How to get an elderly person to cooperate?

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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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