My father suffers from severe COPD and my step-mother has severe anxiety, agoraphobia and depression. They can't do the basic things to take care of themselves, but they refuse help. What should we do?

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My father is on oxygen24/7 and is worsening. my stepmother is not coping well and we have discussed our concerns with her and my father. she refuses any outside help even from family yet is unable to do the basic things needed to ensure both remain healthy-ie cleaning (dusting-which is critical for someone with chronic breathing problems), going to the grocery store for groceries which my father finds difficult, going out to do necc. errands. They don't want to be a burden as they are only 63 but something must be done as we are very afraid this is impeding both of their lives esp. my fathers health. She refuses to see a dr. for anything and has not done so in 10 years-she's losing teeth, needs new glasses as her prescription is no longer working for her,is rapidly losing weight, etc. My father is worried sick over her that he pushes himself physically to make up for what she can't seem to do. We are stuck in the middle and feel helpless> how can we talk any sense into them?

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Actually, drp9569, you are not as stuck and helpless as you feel. Who is this other person that you keep refering to as we? I think both ya'll and each of them have some choices to make. First of all, I'd make out a list of every health problem that each of them have. Second, I would make another list for each as to what they need. Third, I would make a list of choices that each of them have and the possible outcomes of each choice. Fourth, I would also make up a list of what ya'll can realistically do to help them. Fifth, I share this with them how much you are concerned about each of them, how you respect their right as adults to chose to do and not to do, share with them the needs, choices and possible outcomes that you see; ask them for any other choices and possible outcomes they can come up with and then ask to chose today what they will make about their health because they are adults and you respect their right to chose, but they also must accept living with the consequences of their desisions until at some point they are deemed not compitent to deal with their own stuff in a competent manner. Until someone is determined to be incompetent, you can't force them to get help and some people just don't want to be chanpioned even by a family member. One of the most painful things any caregiver goes through is respecting people's right to chose which also involves their right to fail and then watch them fail because that is what they chose. Now with some people who make bad choices like not taking their meds, you can remind them of that cause and effect by asking and what happened the last time you did not take your meds. I think in this situation the issue of care is one of choice and not triangulating yourselves between the two in trying to help both. Taking the postion of being emotionally stuck in the middle between your dad and yiour step-mother does not really help for it takes on the burden of being responsible for them instead of being responsible to them. I might be wromg but this is my perception.
Love the practical wisdom in your advice, Crewmagnon. drp9569, what a tall order you, your parents, and caring family members face. In the lineup you shared, I would say that the lack of regular dusting issue is the biggest health threat to your Dad due to his COPD.

One thought I have is to set a little table, or spot where they can sit outdoors, or the shade of an open garage, or carpot, depending on the layout of thier home, while you, or someone else tackles the required dusting. It will give them both a little respite from how overwhleming their home has become due to their declining health issues.

After that, it might be good timing to serve some tea, or light snack as you pull up a chair to sit with them and let them know that though you are unable to do the dusting for them with any regularity, it needs to be done by someone for them. Tell them you have made an appointment for the 3 of you to interview someone to decide who might be most suited to accomplish that goal.

Perhaps the 1st few times you get someone to come in to do the dusting, you could make yourself available to hang out with them while the cleaning gets done, to help ease your Mom's anxiety and allow your Dad to play catch-up by literally concentrating on breathing to maintain his oxygen needs, rather than thinking he has to be on the move taking care of your Mom and their household needs.

May not work, but it is a tiny step that may allow you all a much-needed breather and help move your parents closer to facing the reality of their current life needs.

Whatever you decide to do, I am rooting for your success and everyone's respite in your family. You all sure do need a break as much as you need a successful strategy. Hugs.
It seems to me that the decision to get help has to be done by someone esp APS might get involved and could be very unpleasent for you even if you have done nothing wrong I would contact an elder lawyer and get advice before it gets out of hand I was a victim of an agressive APS caseworker and was able to report her by talking to a man running for office but I was lucky that things fell in plce for me.

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