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I just learned that my Dad in New Mexico has pneumonia. His cleaning lady called me a few hours ago; she is my somewhat secret informant. She told me she PROMISED him that she would NOT tell me. He was feeling bad about a week ago, then when she went on Monday to see him, he was feeling worse. He hadn't even touched any booze in a few days!!
He wound up driving himself to the ER; he wouldn't let her drive him. He was released home with a bunch of antibiotics and diagnosed with pneumonia. Of course, not sure if it's Covid or regular pneumonia yet. He lives alone with his three cats. Janie, the Cleaning Lady, and I speak about every month or so.
I live in Denver and just bought my Dad a new phone, so I told her I'll just call him to talk about the phone, and promised her that I wouldn't "tell" that she told me. My Dad was already on oxygen 24/7; he's only 79, but on the frail side. I just lost my Mom less than two years ago to Alzheimer's, and I can't help but think this can't be true that I could lose my Dad too.
He has already pre-planned and paid for his last wishes, he has a Will, and I know that he has his affairs in order as he has gone out of his way to let me know.
When I call him tomorrow (well, really...later today), and if he sounds bad, I'm not going to be able to act like I don't know he has pneumonia. His cleaning lady begged me and said he will fire her if he finds out I know. She is going to his place every two or three days now, as many of her regulars are not having her over during the pandemic.
Should I just say, Dad you sound terrible...are you sick? I'm flying out to see what's going on. If he sounds fine and the cleaning lady backs this up when she goes back on Friday, I'll stay put. BUT, if he sounds bad when I call him, I don't think I'll be able to just stay put and do nothing. I'm in good health, 52, and I have promised him to find homes for all three cats if anything should happen to him (he has brought that up every time I have visited for the last few years).
I don't have any siblings; am I overreacting to plan to probably go to be with him? I'd rather be able to keep him at home than risk having him in the hospital if it can be helped. The cleaning lady can't be with him 24/7. Thank you for any advice or encouragement; I'm just trying to think this through. It's too far to drive; I would need to get a flight to El Paso, and then rent a car to drive the rest of the way. My son could look after my cat every few days at my place.

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Update on the Situation: My Dad emailed me back this afternoon BEFORE I called him, and told me everything. He has A fib and R side pneumonia. I picked up the phone and called him about an hour ago and we spoke for quite a while. He told me not to fault Janie for not telling me, since he had threatened to fire her if she did. So that whole "secret" thing is off the table; Thank God! Meryl Steep I am not!! So then...I had to text Janie with these updates...jeez keeping secrets is a lot of work.

His plan is to ask a friend to drive him to the VA hospital in Albuquerque if he's still not feeling well in the next 1-2 days. We agreed that I will call him again tomorrow evening since Janie will be there from 4-6 tomorrow. Rigging up some kind of bird-feeding device outside on his trees with her brother's help. If he's bluffing about feeling alright, I'm sure she'll tell me. THANK YOU EVERYONE for such thoughtful and kind responses/suggestions. I love hearing different approaches/opinions; it has been so VERY helpful and saved me quite a few doses of xanax for sure. I didn't break down and start crying when we were speaking as I thought I would. I am on his HIPPA to speak with the MD's or anyone at the VA and he agreed wherever he ends up going (if he goes back to the hospital) he will put my contact information down for them. So, I'm going to stay put in Denver for the time-being. And email my Dad to remind him not to get sued over having presumably unlicensed help to get this bird-feeder Jerry-rigged.
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Reply to gemswinner12
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GemsWinner, do you know the VA "team" (red, green, etc.) to which your father is assigned? Or do you know the number of the Social Worker assigned to that team?

I get VA updates 2-3 times weekly, including how they're handling Veterans and the pandemic. Unfortunately, there must be a lot of Internet activity in my area and I haven't been able to log in at all today to access the VA updates.

But the VA does have plans for dealing with the pandemic, and that might include a wellness check (just guessing), or something that could help you and your father.

I think I read somewhere that the police had been asked to do a wellness check.. If so, what was their determination?

I'm assuming that there's no computer his home and can't Skype or Facetime w/him?
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gemswinner12 Apr 23, 2020
Hi, GardenArtist,
Dad refuses Facetime/Skype/Texting; he will only talk on the phone or email. I emailed him last night before Janie called me to tell him that I'll be mailing him a new flip phone I bought for him. He doesn't want a fancy phone, but he did tell me his current phone is aging and taking longer to charge. I reminded him that we're switching over cell phone service ( I pay for three lines of service~ mine, Dad's, and son's). He mainly uses his home line, unless he is travelling. Great idea, and I have tried! Thank You.
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Just wanted to offer support, a hug, and tell you how sorry I am that you're going through all of this with your stubborn-as-hell father. I'm really surprised they let him go home alone with a diagnosis of 'pneumonia', given that Covid-19 is considered pneumonia.

I think you should fly out to see your dad IF you are not a very high risk person yourself.........because flying is dangerous. So is visiting your dad if he does have the virus, right? Only you can answer these questions and decide what to do, which is why I'm writing to offer you support and a hug.

You don't have to throw your dad's cleaning lady under the bus.........just tell him you heard something in his voice that you didn't like, and knowing that he's on oxygen to begin with, wanted to personally see him and make sure he's okay YOURSELF. If he's really sick, this may be your last chance to see him, who knows? THESE are the things that have to be considered when making a decision about flying out there. Nothing else. Forget about how difficult he is or whether he's playing games with you.........who cares? This is a bad time of life for many of our parents and we don't want regrets.

Again, all the best of luck whatever you choose to do in this most difficult situation. I feel like we're all living a very long episode of The Twilight Zone here with the whole mess we're in. One day at a time, right?
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Reply to lealonnie1
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I don't know all your father's conditions, but, your post says that he has not had alcohol in a few days. So, is he a heavy drinker? If so, that is likely why he doesn't want to go to an AL or have too much supervision in his home. If he is steadfast in his thinking, it's not likely he will change his mind, regardless of his physical ailments. It can be very frustrating, but, if he's competent, not much you can do. If you chose to be with him, what would you do? You can try, but, people who are resistant to care, especially due to addictions are very hard to care for, because, they don't see the reasonable measures that most people would welcome. Please post what you find out.
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I would think at this point Dad would have been tested for COVID when he was admitted to rule it out.

Pnemonia is serious. I am surprised at his age and living alone her wasn't kept longer. But then this Virus has left hospitals short on beds. I would ask his PCP if he could be set up with Homecare. At least he would have a nurse checking his vitals every few days and making sure his meds are being taken correctly.

This maybe an on going thing. My GFs husband is the same age and having ongoing bouts. An AL maybe a good choice. He would be monitored more closely.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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I hope I'm not going to ruin it for you.

I don't know who to be most frustrated with.

Your father. "He that would keep a secret must first keep it secret that he hath a secret to keep." If he didn't want word getting out, he shouldn't have told his cleaning lady knowing, presumably, that she is in touch with you. Plus, there is always the possibility of passive-aggressive manipulation here - "I kind of want this known, but I also reserve the right to be really annoyed that my secret has been told."

Janie. Given that she has grandly broken her promise to your father to keep his secret, on what grounds has she the ghost of a right to expect you to keep hers? To do so demands one of two choices from you: one, you don't call your father; or two, you summon up acting skills that Meryl Streep would find it hard to equal. Janie should either have honoured her promise, or she should have had the courage to tell him she was going to tell you because she couldn't not, for reasons of conscience. But you can't go telling tales and then expect better from others.

You. What more could your father do to convince you that he does not consider his health your business? Respect his right to privacy. If he wanted to involve you, he knows your number; and meanwhile you know that he is able to access anything he needs in the way of support services. What good outcome are you hoping for if you intervene?

My advice is: don't call him yet. Check in with Janie tomorrow after her visit. If she reports that he's no better, or if God forbid he's worse, then just come clean with him and defend Janie's disclosure (e.g. it wasn't fair of you to give her that responsibility) as well as you can.
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gemswinner12 Apr 23, 2020
The acting abilities of Meryl Step I do not possess. Very Good points that you make! I still have not called; I will think about it. The only benefit to calling would be hearing his voice (benefitting me). He is a bit mischievous; he has knowingly put me through grief (knowing that I worry about him, and delaying any response for weeks). I have sent the police over before for a welfare check; he had not responded to my calls or emails for three weeks and I didn't have any contact information for his friends or household help. That's when I was able to get the RN/cleaning lady phone number; she runs her own business and I'm sure neither one of them is romantically inclined towards the other. She is picking up many more hours from him over the next few weeks. Janie is a bit smart/sassy/bossy towards me, but I bite my tongue because I'd rather him have the help he prefers and I don't believe she is unfairly taking advantage. He needs the extra help now, and she has the hours to provide him help around the place with cleaning/organizing/cleaning out the cat box (which she Hates). I think you're right; what can I do if I call? He's not going to break down and beg me to come to his side. He might just be stirring the pot, as you say, whether he realizes it or not, as is she. He knows I that I love and respect him.
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Thank You everyone for such sympathetic, empathetic, and overall helpful advice and support. This message board is wonderful!

I had some wild dreams last night! My brain must be in overdrive. It was similar to a compacted stroll through my life, highlighting my romantic relationships.

I will certainly update after I speak with my Dad later today. He always sleeps in late, so I’ll call in the afternoon.

Just to add more information, he has VA and disability and social security. He has already remodeled his tub and shower( handicapped walk in tub and wide shower). He already has ordered me to never place him in a nursing home/facility, and he can have care in the home if it comes to it; he has thought it out and he is eligible/ qualifies if he needs it. My Dad is financially well set. My son is 19, supposed to be in Durango for College, but due to Covid, taking online classes and living with my ex-husband and his wife about 20 minutes away. We all have a good relationship, and he is my only child/ an awesome young man. He interviewed for, and has been awarded, an R.A. position for the Fall, when we hope school will resume.
Good Lord! I just posted a few days ago about how troublesome my relationship has been with my father. Now this! I suppose some form of this situation was bound to happen, but so soon?
Thank You for your kind and so thoughtful responses! I’ll surely post again after I have spoken with my Dad~Bob.
Gratefully
Gretchen
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Reply to gemswinner12
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Just a thought. Could you ask local authorities to do a well check once you have a recent conversation with him? In so doing - they can let you know. The house keeper needs her job and yet was willing to risk telling you. Once you receive confirmation - make arrangements for someone (or yourself) to care for him. Keep us posted. I am sure he doesn't feel well and would welcome homemade soup etc. He's the same age as my husband and they are independent and do not want to bother anyone. If you travel, travel safe.
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FloridaDD Apr 23, 2020
I think if OP calls for a well check, dad will know housekeeper ratted him out.
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gemswinner12, care issues will begin to increase as he ages and his health declines and he doesn't really take care of himself. You must consider that he is on the brink of not really being independent just because he lives in a house. By himself. This incident proves certain things: he won't own up to health issues which means you will only be dealing with dumpster fires, nothing preemptively. And you don't live local to him, so dropping everything to deal with it and he is resistant and denying means he has no empathy for your daily life. Think deeply about the logic and practicality of this arrangement. Many people "slide" into their senior years without really thinking it through and have no real plan to take care of themselves. His plan is for you to drop everything (and affairs with your immediate family) and rush to his rescue. He may deny that this is what he wants, but if he doesn't change his actions, he is definitely voting for this strategy. It is immature and selfish of him (sorry, but you must look at it in the clear light of day for what it is). You've hinted that he drinks. Maybe you have a co-dependent relationship with him. Not healthy. Not enough boundaries. Your most important responsibility is to your immediate family (you've mentioned your son, maybe you have other children and significant other). I'm an only child, too. I put boundaries around the demands of my 90-yr old mother or else she would exhaust me.

Your dad would actually be better off in AL. There he would get good, proper and timely medical attention. He would have a social life. You would have far less to worry about. Even better, if you could convince him to move to an AL near you, he'd have the benefit of seeing you more often and his grandchildren. And it would make caring for him a lot easier and less costly in terms of travel and time away from work. There are ALs that do allow pets, as long as the residents are responsible owners.

Lots for you to consider. It's probably not what you want to read, but what you need read. If left unsolved, this will turn into a dumpster fire, I promise. Getting him on board will require patience, tact and empathy so that he doesn't feel railroaded. It needs to feel like his decision.

Also, I'm hoping by having his "affairs in order" this includes having you as durable PoA and medical representative. Right now this is far more important than a will. If this isn't the case, you MUST help him get this done or you will be shockingly limited as to how you can help him legally if he gets dementia or really sick and refuses help. You won't be able to provide it outside the law. Also, you'r not responsible for his happiness. He's had his whole adult life to prepare for the eventuality of his exit. If he didn't learn anything from your mom's passing -- that's on him. I wish you clarity as you ponder what "helping" your dad should look like going forward and peace in your heart that you can only do what he allows you to do.
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Yes, it sounds very difficult and you are not over-reacting. You can bring up the possibility of pneumonia in your phone call, because your imaginary neighbour has just been diagnosed with it and no-one had guessed that he was so ill. These were his symptoms… have you felt anything like that? For heavens sake check…, and please let me know.

Pneumonia used to be a common killer for older people (called ‘the old man’s friend’ because it was a relatively easy way to go). It’s more treatable these days, but is still dangerous for someone who is 79 and frail. Think through the possibility of it getting worse, both quickly and alternatively slowly. If you fly down now, how long can you stay? If you will need to return in two or three weeks, can you manage to go again? If you can only do one trip, would it be better to wait?

I can see that the possibility of a second death is a real shock, but yes it is perfectly possible. Have courage. It sounds as though your father is fairly sensible (when sober?), so it would be really good if you could have a conversation about the genuine situation, and plan together how to handle it. Best wishes, and lots of sympathy.
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