Elderly Dad is causing lots of hassle.

Started by

Pretty long story. Dad is 82 and lives alone. Is in reasonable health for his age generally.

3 months ago he had a chest infection. It was nasty but he would not let it go or listen to the doctor. He must have visited the GP about 20 times and each time they told him he just needed to wait it out.

Hes called the doctor to his house multiple times and now they refuse to come out to him. Hes also called an ambulance three times and each time they’ve checked him in hospital and sent him home.

His chest infection is gone now, but he says hes aching and feels nauseous. To be honest, I lose track of exactly whats wrong with him.

Yet he constantly hassles me. I tell him he needs to listen to the doctor but hes convinced he should be in hospital.

I do my best to help him but I’ve got small children and wife whos ill herself (with fibromyalgia). Its tough for us at times. We have to pay for a cleaner, and childcare. Also family come to stay with us to help wife out. I work 90 mins commute away so its a long day for me (Im up at 545am).

His recent behaviour has included all sorts. Hes faked chest pains to get attention. Hes demanded I go to see him. Hes demanded I take time off work to take him to hospital (I do contract work so its unpaid if Im not there). The hospital one was annoying – I sorted out patient trasnport but he didnt want to do that. My office is 80 miles away from the hospital – he said he wanted me to take him.

Xmas day at our house was a nightmare. He moaned, made out he was dying, was rude to my family, had no manners, and burped/broke wind at the dinner table just to prove how ill he was. Then when I took him homw I spent 2 hours talking him down from phoning 999. All the while my kids are at home having not seen their dad much that day (Its 30 min drive each way to pick up/drop off dad too).

My dear wife finally lost it (shes been great so far). I can see here point. Shes been suffering for ages yet he seems to make as much fuss as he can. Whenever I try to talk to him to explain Ive got others to consider but will do my best for him he does not seem to give a monkeys – its all about him.

Thing is I dont think hes got dementia. I’ve got a friend whos a mental health nurse who agrees too.

To be honest, we’ve had dad for last 15 years on xmas day (brother has him boxing day). I think my poor family deserve a break after this year. Dear bother will have to alter his xmas day pub plans. Im so desperate Im possibly going to tell dad a white lie that wife is working xmas day (shes a nurse).

But I feel so guilty all the time. Trouble is if I dont do the white lie I upset my own family….. :-(


If you're using 999 I assume you're in the UK are you?

You can:

Involve Social Services. You can look them up through your father's local authority website - you want Services for Older Adults.

Advocate for your father in liaison with his GP. Excessive demands can lead to his being labelled the old boy who cried wolf, but given that he has actually had a serious illness recently it's not okay for them to decide unilaterally that he doesn't require care.

It makes me grit my teeth just a little when people say they've 'lost track' of what's going on. Well, get back on track! Either that, or butt out. You need your father's permission for his GP to give you access to his medical records but that's not so difficult, and they'll probably be relieved to have someone rational to discuss his care with.

Making a fuss... He's old, he's ill, or at least he has been ill, he may be frightened and lonely. It's perfectly legitimate for you and your wife to decide that being his primary carers is more than you can manage; but in that case help him find alternatives (see above, social services can advise). Don't blame him for feeling as he does.

For yourself, to be fair to yourself, have a good think about your priorities and establish boundaries accordingly. Your wife and your children have first claim, I'd suggest; but then balance that against what you believe your father's needs and wants are and seek additional resources for him. You can't be everywhere, you can't do everything.

Other obvious sources are AgeUK and CarersUK, the latter will have a local or regional network you can access.

Oh, and don't expect him to be grateful. Not because it wouldn't be nice to be appreciated, but because if you don't expect it you won't be disappointed. Focus on the possible!
Thanks Churchmouse. Yes Im in UK.

I have recently given him a letter to take to his GP to give me permission so we'll see what happens there.

When I say "lost track" its because every time I phone him its a different illness it seems. Some real, some maybe a little imagined and some hes just made up.

Know what you mean about needs and wants. His needs I'll fit in every time but, sometimes, I feel as if hes working against me sometimes and expects me to be the answer to everything.

Know what you mean about being grateful - never happens to be honest. I think the worse thing at the moment is the times I've tried to explain that I cant do something hes got really nasty with me.
BTW - yes we have involved social services and he gets a carer in the morning now. It was ok for a bit but he refuses to have any further care. And hes on about cancelling that now.

He wants them to turn up at 930am every day but sometimes they need to change the times. He was rude to carer the other day - this was boxing day and they phoned him to let him know carer was tied up and he turned up at 1030.

I did explain that probably everyone wants 930am but they've only got so many carers who have to see so many people so someone has to be earlier and some later in the morning. And its not the carers fault - they get given a list of people to see and being boxing day there may well have been less people working.
The GP thing. To be honest, Im surprised they're patience lasted this long. Hes called them out probably 15 times saying he needs someone.

He refuses to make his own way to the surgery. Its a mile away. I've tried to tell him that GP will be fine if he makes his own way (e.g. get a taxi) but it takes a lot of the GPs time to visit him all the time. His answer - why should I pay for a taxi?

I know hes badgered them and badgered them to send him to hospital (and he called 999 a few times). Each time the hospital has checked him over and sent him home. Also, last time I think he was very rude to the GP who, once again, declined to send him to hospital.

But yes the "cry wolf" thing is worrying. If something serious every occured then I do wonder. Hes phoned me in the past saying he had chest pains when he admitted later he didnt really. But then how far does the GP/emergency services let it go?

Obviously, I want emergency services to be there when my Dad REALLY needs them. I just imagine sometimes though how I'd feel if my Dad died when an ambulance is delayed by someone who made spurious calls.

BTW - yes I do think he has mental problems. But he wont listen. In his opinion, mental issues do not exist. "Its all in your head". "People who think they are depressed need a kick up the backside thats all".

(As a sufferer myself of anxiety/depression last 20 years off and on I've never admitted to my Dad because of hs outlook on it).
Has your dad been seen by a geriatric psychiatrist? It sounds as though this has its origens in anxiety a d depression. Meds might make a huge difference.

Learn how to say " that's not possible, Dad". and " I can't do that Dad".
Yes, I understand what he "thinks" he knows about mental illness. You tell him that seeing a geriatric psychiatrist has been "ordered" by someone else. It's called therapeutic fibbing.
There was a documentary a while back that featured a dotty old bat in Birmingham somewhere who called the emergency services every time she wanted to be sat up more comfortably on her day bed. They were tearing their hair out about it: she was up to a tally of several hundred calls, she was on everybody's blacklist, she'd been threatened with prosecution - but when it came to it if she rang 999 and wailed loud enough they had no option but to attend. Moral: if your dad calls an ambulance and complains of chest pain, they'll go. They might be mighty pissed off about it, but they will.

It does sound as though that chest infection has really frightened your father. It would explain his fractious temper, and his self-pity, and this learned helplessness stuff he's pulling on you.

On the boundaries issue, and based on observation of several people I know well who have dealt with embarrassing aged parents, one thing you have got to learn to do is not feel responsible for what they do. Of course it makes you squirm if your parent is rude or bonkers or demanding; and it can be difficult not to blush for them; but It Isn't You doing it, and anybody involved in older care ought to know better than to appear to blame you for your father's behaviour.

What kind of relationship do you have with the carer services? If you possibly can, find out names and telephone numbers and bombard them with flattery. An appreciative relative can do a lot to make up for a grumpy client; plus if he does try to cancel the sessions at least you'll have a chance to argue. There are many providers, by the way, he doesn't just have to take what he's given; but having said that I never did find an agency that managed the continuity and reliability they're supposed to aim for as part of best practice. When he grumbles about it, just sympathise, I wouldn't bother explaining again. What you told him is true, certainly, but however good the reasons are it doesn't make it any less annoying for him when carers turn up late, not at all, or indistinguishable from Adam.

How long has he been living alone?
Dad has been living alone since he retired - 25 years ago.
Well things are getting worse. Last thursday the GP gave him ADs but he'd been reading the side effects leaflet so was moaning. I managed to talk him around but he swore he was going to press his emergency buzzer if he felt ill.

Bear in mind the GP wont come out to see him any more and the ambulance now refused to take him to hospital when "hes ill". So friday he "had a fall".
To be honest, Im 99% sure it was fake or at the very least hes used it to his advantage. There is a slight superficial scratch on his head.

So hes in hospital now. They wanted to send him home straight away because he was fine but he played up and they've kept him in. At least hes got his wish for the last few months.

Trouble is my wife hasnt been well recently. So I havent been to visit him yet. I just cant dump my family again for another fake illness - my dear brother can pick up the slack her. I've spoken to him on the phone and explained but each time hes been very rude to me.

Yesterday he told me it was urgent that I visited him today. I explained (for the 50th time) the situation and that whereas I'd like to visit him I had people who needed me at the moment (wife and kids) and he was safe and being looked after in hospital. His answer "she cant be that ill, tell her to buck up and get on with it!".

Must admit I was not impressed. Wife is MUCH worse than hes ever been and never ever complains. Yet he thinks he can dictate to me.

Back in work today and spoken to him and hes demanded I visit after work. Up 545am this morning, 90 mins to work, I;ll get back to hometown at about 630. 45 mins further to hospital. Probably get home at about 930pm so wont see my youngest. He thinks this is fine because I have to visit him.

To be honest, mentally and physically Im exhausted but all he thinks about is himself.
Paul, don't go. Your youngest child takes precedence.

Instead, do this. Call the ward and ask to speak either to the Ward Manager or to whichever doctor is holding the bleep for your Dad's consultant. Explain that you're looking ahead to his discharge and need to discuss his care plan. At the same time, ask if he is short of any supplies which you can bring for him when - and this is the crucial part - you visit on a day and at a time of *your* choosing. Send your love and reassurance that you will see him soon.

And you know the real reason for not visiting today: turning up on a hospital ward at 7:15 of the p.m. is of zero practical use. There will be nobody there to provide information, they'll be busy getting patients ready for the night, they probably won't let you stay for more than 45 minutes... It's pointless. Don't even bother. Anything your Dad really needs to tell you he can say over the phone.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support