Caring for my parents is just getting worse...what can I do?

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My parents are 71 and 81. I am the youngest child. I do have an older half-sister but she is schzophrenic. I am single, unemployed and on disability myself with no resources or friends.

Dad (81) had a stroke four years ago. This last one did permanent damage to his left arm. I moved to their apartment building and began my limited caregiving duties. My parents are both quite manipulative and use guilt-trips on me. Mom has long been both mentally and physically ill but does take her many medications. At the time, Dad took precedence. They don't have much of a marriage; they do not help each other. When I am not there, they often fight. My mother will tell me or I will arrive at the end of a not-pleasant discussion over something. My father states he loves my mom dearly and that he could not bear to be separated from her. Mom says she's not going to any nursing home because she wouldn't be allowed to smoke her two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I am a staunch non-smoker so living with me is a moot.

During the last four YEARS, my control-freak Dad has fought me on everything an aging parent needs to do if they want to stay at home, from in-home care to getting financial subsidy for a nursing home, to getting power-of-attorney set up, etc, etc, etc. It was terribly embarassing do be asked a SECOND time "You still DON'T have power-of-attorney set up?!" when I got their income tax done. I have had many talks with Dad about the situation but it's his way or the highway. It is like he does not WANT to understand that I am struggling myself and that, worse case scenario, I could wind up homeless in the next year.

Meanwhile, it is obvious they are both declining more and more each month yet my father refuses to make arrangements for himself and his wife, despite the fact that he does have a contact person/case manager, AND his own doctor told him last month he should be in a nursing home. After four years of this craziness, I have distanced myself emotionally as I figure his ignorance is no longer my crisis. I naively signed up for this situation (and they should have realized I could not handle it given my situation and limitations), yet I do want to see them taken care of properly before one of them falls and breaks something. What can I do if I can't force them to do anything? Any suggestions? Thanks

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You have NO need to be embarrassed about not having Power of Attorney. They have No Business asking you a question like that. You can only help as much as your parents allow you to. Sounds like you've reached the end of your rope with mom and dad. It is hard and nearly impossible to have an orderly life when you're trying to do the right thing and your parents are doing what they think is right. Its like walking a tight rope. Their caseworkers job is to find options for their care. I know with my dad if I talked about different things we could do to make it easier & healthier for him he would get angry. But let his caseworker come and tell him the same exact thing and he was all for it! Someone needs to step in and take some of the stress off of you.
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Hi Evy. My father absolutely refuses to give me or anyone POA. He had a minor stroke 2 yrs ago that left him bedridden out of his desire NOT to do physical therapy because it "Hurts." This past April, he was coughing so hard. The phlegm he was coughing had turned color. I knew when it was greenish brown that he had an infection. He still kept refusing to to go see the doctor. In May, he was in severe pain but still refused to go. I called 911,the ambulance came and he refused their services. They left without even checking his vitals. So I tried calling Adult Protective Service for help. Nothing they can do. He does have a right NOT to see the doctor. They referred me to the Elder care lawyer. The manager who interviewed me said that there's nothing they can do. So they referred me to a bereavement councilor for father (mom passed away in March). Then i went to the insurance to see if we can get the doctor to do something. Nothing. They referred me to....back to adult protective service.

I have learned from the above experience that there's only so much that I can do for father. If he's determined to harm himself, no one (APS, 911, elder lawyer) is willing to step up to help. It seems, since he wants to die, then let him be. That was my take from my experience. I'm NOT saying that this will apply elsewhere. Unfortunately, in our local beliefs, when a husband dies, the other spouse will join him within a year or 2. It's a given.

The only time APS will step in - for those of you in the states - is when they become a danger to themselves and others...but that is only After They Get hurt! this is what I read over and over on this site.

When people ask me about POA, I just tell them straight that he refuses to give anyone POA. He thinks that anyone who gives POA over you - is a fool. My father is also a control freak. He tells me how to wash him,how to wipe him,when i should eat, how I should eat, when I should sleep, etc.... It's a constant struggle between us. He orders me, and I rebel.

I think as long as you live them, they will continue to believe that it is enough. They will see no incentive to find alternative care for themselves. Only you would know what to do. Would you get in trouble for moving out knowing that they need help? If others already view as their caregiver, won't that make you obligated to ensure they are safe? My oldest sister told me this when I could no longer handle both bedridden parents,a full-time job and none of my 6 siblings offering to help watch atleast Friday and Saturday nights so that I can rest. I told them that I was walking out. Sis said that I cannot - it would be abandonment and be charged for elder neglect. That's when I became seriously suicidal. Since I couldn't leave both bedridden parents (oldest bro + wife + 3 grown children live just next door - a few yards away) - I decided death was the only way out of this prison. Fortunately, I found this site and got some great advice from posters here. It has helped me a LOT!!!
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I am afraid for you and this situation sounds like it's circling the drain. You don't want to go down the drain with them. You have to lay down the law here or your predictions will come true. You don't say what your disability is or your age but you have to be in your 40's-50's. Am I right? If you get no cooperation from them then you have to show tough love, I think. They are selfish and it's all about them, unfortunately. Do you have children? Do YOU have a place to live without them? There isn't any information here about your possible options out, mostly how frustrated you are becoming with them. I would pursue housing options in a rent controlled complex for yourself and talk to a social worker about what can be done to help get them on track, then focus on getting your own life together. If you are hanging by a single thread and somewhat dependent on them for a roof over your own head, you aren't really of help to them. While you are out getting your own act together they will also realize life is harder without your assistance. It really sounds like a 'bad marriage' where no one is fully getting what they need or want and nothing is improving. Sometimes you need to separate yourself from a person and the situation, go work on you, and then come back when you are stronger. That's when you will possibly really have the ability to help them and you will have much more clarity about what you reasonably can do without giving up every ounce of your life blood. They too won't find anybody else out there who will just put up with their hard heads or surliness and perhaps be more willing to comply with the things you need to really do the best for them.
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As hard as this is to hear, you are not responsible for your parents. Giving up your own life to "save" them will only cause you to drown, too. No one benefits. Do what you want to do for them but help your own self first. That sounds harsh but it is really the most loving thing you can do for everyone involved.
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I am CARE GIVER AND I SEE MUCH OF THIS, YOU HOWEVER ARE NOT TO LET YOUR LIFE GO TO NOTHING SIT THEM BOTH DOWN TELL THEM WHAT AND HOW THIS IS TO BE AND IF THEY CAN NOT AGREE LEAVE........ DO NOT LET THEM PUT A GUILT TRIP ON YOU.............. AND LET PROPER AUTHORITIES AND DRS KNOW.IF THEY ARE BOTH SO INSENSITIVE TO YOUR WANTING TO HELP LET THEY KNOW HOW THEY TRULY \ARE THE TRUTH MAY HURT BUT ALSO HELP ..
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I would give your dad's doc the case manager info and vice-a-versa. If you could convince yout dad to let u go to the doc with him i would go and very politely explain the situation--if you're dad losses his temper in front of the doc even better. Three key is you remain calm. if a visit it's not possible i would contact the doc and case manager, you could fax them the info. Remember that illness and medications change people, their personality changes, sometimes the bad becomes amplified. it seems like you need them also with your issues, the offices for alliance for Aging and the elderly now have programs and assistance for caregivers. At least they will listen and try and offer advice. Your mom's smoking you can buy a really good air HP humidifier for 100 dollars at home depot, and at least you will not be breathing all the smoke. I use it in my parents room or living room at night just to clean the air. One last thing if your parents were ever involved with a church, call them and ask for someone to visit and chat. It sounds like your parents illnesses has also isolated them.
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After my Mother passed away my father fired the hired caregiver who helped my Mom prepare meals and clean. I had kids at home and couldn't cook for him and clean, I did get him groceries. He kept refusing my pleas for him to get more help and didn't have anything set up so I could pay his bills if something happened to him. Well, I went to some caregiving meetings and found out that my Dad's plan (or lack of plan) was called "catastrophic planning". The parent waits for a catastrophe to happen then has to react to that and hopefully forms a plan. This is what he did, he fell and had to be taken to the hospital and then to rehab. He never regained his ability to walk and stayed at the NH.
I helped him the best I could before he fell, but It killed me to see him struggle and not accept the fact that he needed help. I can't offer advice but maybe knowing that others have been in the same situation may help.
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I hear your desperation and frustration and fears. I caretake my Mother who is 90 and lives in senior housing alone..no services. She refuses to have a home health aide she has fallen twice..not getting hurt. I am her POA and that is helpful for the legal end of things. However I will not as yet force issues with her. I am a nurse in rehab and see the same patterns you and many others experience. It is difficult to not try to control the situation. We want them to be safe and relatively happy but I guess my Mom's freedom in her little apt. is what is important to her and if a few days a wk she eats pickles and saltines so be it!! I have been the food, water, medication police and it does not work for either one of us. You will not change them nor their relationship. Whatever is going to happen will happen..I have found this site to be extremely helpful to know that I am not alone..I am the only caregiver
for my Mother and I get frustrated too. I really don't want the end of our lives together to ALWAYS be an argument. This caregiving has been a growth period for me and aging is scary for those losing independence as well. I have gone to a local caregiver support group which meets once a month and it may not have changed anything but I was able to have a few laughs and talk and listen to know that some of us get this challenge in the end....what I do know is that you must continue to take care of you. Pray, chant, meditate, go for a walk, go to the library
but take care of you..and stay hydrated with water..I wish you the best.
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Lost my post - second try! Evydarling it appears you are the only sane & capable person in your family. I suggest immediately contact your county legal aide services to see if you qualify for free legal assistance. Through them, you should be able to be appointed as your parents legal and medical representatives (since they are mentally incompetent to make their own appt to you). Once that is done, I would suggest you start coordination with the doctors and the case worker to get them both into a nursing home, as the circumstances they have created for you is impossible to deal with. Stand up firm with them as well as your step-sister and be the Boss/Coordinator from this point on, as you apparently are the only sane & capable one in the family. They are wreaking havoc with your life and you don't need to put up with it.
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Thank you all for your time, personal stories and advice.

To clairify a few points, I do live in Canada so some suggestions don't apply, like VA benefits. Unfortunately, Canada only supports caregivers for six months AND only if your parent is not expected to live beyond six months! I cannot afford an elder attorney to grant me guardianship, and even with that, I don't believe it would work, as Bookluvr posted above. Also, I DON'T live with my parents, but I do live in the same apartment building, on different floors. I am not dependent on them, financially or otherwise, as they are dirt poor, living only on old age pensions.

BUT I am beginning to concentrate on my problems as they are are time-sensitive. And I am beginning to refuse my father's increasing demands to be "on-call". He hung up on me last night when I told him I was unavailable to come over due to illness. I now realize that my father created this awful situation for himself and his wife by his selfishness and stubborness, so now he can fix it. If I had a child, I WOULD NEVER EXPECT MY CHILD TO DEAL WITH MY AGING ISSUES!!! Also, my dad's' doctor and caseworker know how difficult he is, and that I have tried and tried and tried to help Dad with his quality of life, so, from a legal standpoint, I think I'm covered. There is no fillial law in Ontario, apparently (thank God).

As Care1975 said, I believe this situation will go the way of catastrophic planning. Sad, but that's the way they want it. :(

Yes, 1Tommy, it would be nice to hang out with friends, but they all left when my job, money and eventually health did from the 2008 recession.

The one positive thing I have learned from this nightmare is how NOT to behave when I grow older, if I can help it.

Again, thank you all for your advice and for allowing me to vent without judgement. (((((((( big hug ))))))))).
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