My Dad will be 88 in October and my Mom 93 in December. My Mom would not be able to take care of herself without my Dad's help, but she's not feeble. Her problem is mostly dementia. She doesn't remember things for long, she will wear the same soiled clothes and she just doesn't seem to know what's going on a lot of the time. On the other hand, she is very happy and easy to please. She likes to read, goes to some kind of adult daycare twice a week and loves to go out for any meal!

My dad has been doing quite well. He does not have dementia and is still driving. He seems to be careful and does not drive at night anymore, but I'm thinking he won't be driving much longer. Still, I've ridden with him and he's actually pretty good around town. He takes my mom to the grocery store, gets them to doctor visits and they still meet friends for lunch. Dad does seem to be aware of his declining abilities and has done a good job of cutting back.

Recently he came down with shingles and it's been horrible. My brothers and I call regularly and, fortunately, I live nearby. My husband has been making things in the crock pot for them that we take over a couple of times a week. Unfortunately, Dad got shingles on his face and head, and also in one of his eyes!! I managed to find about the only Walkman CD player still being made so he can listen to audio books and he says that is very enjoyable.

He said that he and Mom have been eating the food my husband and I have taken to them so this afternoon we took something else over. I think Dad looks a little worse every time I see him, but so far, he seems to be managing. I've offered to shop for groceries, take my mom to get her hair done, etc., but Dad has said he's fine doing it. And frankly, he has sounded pretty good until lately. I know he's on medication for pain that is making him tired so, again, I've made sure he knows I'm there to help. He still says he can do things, but I'm not sure.

When I opened the refrigerator door to put the chicken in, it was horrible. This isn't the first time and I've talked to my dad about it because my mom has always been a hoarder when it comes to food. Once again, there was a package of spoiled hamburger and other old food including the last meal we took to them sitting in an open container. The refrigerator is disgusting. We noticed the same thing when they were still living in their home four years ago, when my dad was more than capable of dealing with it. This has never been his area of concern and somehow he ignores it, even when he's not sick. I finally offered to come in and clean out the frig but I guess he was embarrassed because he took care of it. This was last November and he seemed to be keeping up with it until recently when he got shingles.

Now my husband and I are concerned about my parents living in the condo. It's a retirement community so it's easier for them than living in a regular home, but we are thinking they might need to consider assisted living. My mom would be fine. Her biggest problem would be getting used to something new again. It's my dad who is going to have a problem with it. He likes being independent and while he hasn't complained about the condo, I know he misses the space he had on the farm. He's done everything possible to make more space and assisted living would be even smaller.

I know his illness is making things much worse, but it's also made me see how vulnerable they are when one of them, especially my dad, is ill. I've mentioned assisted living before and my biggest concern is that my dad will wait until he has no choice at all, making things stressful and difficult for everyone. I just don't know how this kind of decision gets made. I had to push to get my parents to move the first time but at least they still felt independent. How do I know when it's time?

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