. I almost feel like she spoke through me because I shouted, “STOP! Why are we doing this then? She would HATE this!” I would have said that on my own anyway, but it was almost compulsive the way it came out. There is definitely a lot to be said for a quicker death in some circumstances. It’s going to hurt those left behind no matter what.

TailaMarie

May 26th, 2010
2:04 pm

Sorry to hear your mom had a stroke!

I’m a little worried about aging parents myself. I fear we will become the revolving door for parent care one day! My in-laws live with us and are in their early to mid 60s. While they are relatively healthy, both are overweight with mild breathing problems, smokers, and my FIL has diabetes (easily managed so far). I know one day they will get worse and instead of helping us out with our son, we will be helping them!

My own parents (Dad, Step-mom, and Mom) are in their late 40s/early 50s so we figure right around the time my husbands parents pass-on, my parents will be getting towards needing care. Since my husband and I are either the oldest or most responsible of our siblings we figure this will fall to us some how.

The best thing my parents are doing to help with this is they are already setting aside a fund for at-home nurses. This way, no matter which sibling takes care of them, they won’t have to shoulder the burden alone!

There seems to be no help

May 26th, 2010
2:14 pm

JATL, thanks for the suggestions. I am actually the husband here. My wife has more difficulty dealing with it than I do. There are no siblings or any other family for that matter. There are also no friends as he has always been mean. Money wouldn’t be an issue as he has plenty. However, he refuses to spend a dime on anything. He wont even use the air conditioner.

Alchemist

May 26th, 2010
4:02 pm

My thoughts and prayers to you Theresa and everyone who has experience loss or is taking care of a parent.
I lost my mom on Thanksgiving 2008. I had brain surgery earlier in the year and this was her second visit to help me. She had a few mini strokes (TIAs) for a few years and had been taking baby aspirin. I was (still am) dealing with some big issues from the surgery & the therapies (radiation therapy, chemo) and she made that visit so that she could cook my favorite foods in a manner so that I could eat, since my mouth & throat have been greatly affected.
After being here for about 24 hours, she suffered a massive stroke/brain aneurysm which couldn’t be treated because of her thin blood caused by the baby aspirin. We kept her on life support until my dad & brother could get here and turned it off the day after Thanksgiving. She was 75. We lived a 4hr plane ride away. It was devastating. My parents had been married for 51 yrs at that time. We are a close family. A piece of me died that day. I still pick up the phone to call her. My dad is now 82 and he still works. He is very strong for his age; we are thankful. I know he keeps busy to stay sane. We all miss so much!! So, I empathize with many of you. Reading your stories today made me realize that my feelings are okay and I can continue to grieve. It is especially difficult as I struggle with my health challenges and mommy is not there for me to turn to for help for guidance.

JATL

May 26th, 2010
4:18 pm

@Alchemist -what an especially poignant story. That must have been (and obviously still is) a horrifying loss. It IS devastating. I think sometimes society makes us feel like if we’re grown ups and have gotten into adulthood, that maybe we should “expect” to lose our parents. We DO because it’s only natural at some point -but a little piece does go when they do. Think about it -you parents, no matter how you feel about them, have been the two people there from the very instance of your life. You’ve never known life in any way without them -and when they go, it changes you!

@There seems to be no help -sorry for assuming you were the wife! I’m assuming again here that one of you has to take him to the doctor, right? The next time you go, you really need to have a discussion in private with the doctor. Your wife needs to do it because she’s the blood relation -maybe you could stay with the FIL while they talk privately. She needs to ask about his mental state, the progression, where he is right now, etc. and ask about having him declared mentally incompetent for legal purposes. Speak to an attorney about what channels you have to go through to accomplish this -it will give you access to his money to pay for his care. Since he’s still lucid enough to function a bit on his own and know some of what is going on, this shouldn’t be sprung on him. You can try talking to him about it now, but you say he’s mean and always has been, so he’s probably going to view this as an attempt to get his money. You could have an attorney fix a trust so that the money is only paid out to his care provider until his death and then what’s left can be inherited -that way there’s no question that you two are vacationing in Hawaii while Dad sits in a home. You could also have everything in place, so that if he has to be “committed” in a sense to a nursing home when the dementia has progressed too far, it won’t take terribly long to put things in place. I don’t know your personal financial situation, but nursing homes, private care, etc. costs a FORTUNE and people go bankrupt over it. Good luck with everything -it’s a hard road when you’re dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

G.R.I.T.S.

May 26th, 2010
5:05 pm

congratulations CATLADY!!!! im gonna have a new granddaughter around Sept 9thish…:) will be my 5th grandchild…now ill have as many grandchildren as i do children…

JoDee

May 26th, 2010
6:43 pm

It is so weird to worry about one’s parents in the same way that they worried about us as we were growing up.

I became my mom’s caregiver as she died by inches ( I HATE CANCER!) because my dad was not emotionally equipped to do so. So weird for the child to change the soiled clothes of the adult and to empty the vomit container and to stroke the cheek because there is no longer hair to push lovingly off the forehead…….

I’m reminded of “The Lion King”….it truly is a circle of life.

God asks us to do what we think is impossible…and then equips us to do so.

Prayers for all of you who had stories to tell today, people! My heart is overflowing for all of you.

RJT

May 27th, 2010
5:18 am

Gosh teresa, I’m sure your Dad appreciates you throwing him under the bus like that, nice.

motherjanegoose

May 27th, 2010
7:17 am

@ catlady, I am so thrilled for you and know you are delighted. We had our daughter’s graduation yesterday and ( of course) I was busy. I spent the morning in Kindergarten, so I was exhausted last night. I would love to hear your funny kids stories and agree with would be a fun topic.

@ there…I feel your pain. It may be easy for folks here to give you answers but some parents are not as pleasant as others ( or willing to let decisions be made) and I have walked on your sidewalk. Not all parents are alike and I observe other families and wonder what it would be like to be close and loving like they are, on a regular basis.

Becky

May 27th, 2010
8:24 am

@catlady..Congrats on the new baby..We have had three new ones since Feb..One in Feb., one in March and one in May..All girls..These are like numbers 500 (lol) in my family and I never get tired of the new ones..The one that was born in March actually makes me a great, great aunt..Awesome..

Gordon

May 27th, 2010
11:06 am

Theresa,
I’m sorry to hear about your mom,but it sounds like you acted quickly and we will pray all turns out well. It brings to mind something that I have been dealing with and most our age are now beginning to deal with and that is the turning of the tables regarding our parents. At our age, and older, we are beginning to become the parents and our parents the children.

Listening to how your dad responded and your mom’s stubborness in the hospital makes me think of some of the behaviors I have seen from my parents. It’s a hard task to realize that as a child you really need to look after your folks just as they did for you growing up. Many times, I tell my wife, it’s like dealing with petulant teenagers, especially when it comes to health concerns.

However, after some real-life experiences and the loss of my Mother-in-law recently, I’ve learned that we have to become parental and stand our ground on health issues. We love our parents and we want to keep them around and keep them healthy!

Lisa

May 27th, 2010
11:35 am

Take care of yourself as they need you to be strong is the best lesson I have learned while careing for my grandmother. Take notes on conversations with Dr and nurses and do not be afraid to make calls, write complaints and say no when you do not think they are being cared for correctly. I just fired one Dr that was caring for my grandmother and afterward found out that all the nurses hated him and he had several complaints against him for elder abuse. Follow your gut and stay strong!!!!

catlady

May 29th, 2010
10:14 pm

Years ago my mom had a small stroke. It affected her ability to express herself–she couldn’t think of words she wanted. She’d start to tell me something, and then say, “You will in the blanks.” Well, that would be great, if I knew where she was going with it! It got better very quickly, thankfully, because she was always VERY MUCH able to express herself clearly–to others’ chagrin at times.

Momof4

June 2nd, 2010
10:39 am

It is important to care for the health issues of your parents. However, we can’t forget to pay attention to the financial issues as well. Just as they (hopefully) taught us how to take care of our money, we need to help them with this as they age. As times change, we should be better able to assist them to keep them from being ripped off.

Paige

June 10th, 2010
2:49 pm

If you need support, resources, or help dealing with your aging parents, check out http://www.cooperativehomecare.com. It’s a really good resource for people with elderly family to care for.

Kate

July 26th, 2010
1:28 pm

We’re using something with my dad (he has dementia) but it could also be used with people who had a stroke and are re-habbing. It’s a little personalized book called “The Reminder Book” and it has helpful reminders, ideas, with plastic sleeves for pictures. Very cute. And, it helps everyone, including dad, to be more positive about our experience. Good Luck!

Tom Dyke

August 13th, 2010
1:30 pm

My story is the same as that of about 70,000,000 other folks with aging parents in our country. The story comes from a common question: our home or the rest home?

My decision enabled me to complete the circle of life. I gave back to the sweet mom who birthed and raised my two brothers and me.

We moved my mom into our home for the last 5 ½ years of her life and it was a challenge to say the least. There were no books on in-my-home elder care and no organized online databases for the information and products needed for in-my-home elder care.

In spite of extensive formal education and a varied business career, I was not prepared. It took nearly three years to catch up with the learning curve. It was something new most days and nights and it was relentless. But the rewards were profound.

To help the millions coming behind us with aging parents, I resolved to put a package in place that would prepare them and help them through. The results of my efforts are a book and two organized online databases for elder care information and products. Mama Moves In is the book about deciding to proceed, preparing for the “move in”, marshalling the assets, pulling the family into the process, consulting the experts, making the home ready and living through the experience. ResearchPro are the organized online databases.

I’d like to share my experience with you and your audience. What I have done will be of no benefit to anyone if we can’t reach the millions of people who need the elder care package.

Please help.

motheringourmoms

September 5th, 2010
5:07 am

Thanks for your story. I just found your blog. My friend and I have both just had our mothers move in. We started a blog for an outlet for ourselves. Reading yours – I see you are a few years behind me, and your story made me smile. My Dad passed out on the golf course once. He was 82. He got up and kept playing his game. His buddies just waited. A year and a half later when he passed away, we realized that was the first symptom of his failing heart. Come visit us if you can. http://www.motheringourmoms.blogspot.com