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My dad (age 88) and stepmom (age 77) have been married for 21 years. There are adult children on both sides. As my dad has gotten older, he has grown in his tendency to just want to be at home. On the whole, this is fine, but my stepmom, still being younger and in good health, wants to go and do things, including some travel. Dad doesn't want to travel, though, and even though he is generally in good health for his age, he really doesn't do well to be left alone for more than a work day. Unfortunately, the house they live in belongs solely to my stepmom, and for whatever reason, she won't let anyone, not even me or my 3 siblings, stay in the home with our dad while she travels. So, she gets put out because no one takes him anywhere so she can get a break, but he refuses to go anywhere. She wanted to go 3 hours away to her timeshare for a week or two, and she told me this year that "no" was not an option. She would make him go. Imagine my surprise when I found them at home during the time they were supposed to be away. And she was mad as a hornet at everyone, even though none of us knew about the problem. So, in a sense, they have imprisoned themselves. She won't let any of us stay there to care for him, and he won't go anywhere, even with her, most of the time, other than occasionally church, or out to eat. It has been well-established that she is not going to bend on allowing any of us to stay there, so the only thing left is to figure out a way to get Dad to cooperate with leaving. Do we medicate him? Pay one her relatives to stay there since we aren't allowed to? Or what? We love our stepmom and want to help the situation, but it feels like our hands are tied. I would love to hear about any ways you have been successful getting an elderly person to cooperate in something big like this. Thank you in advance!

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Jungle: Maybe your sister will get through to your step-mom.
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JungleJan: Yes, you're right on point about saying "sorry, we tried. You're stuck unless you're willing to change." Good luck!
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Your parents did a good job raising you - seems you've turned out a good person. Well done!
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Rainmom, thanks for your reply. I think the difference here is that our help is "expected." My parents did a good job raising us. We had a stable, loving home, were not abused, and generally felt safe. We always had what we needed. My dad worked 3 jobs at one point so my mom could stay home when all of us kids were at home. So, naturally, we should honor Dad (my mom passed away far too young from cancer) by being willing to help out. And generally, we are. Some of us have more ability to do so than others, but we are willing. And, we are willing to tag team ,if needed, to do so. The blood sibling relationships are sturdy enough that we can accomplish some things through teamwork. So, I think some of it has to do with that expectation and just *how my stepmom thinks* that expectation should be realized. In her case, she thinks it is in getting Dad to leave so she can go away without having to think about anyone being in her house while she is gone. If this were not a blended family situation, this issue just would not exist. Our family is far from perfect, but there is a loyalty, love and gratitude among us for our upbringing that makes us want to give back and do what it takes to get it done. In fact, that was modeled for us as our parents looked after both set of their parents during our childhood in our home for portions of their elder years. It's really just that our stepmom is making it hard for us to help. We do see that. We're just trying to find that balance between our willingness to help and the fact that, hey, she married someone 11 years older than her. If I might be a little irreverent for a minute, she really should have seen this coming! I guess she didn't research the history of longevity in our family...doh! Seriously, I care about both of them and just want to try and help if we can, without any of us losing our minds in the process. Thanks for your input!
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JungleJan - you seem to have a good read on the situation. It boggles the mind that SM can't see that since she is the one asking for help - that perhaps she might need to take it as she can get it. I mean, it's not like she's doing you or your sister some big, benevolent favor - allowing you to give up a week of your time to look after your father and she's making a sacrifice in going on vacation. Doesn't seem she's expressing a whole lot of gratitude. Sorry - I don't know her, she's your SM. But if I had someone willing to come stay with Rainman for a week at no charge - well, I'd be falling all over myself thanking them. As it is when our guy does come for the weekend with his wife, I leave a generous eating allowance that includes all of them, clean the house like Michelle Obama is coming, new soaps, fresh sheets and towels - even micro brew beer in the fridge for after Rainman goes to bed - and we pay them besides. I guess that's why I just don't get it. But then again - when my mom first started showing signs of dementia I'd beat my head against the wall repeatedly trying to reason with her over the most simple, basic, obvious stuff! I don't envy you this awkward and trying situation. Good luck!
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OK, I'm going to try and respond to all 3 of the last posts in this one reply, so please bear with me. :-)

Grandma1954, I'm certain there are wills in place. The contents of them simply have not been made known to us. A trust is not necessary for my dad's estate, and my stepmom's is not our business. Dad's things come to us and hers go to her family. The only issue, as has been brought up, is where he will live if she predeceases him. We do need to get that question answered, however unlikely that scenario may be.

Llamalover47, there are a host of excuses my stepmom gives for not allowing anyone but a few select blood relatives in her house while she is not there to supervise. It is not uncommon for the elderly to have issues with outside caregivers, and to be fair, my stepmom is elderly, too. I have also known her long enough to know that she and my father can be equally stubborn. My sister may be making some headway in getting my stepmom to bend, but if she won't, we will have to get to the point where we just say, "Sorry, we tried. You're stuck unless you are willing to change."

Churchmouse, my dad is so able-bodied for his age that there is a part of me that thinks it is extremely sad that he has taken to his chair. He could be living so much more life since he is still here, has his mental faculties and can even drive. There are so many folks decades younger than him that can't do half of what he can do. And, I am sympathetic to a caregiver's need to get away. I also have a longer track record with my dad. I've known my stepmom for 20ish years, but I've known Dad my entire life. The roots are deeper and I feel more potential for success there. So, I guess that is why I feel bad for the both of them. They are, in a sense, imprisoning themselves. If Dad would come stay with one of us even for a week, Mom could get a break. If Mom would allow someone to stay at her house with Dad, she could get a break. But one of them needs to budge. I guess I had more hope of getting Dad to budge than Mom. Even my stepbrother says that she is unlikely to bend. So, we are at an impasse. In the end, if neither of them will budge, we will have to let the crumbs fall where they may. At the moment, my sister thinks she is making progress, though, so we shall see.

Thanks for your input!
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JungleJan, between your stay at home Dad and your climbing the walls Stepmother, you must be fit to be tied!

But I'm curious: other than that you're more hopeful of getting him to budge, why are you more sympathetic to her bonkersness about not allowing even house-trained non-felon family members to stay overnight than you are about his not wanting to leave the comfort of his own favourite armchair?
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JungleJan: To get an elder to adapt to anything other than their comfort zone, which is their house, is EXTREMELY difficult.Yes, get him to a doctor. Have you asked your step-mom why she won't allow you in the house to take care of him while she is away? Yes, your step-mom is causing this problem; it's not how to get an elderly person to cooperate, but moreso how to get a step-mom to bend.
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Unfortunately many conversations about POA's for Health and Finance are put off until it is far too late.
Will's
Trusts
Rights or survivorship
Health care decisions
there are all things that are often left until one person or both are not able to "legally" make a decision due to dementia or other health reasons.
Tough discussions to have but important ones to have.
I do hope all is well with your Dad and that he does get away and enjoy himself.
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Thanks, Grandma1954. I thought my stepmom wasn't going to take "no" for an answer when she was supposed to go to the ocean in late June / early July. I never did really hear why she couldn't get him to go. My older sister has been talking a lot with my stepmom since I posted this original message. She seems to feel she is making some headway. That's the good news. It doesn't mean the trip will happen, but if nothing else, I think my stepmom is feeling "heard." Right now, a trip is planned for mid-September. Since my husband, daughter and I live out of town, we are trying to give Dad the "carrot" that we will all meet up at a favorite place with which he is very familiar. He owns a vacation home about 7 hours from where he currently lives. The only thing we need to do is get the cable turned on and he could be happy as a clam, as long as he doesn't freak out about bathroom issues enroute. So, we are hopeful, but time will tell. As for the housing situation, I can only assume we would need to move Dad in with one of us or to assisted living if something happened to Mom first. Someone else asked that question earlier in the thread, so we really need to find out what the plan is. My sister may know. We've just both been busy and I haven't gotten the latest update. Thanks for your input and concern. The best thing to come of all this is that more conversations have been started, and hopefully that will yield a harvest in due time. :-)
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I have a question totally off topic...What happens to your Dad if something happens to your Stepmom? Will he be able to stay in "Her" house? Or is it deeded to her children if she has any.
Ok back on subject....
Prior to my husbands diagnosis he did not want to travel. I booked a cruise and told him about it. He said that was fine. (booked the cruise with his daughter and her family) As we got closer to the date he started saying he did not want to go. Got very surly about it. I finally said that the cruise was booked, the money was paid and I was going to go with his daughter, S-I-L and grandchild. He gave in and went. Did have a reasonably good time. It was during that trip that I really realized that something was amiss.
Anyway my point is he just might have to be forced into going with a "we will not take no for an answer". It may also be that he is realizing that he might be having problems with his memory and that staying in a familiar environment he can control his life a bit better. He knows where the bathroom is, the kitchen, the way to the mailbox.....taken out of this "safe" place might put a stress on him that he can not handle and would allow others to see that he is having problems.
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Rainmom, thank you for sharing your story. Yes, unfortunately, my stepmom is the bigger part of the problem. She has more power to change in this situation than my dad. My sister and Mom's son have been trying to sort things out for a trip in September, and my stepmom has changed her mind several times since Sunday. Following some of the advice that 97yroldmom shared, we are going back to the fact that this really is a boundaries issue, as you also cited with the "tail wagging the dog." Thankfully, my sister understands this and she and her signifcant other have determined that "they" are going to drive this train. In the end, if Dad won't leave and Mom won't let anyone stay at the house, then Mom has no one but herself to blame. I'm not really sure why Mom seems to think it is anyone else's problem but hers if Dad won't leave the house. She wants to make it seem like no one will help, but that just isn't true. The fact is, she only wants the help on her terms, and unless my father leaves willingly or is forcibly removed, she can't get that help on her terms. If they were younger, then the suggestion someone gave of marriage counseling might be in order, but for my dad, this really is the case of an elderly person who just isn't in a place to see anyone's perspective but his own for the most part. That is not his fault. At age 88, I'm grateful he can get up and walk around and still knows who he is and who we are. Heck, he can still drive to McDonalds down the street. A lot of people decades younger than him can't even do those things. So, in many ways, Mom is very blessed. This is the one thing he doesn't want to do, so she's ultimately going to have to decide to "put up or shut up" as the old saying goes. Time will tell. I don't know that I will have anything to report until the dates in September come and go. In the meantime, it's far more drama than anyone needs in their lives, and thankfully, my sister isn't going to put up with it. I'm not, either, but I live a lot farther away. That is why I have been doing some research and sharing with my sister the valuable information that has been shared here. Thank you so much for your help. :-)
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I'm coming at this from a rather unique perspective, I think. I have an adult son with sevear autism who lives at home with hubby and me. It is my own issues that prevent me from allowing Rainman to stay overnight anywhere but home. When Rainman was 13 he had an accident at school - actually he swallowed two small plastic toy bugs which perforated his intestines - two emergency surgeries, six weeks in the hospital, - on two occasions he "coded" and I almost lost my baby. Okay - so my house is Rainman proofed. The thought of what he could get into in a strange home sends me into a panic attack. If hubby and I want to go to the beach for a long weekend alone someone must come here - even though I HATE it. I'm a little quirky about my privacy and I don't like people in my stuff - I'm a bit OCD - if my dishes aren't put away right, I get real cranky. Okay - finally my point - while I may not like it, I have to accept that if I want a break from Rainman I have to let someone spend the night with him in my house. We have a guy who was Rainmans one-on-one his last two years of school and we have been paying him once or twice a week for three years now to take Rainman on outings - I trust him as much as I can trust anyone with my vulnerable, nonverbal baby - he and his wife come spend the weekend. What's more - I do a lot of little extras to make the time nice for them so they'll keep wanting to do these respite breaks. JungleJan - as time passes - even if you could get your dad to agree - the fact is, it will get more and more difficult to care for him away from his own home. I think it's great you are looking for solutions as far as getting your dad out of the house to accommodate your SM - but honestly, this is the tail wagging the dog, in my opinion. SM is the one asking for help. Clearly it would be easier on you and better for you dad if you/someone could spend the night with him instead of vise versa. Just my opinion but the problem is with you SM and I'd say start there.
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97yroldmom, you make an interesting point. I have said something to that effect ("the decisions they have made leave [me] unable to help beyond [my] willingness to stay overnight), but perhaps not in a way she could receive it. In the end, if she wants to travel, and we can't get Dad to go anywhere, *she* is going to have to be the one to decide to, perhaps forcibly, put him in assisted living or some other respite situation against his will, and *she* is going to have to be the one to make the arrangements to make it happen. Thank you, everyone, for your support. I welcome continued dialogue if anyone has other thoughts to share, and I truly appreciate the input I've gotten from you today.
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Good! Have the meeting with siblings. You will be a step ahead of most and even if you don't come up with a decision you will all be on the same page. I'm glad you are allowed to visit overnight. It sounds like to me that dad has it under control as far as he is concerned. He's not traveling. He has the right not to. I know it's very hard to broach the hard subjects but you'll be surprised how once the ice is broken, it's much easier. Maybe she wants to just vent as all care takers do. You can express your appreciation for her taking such good care of your dad. You can have empathy for how hard it is sometimes but at the end of the day you have to tell her that the life they have built together and the decisions they have made leave you unable to help beyond your willingness to stay over when she wants to leave. Perhaps she needs to hear that before she can let it go. Let us know how things work out. You obviously want both of them to be happy.
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Just want to clarify that I don't consider having an elder (or anyone else, for that matter) evaluated for a brain-based condition and prescribed proper meds for that condition to be "drugging" them.

If your brain is lacking in a chemical that it used to produce, or that it's supposed to be producing, and you supply it in pill form, I believe that's simply living a better life through chemistry. It doesn't change who you are.

My husband, who was being followed by a prescribing psychiatrist post open-heart surgery, asked if the doc thought he had ADD. The doc said that he thought it was possible and that a short trial of a stimulant would either help or do nothing, so let's give it a try.

After a few days on Ritalin, my 60 year old husband's comment was, "Wow, I'd have had a whole different life if I'd gotten this stuff when I was a kid".

Isn't that sad?
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97yroldmom, yes, we have stayed in the home as guests on many occasions with no problems. We stay in our guest room upstairs and in the common areas downstairs. We don't venture anywhere else unless invited to do so. And it isn't like Mom hovers if we disappear for a little while, wondering if we have gone somewhere we shouldn't. She seems perfectly at ease when we are there, which is why most of this does not make sense.

As for DPOA, my brother has it for my dad, and probably one of Mom's kids has it for her. But getting them to talk about some of this can be a challenge. When the question of Dad getting a pacemaker came up, she made US help him make the decision. It was totally weird.

Actually, she has gone off and left him alone before. It has just been in the last few years that it has gotten to the point that he really can't be left alone for more than a work day's period of time. Recently, she is indicating that on occasion even that amount of time alone is an issue, but it isn't an everyday thing...yet

You ask other questions I have wanted to have answered before. I think it is high time there is a family meeting to lay these things out. Unfortunately, I live the farthest away, so I'm basically having to plant the ideas and Skype in. But, I was the one who got the ball rolling in the last few weeks on things, after some stuff hit the fan and I said ,"Enough! We're dealing with this."

Thanks for your input!
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Veronica, yes, I suppose he could get a Foley, but that's not fun either. At least with a self-cath, he doesn't have to drag his urine around with him. Plus, it would mean extra doctor trips. So could it be done? Yes. But he is in his right mind enough that it would take a lot to get him to do that as well.

Mom apparently had some stuff stolen by one of her own daughter's no-good friends when they were in their late teens, and ever since then, she has been on lock-down about her house. If there is anything else, then she hasn't shared it. There are other "excuses," like "I'd have to stock the house and clean the house" which is baloney because she cleans if we come from out of town to visit anyway, but the incident with her daughter's friends from years ago is her standby for not trusting anyone except a few immediate blood family members.

Good point about "just doesn't want to be bothered." I can totally see that and your related comments fitting this scenario. Thanks.
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Freqflyer, I would bet the cocoon could be a part of it. That makes sense. Thanks.
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Will mom allow you to stay with her there? Perhaps that would be a start? Some sort of compromise.
Who has DPOA for these two? How does mom handle dad when he is ill? Are you allowed in? What about when she is ill? Who takes care of dad then?
She and he are in a little power struggle. She won't let his kids stay. He's not traveling. I can understand your not wanting to upset the living arrangements for dad but really this is between the two of them. When she asks you to be responsible it's like she's saying I'm just a care taker. He doesn't have a choice. It's your turn now. Come get him. It seems she didn't have quiet the upper hand she thought she had over him if they were both home when she had ordered it otherwise. And she didn't go off and leave him alone. Was it because she would be worried about him or worried one of you would stay over ?
Perhaps it's time for him to get his own place ( AL?) so he can be more comfortable in his old age and not have to be drugged?? She can visit him there and so can his children and he is at home. She can go on all her trips and enjoy her old age.
What happens if she dies before him ? Does she expect him to move out? In some states that wouldn't be mandatory due to the length of time he's lived there. Does she think she's keeping her estate secure for her children by not allowing him to have his own children as guests? The mind boggles.
It seems like you and your siblings need a plan for his future if "mom" decides he has to go.
I think she is the one who needs the geriatric shrink. Marriage counseling??
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JungleJan I doubt the bathroom issue is the real problem because he could use an indwelling Foley for the duration of the trip. The real problem is step Mom. She seems very paranoid about leaving others in her house. Do you know why? Is it a privacy thing? Is she afraid the family will go through her papers etc and find things she does not want you to know?
As for Dad at his age he probably simply does not want to be bothered. he is happy in his own little world. Even staying with a relative would be difficult because everything is strange and there is more going on and he has nowhere to hide. Nothing works the same in another house, like the taps turn on differently or the house is too hot or too cold, where to put his shaving stuff. Maybe he is afraid of disturbing others if he has to get up and maybe does not dare poke around in the kitchen if he wants a cup of coffee at 3am.
This is not just Dad being uncooperative it is an old man who feels safe in his own shell. Of course a change would be "good for him" BUT people need to stop expecting elders to do what is good for them and let them make their own choices. It is like becoming "Institutionalized" except that it is "Homealized"
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JungleJan, I remember a few years ago my Mom-in-law, who use to travel back and forth to Europe from the States.... once she got into her 80's she didn't want to leave her house for more than an hour. She said one gets this fear that you feel like you want to be near all of your doctors. Thus the house becomes your cocoon where you feel safe.
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Thanks, Babalou. We will look at the bathroom issue as well as the possibility of meds. Maybe that will be the right combination to help everyone move forward. :-)
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That endless loop of "what if" can sometimes be short cicuited with meds. No amount of in person reassurance worked for my mom, it took changing her brain chemistry. I hope he can find the same relief.
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Thanks, Sunnygirl. I don't think he's phobic to that extreme. He will leave the house to drive to McDonald's down the street and get his breakfast. Or go to the pharmacy. But nowhere he has to be a long time. Like I replied to Babalou, I do think the bathroom issue is part of it, but there is still a level of unreasonableness to it since he can go for multiple hours without having to use the catheter. And no, I don't think Mom is trying to hide anything. In fact, if we don't call or stop by often enough (in her opinion), she gets upset with us. Of course, I think now and again she herself forgets that we have called or stopped by... So yeah, we *have* allowed her to suffer and miss out, but we do realize the challenges of being a caregiver and that she can't be expected to survive indefinitely without help. We're not trying to be codependent, but we recognize that assistance is needed, if we can find a way to get all parties to cooperate.
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Babalou, I know the bathroom issue is part of it. Dad developed inoperable prostate cancer which has caused him to have to self-cath to urinate. They say this cancer will not likely be his cause of death. It is very slow growing, but they can't take it out to solve the bathroom issue (or so I am told). He can easily go several hours without having to stop, so, for example, his resistance to the 3 hour car trip to the ocean made no sense. He could have gone before he left and then gone at the condo when they arrived. But I do think it causes some anxiety of "what if" he had to stop somewhere in between.

As for cognitive loss, he's not too bad, especially for his age. He has good days and bad days, though. Of course, you can't control whether or not he'll be having a good day on travel day or a bad day.

Thanks...
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I wonder if your dad has developed a phobia of leaving the house. It's not uncommon in seniors who get isolated. Eventually, they are just afraid and it's not rational, but might be treated if that is the case. I think the doctor idea is good. Meds might help.

Also, do you know if there is some hidden reason that your mom does not want him to stay alone with someone else? Do you think he may have any condition, like memory problems, that she does not want others to know? That might explain why she's so protective of him.

If that is not the case and he's fine, but just doesn't like to travel, then, the call to stay home is your step mom's. I'd let her suffer and miss out if that's what she chooses.
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Change is hard for elders. Sometimes medication helps. If your dad has any cognitive loss, he knows he can't fake it as well in a new environment.

And then there's the whole bathroom thing. While my mom still lived at home, she became more and more resistant to going out. Long story short, she was overusing both fiber tablets and immidium, creating a condition called fecal incontinence. She ended up in the hospital and it got dealt with, but it made us realize she couldn't be in charge of her meds any longer.
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Thank you, Babalou! I did not know there was such a thing as a geriatric psychiatrist. Even though I have never known my dad to be an anxious person, it occurred to me that maybe he could benefit from something to address anxiety and / or depression. His laid back personality could just be masking it and it just comes out as a lack of cooperation, kind of like a rebellious child who doesn't want to be rebellious but doesn't know how to deal with something they are feeling or experiencing. So, thank you, that is a great idea.
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Thank you, Lynnaz. Yes, we are allowed to be at the house when my stepmom is there. In general, we have a good relationship with her. We have discussed the possibility of trying to have him stay with my sister who lives about 70 miles away. But still, we have to get him out of the house. That is the problem. It is where he has lived for 20 years and it is his comfort zone. It is what he knows. Unfortunately, there is a precedent for this. Dad's father (my grandfather) was the same way. He lived with my parents in the same age bracket where my dad is now. When my parents went to go away for vacation with my siblings (I wasn't born yet), they took him to stay with my dad's sister for a couple of weeks. After about 3 days, my parents had to come back from vacation because he was pitching a fit for my aunt and she just couldn't handle him. This was in the late 60s, and I don't think home health care was quite what it is today. So, I'm not surprised by his behavior. I'm just trying to find out what gerontologists and caregivers have learned that might help me and my siblings work with him better. Thanks again.
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