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My dad is 90 and now alone after his wife died last month. My family moved back to the area last fall for several reasons, one of which was they were both approaching 90 and I anticipated they would need help. It happened virtually immediately with serious medical issues for him, and her ending her hospice journey. He is dealing with grief, loneliness, and ill health. I have been with him every day for 3 solid months between 4 and 12 hours a day on average ( during chemo some days were 24). This chick is exhausted! I have enlisted my brother to come on Sundays so I could have a day with my own family... but dad wants me there then too! We have a cleaning lady who comes once every 2 weeks from senior services and he wants me there too, so I can keep an eye on her. I have recruited my sister in law for weekly dinners which she loves to do (alone now that other brother passed) but he puts her off and just wants me.
I love my dad- but I’m struggling. We were 12 hours yesterday at doctors and the emergency room.... I went over today to drop off a prescription and make sure he was set for the day and came home. He didn’t want me to go but I had a migraine and told him I had to take care of myself with some rest.
It broke my heart. I can’t be there every moment and he won’t come live with us despite being an extreme fall risk and his refusal to give up the stairs in the home. I worry constantly and am frazzled. I haven’t had time to unpack our house or get a paying job.... a source of contention in my marriage.
I just need him to get back to a modicum of good health ... but I fear it will never improve. What / how can I be there for him without sacrificing my entire existence? What are the words to use in conversation to help him feel better about being alone/independent? I suspect he has depression- totally normal- but would never admit it for help. But I also cannot be his whole world- it isn’t healthy. His ill health currently is preventing his driving for the most part- so that’s depressing for him too. 🤦‍♀️😬

Your questions seem to be avoiding the obvious issues, unfortunately. At age 90, your father almost certainly shouldn’t be driving. It’s going to get worse, so don’t regret that his ill-health is stopping it. Nothing is going to help him to feel better about being alone - he has lost his wife, and lost all the people who are so actively involved at end-of-life. He isn’t independent now, and his dependence will get worse, not better. He is ‘an extreme fall risk’, he ‘won’t give up the stairs’, and it is only a matter of time until he falls badly and breaks bones. Your house is a mess because you haven’t had time to unpack. Your marriage is under stress because you aren’t earning, quite apart from the fact that you are over-tired, over-stressed, and not much fun to be with. Your father is lonely and frightened of being alone. However sorry we must all feel for him, his demands on you are totally unreasonable and have to stop.

You have got to the point where it isn’t about what your father wants or chooses. You have to stop propping up ‘fake independence’, and make the decisions yourself. Think very carefully before you choose to have him move in with you, and start to check out Assisted Living options. You can be a good daughter when round-the-clock staff are coping with the hard lift care. The alternative is that you will collapse (you can see it coming, can’t you?), and then your father will simply have to go into the first care bed that’s available. Facing facts is very hard, but it really is the best thing for him, for you, and for your marriage and family.

Writing to us has been your first step. Read your post again and believe what you said!

PS I am truly sorry if this has made you cry, but it is the truth, and I send you my love too.
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Harpcat Feb 15, 2020
You have written a very honest answer. I hope the OP takes it to heart. So many red flags in her post and you have helped to sort them out without being mean.
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Sounds like he is wanting you to step in as his wife. He is not independent as you are making up for everything he can't or won't do.

You think that things are crazy now, just move him in and see what happens, your relationship with your husband will go down the tubes. Your first responsibility is to any minor children and then your husband.

If he is lonely why not consider placing him in AL? He can be with people his own age, attend activities and who knows meet a new significant other, that happens quite frequently.

Don't sacrifice your mental and physical health for him, let alone your marriage. He won't change, it is you who has to.

I wish you the very best.
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If you have to be there daily then maybe your father should not be living on his own. Moving him into your home WILL NOT END WELL. It was a nice gesture on your husband's part to offer it but he has not idea what he is getting himself into. You think it will be easier....all it eliminates is the drive to Dad's place...and now you won't get a moment's peace as he will have 24/7 access to you....and he will use it!

If you can't convince him to try AL then you need a home health aid or just someone to come in and sit with him daily. But it can't be you. You need to stress that to him. Start by cutting your visits back to every other day. And keep cutting back until it is manageable with your life, not his. He isn't going to like it but why are his WANTS more important than your NEEDS? You have to get away from the idea that you have to be everything for your parent. It is just not possible.
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I don't know how this will sound to you, but - you're already doing this right.

Don't panic! It is VERY early days. Your stepmother (?) died only weeks ago. Your father is in ill health. You've only recently arrived in the area. And yet already you are correctly reaching out to other sources of support, and gradually gradually weaning your father off total dependency on you. Exactly right, even if at the moment it feels like a maelstrom.

To set your and your husband's mind more at rest, I'd suggest you set yourself a timetable for the next (say) 12 months. (12 months depending on how you expect your father's medical situation to pan out).

It should run something like: perhaps some shorter daily visits, then not daily visits but a phone call instead on alternate days, then perhaps longer visits twice a week with phone calls in between, or whatever pattern works for you.

You will also need an emotional boundary or two to help you stand firm when you know your father doesn't really NEED you but he thinks he does. Once he's got to know the cleaning lady better, you can greet her but then leave, for example, and then a week or two later not be there at all. You and your DH could take him to your SIL's for dinner, stay for a drink, and then leave Dad to be taken home later by your brother. Above all, remember that when you quite correctly took yourself home the other day even though he asked you to stay... absolutely nothing happened. He was fine! - and you got some rest. Keep that as a prime example of why it's best for you to decide the agenda.

What's this about the falls risk and the stairs? Can you describe what's happening?
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hollandgirl Feb 13, 2020
thank you for your helpful message Countrymouse! Out of all the replies you seem to understand where I’m at.
Dad has a blood clotting disorder that manifests itself in his legs and he’s been managing it for a decade. He has poor circulation and pain. He also has developed arthritis in his right hip. In November he was diagnosed with a cancer in a localized tumor on his foot (only and highly treatable). He has completed the first half of treatment, cancer is basically gone, just gave a few steps left to finish up. But all these things result in swelling in legs, feet, ankles. He uses a cane for added stability but has issues regardless. He can’t stand for long periods, he gets dizzy, and his legs feel like he’s lifting bricks. He has both an upstairs and downstairs in his home (dryer is in basement and he finally moved his bedroom to the main floor after his wife passed.)
He is recovering from chemo fatigue- excessive tiredness, falling asleep every 20 minutes etc) he is improving and regaining strength slowly. But he still is very weak and tired to where he has no energy even to get up to go to the bathroom and it’s a struggle. Thanks to a bad prostate he has to use the bathroom hourly and so he never gets good rest anyway and it prevents him from going out in public for long stretches. Everything is timed to getting back home to the bathroom and with the small windows of energy he has.
I firmly believe he will get back to his former self. The man has been a healthy, bright, active man outliving all his classmates and many younger. Heck, 6 months ago he was cutting down a tree out back with an ax- slower than he used to but he sure as hell did it! I’m proud he is not a person to give up- to those who said he needs hospice and take his keys, I can only say they don’t understand at all. He drives better than most people I know! He isn’t currently driving as it isn’t safe with his current conditions. Being old doesn’t mean you should be punished if you’ve done nothing. IF he regains his health I hope he can resume his active lifestyle and freedoms. If not, we will address it.
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Words..,
Tell him what you are going to tell him.
Tell him.
Tell him what you told him.

“Dad, I need to discuss my availability for this next week”
(Pull out YOUR calendar or phone and a pen and HIS calendar)
“I’ve got Wed afternoon open and Friday morning”
(Write your name in the calendar for Wed afternoon and Fri morning)
“You are stocked up in the kitchen so although you like to go to the store on Monday, that doesn’t work for me this week. If you have a list, I’ll pick up what it was you needed when I shop for my house.”
(Write the word grocery list on Monday).
“Sally will be here on Thursday so I won’t be”
(write Sally’s name on Thursday of DADs calendar) “and Bro will be here Saturday”
(write Bro on DADS calendar)
“and I’m spending the day with DH.” (Good and bad here. Good that he knows others are important to you, bad as you don’t need to be explaining yourself).
“So do you think you will be okay on Sunday or would you like to have dinner with us? I can send DH over to pick you up at 1.” (Including him in your life with others).
“SO (looking at your calendar again) Wed afternoon I can take you for your haircut and an early dinner.”
“That leaves Friday morning wide open. You think about it and we can run errands or work on your paperwork for a few hours and I’ll make us lunch.”
”If you have some errands left to run, Bro said he will be here by 9 on Saturday.”
“We can set up next weeks schedule when you are at my house on Sunday.”
“Love you dad.”
(Big hugs and out the door, leaving behind the calendar for his next week).

Now will this work every time or even the first time? Probably not entirely but it’s a start. Don’t over explain. That will make him go down rabbit trails. Stick to HIS calendar.

Set your intention and then carry it out.
You can use what is called therapeutic fibs...dr said I needed more rest, plumbing issue, car problems. Personally I think it’s best to just focus on when you WILL be there and not be explaining why you aren’t. Not sure I would even say why you won’t be there Sat.

Recognize that this will be hard for you as well. You are all in and it’s hard to pull back. He will need your help more and more regardless of how well he is doing now. Find another driver for unexpected trips he might come up with. Help him think about alternatives to you. You might even need to reschedule an occasional appointment (of his) if he is being too needy. In other words say No. (and that’s a complete sentence).
Its not unusual for elders to become fixated on a favorite caregiver. It’s less energy on their part. They don’t have to explain. You are intuitive with his needs. Others not so much. In fairness, the others haven’t had a chance. It’s therapy for him to use his social skills, his words to get his needs met. You know what he needs before he does is my guess. It’s easier in the moment to just do it for him.
Stop that. It’s not good for him in the long run.
So focus on his calendar.
Fill out his calendar on when you are available.
Stick to the calendar as much as possible. Push back on things having to be done at his whim. Delay if only for a day and send in backup often.
At some point gave the talk about you not getting any younger and who is his backup (bro?).
Measure your success. Track your hours with him, traveling to and from him, running independent errands for him and talking about and to him.
Then consciously reduce it weekly. Not neglecting him. Keeping a close eye. Consider cameras. MediAlert etc.
If he keeps calling for daily attendance let him know you need to look for an assistant.
Let him ask. Let him call. They forget they are asking for help. It’s a fine balance. Pace yourself. He’s precious I know. But your constant presence is possibly preventing him from facing this next phase of his life. Pick up the book “Being Mortal, Medicine and What Matters in the End” by Atul Gawande. The five questions might be helpful.
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hollandgirl Feb 14, 2020
97yearoldmom: YES! Thank you! This is precisely what I was looking for. 😁👍 I appreciate every word you wrote and will start immediately. 🥰
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I am with Dolly. He wants a wife and u all ready one to your husband. And if there is already contention in ur marriage, having Dad living with you will only make things worse. Your husband has sacrificed already. Your loyalty is to him.

Time for a sit down with Dad. "I love you Dad but I can not be everything for you." If he has money, discuss an AL. Explain its like having an apt of his own but with advantages. He gets 3 meals a day. Some there to help him with anything he needs. Socialization, activities. Things that he cannot expect u to do. You have a husband and a new home you haven't been able to unpack. You need to get back to work. Your husband needs you too. If he won't do that, then he will need an aide to come in a few hours a day.

If u don't have POA, see if he will assign u. Tell him without it you will not be able to carry out his wishes. Your hands will be tied and the state could step in and take over.
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hollandgirl Feb 13, 2020
Yes, I am his POA😁👍
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Three months is a normal amount of time for most people to adjust to their new normal, which is your dad being a widower. The first few months are the hardest and you have been there for him every day, literally. And you recognize that not only can you not continue like this but also that it's causing strife in your marriage. So it's hurting you (migraine) and your spouse.

You are neglecting yourself and your own family. That is not sustainable. And moving your dad in with you is only going to make things worse. If you don't believe me, read what others on this forum have to say about living with their parent. For some it works but for most it's a decision they regret.

You can help your dad without being there every day. He needs to be around people his own age. There are many transportation services available. He must avail himself of them.

His attitude is never going to change as long as you go over there whenever he wants you to be there. Learn how to establish healthy boundaries. Your dad is treating you like an ersatz wife and you are enabling him becoming dependent on you and only you. Enabling is disabling.

After my MIL died my husband also visited his dad every single day for 3-4 months. We ate dinner with him 2-3 nights a week for those months. It was the right thing to do. And then FIL needed to make his own way again in his world. It's not easy but it's the healthy approach to life. Your dad can grieve AND socialize. The longer he wallows the greater the risk that his depression will become severe and chronic.
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hollandgirl Feb 13, 2020
😢 his wife died January 8.... sounds like it will be spring for the new normal in a few months....
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A parent with dementia or chronic health conditions will never be "normal" again. Every week, there may a "new normal." It's important to accept that.

In the meantime, as others have said, you must set firm boundaries to preserve your sanity. Also, I recommend that you inform dad that you need some days off to unpack your house and to job-hunt - even those are several half days in a row. Your marriage needs to come first!

As you stated, "I cannot be his whole world."
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I can see how difficult this is for you, and how much you want your father to get back to where he was a year ago. You are looking at extremes – no one has said ‘he needs hospice and take his keys’, and only one poster suggested that he might be evaluated. You are saying ‘I firmly believe he will get back to his former self’. He may, but you need to consider what if he doesn’t. At over 90, my experience has been that something traumatic seems to take more out of the person than expected, and they may not get back to where they were. While you follow all of CMs good advice in this adjustment period, it is still worthwhile to check out your and his future options. You can see that the current situation is not sustainable.
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hollandgirl Feb 13, 2020
Margaret: See first post from Mayday for both comments. And others about driving.

I asked in my original post
“What / how can I be there for him without sacrificing my entire existence? What are the words to use in conversation to help him feel better about being alone/independent? “

and that’s what info I’m seeking- not about taking his keys, committing him to a facility, or about his moving in with us, or my marriage. (Gees, yes I said my husband wants me to have a paying job. It was a sidenote not a headline.) And in my world there is no “fake independence” as you say- filling in the gaps for a loved one with shortcomings isn’t fake- our disabled vets with no legs who require assistance come to mind as an example. Parents caring for a child with cerebral palsy, or caring for the aged isn’t creating fake independence but enabling them to live full lives within their abilities. 👍🙏

I welcome constructive recommendations on aging in place, and assisting him to be independent in that place.👍
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One visit to the Emergency Room with my elder, the doctor came in and talked with me. He said everytime she is admitted, a part of her will go away. This will be her base line, here and now, until the next time she comes in. When that time comes, that will be the base line for us to evaluate her. A little piece everytime will disappear. Well, if that didn't get me in the gut. It did help me understand that she will never get back to the previous "base-line" This will be the "New Normal" for her, for now.
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