My father wants all of his adult kids to help him with his bills, business deals, and projects. Lots of projects. Problem is, he insists that we do everything the way he wants. For example, He wants to buy pads to put on the bed for incontinence. He's been talking about buying them for about three months. Today, he was talking with my sister about it on the phone. I found pads on Amazon for $11.85 (25 pads) and told him I can order them for delivery tomorrow. He asked how much per pad. I advised 46cents. He said he has a piece of paper SOMEWHERE about pads he thinks he can buy for 26cents per pad. So, he wouldn't let me order them. If this was the only project, it would be okay but he has probably a hundred projects (not exaggerating) and this is how he treats everything. He literally took 14 years to pick out kitchen countertops. All of us kids spin in circles trying to help him but we NEVER get anything done. We spend months and months trying to get something done but he keeps looking for a better deal. He makes everything complicated. We want to help him but he is impossible. He gets depressed because we won't help him (even though we have tried). When I suggested that the pads are only about $11.00, that we could spend another week discussing them to MAYBE save $3.00... and that we should just go ahead and purchase and cross this off the list, he became angry and said this is the way he's always done things and he's going to continue to do it this way. Meanwhile, he's causing anxiety for me, my siblings, and himself. Trying to help him is like trying to ride a stationary exercise bike to the store. We never get anywhere. My siblings want to come over to visit but every time they say they want to visit, he asks, "What can you do for me/how can you help me?" It would be nice to just visit sometimes. His granddaughter calls him to ask how he's doing and he just says, "When can you come help me?" Any advice?

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As Dad remains the center of the circle, kids have to work around him together. He feels he is loosing control. He may or may not ever see that handing it over would work nicely. If he would just let it happen.
sounds like my mom’s Dimentia/Alzheimer’s. This could be fear . Associated with aging. What a wonderful family he has. I am so greatful that my sister had my mom tested - at home. She acquired a neurologist
from a trip to the hospital.
Helpful Answer (0)
Reply to JudithD71

He's probably always been thrifty. Or even what others call cheap. Hard habit to break. For some of the things he needs, think old school. We live in a disposable society now and people tend to buy more one-time use items. For the bed pads he wants, tell him you figured out the absolute cheapest way to go. Waterproof bed pads. Get him about 2 weeks worth as initial investment and he can wash once or twice a week. Even cheaper - a plastic shower curtain cut into about 4 squares and place a bath towel on top.

If he had a piece of paper 'somewhere' that he had a price for the pads, does that mean he looks on internet for things he wants? Or sees them in magazines, newspaper ads, or what? Hand him a large envelope and tell him when he finds something cheap on sale that he wants, put the info in the envelope and you'll order weekly. (Or pin to bulletin board, magnet on frig, etc)

As for chores assigned to everyone - same thing as above, tell him to make a list of things he wants done and one of you will handle it when you have time. I think many of the chores elderly put on others is mainly to keep the person in the home longer when they come over. If you just want to visit and not do a chore on a particular day - have a leg ache, backache, etc and tell him you're just going to sit and visit. Everyone could have an ache or pain. Might be good for him to see those around him 'needing a little help' too!
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Reply to my2cents

Your dad has control issues that border into mental health problems. Please see if you can get him evaluated and treated by a geriatric psychiatrist.

In the meantime, it might help for everybody in the family to get on the same sheet of music. Read any of the books by Townsend and Cloud about "boundaries", or dealing with problem behaviors. You may have to get the family together to discuss this without dad being present. Outline a plan of what you all agree to do when he starts to obsess about saving pennies or obsess about getting help. Ideas that come to mind:
1 - Set dates for completion of "projects." Let dad do all the research he wants but by the "due date" the project must be completed whether he saves more money or not.
2 - Put days and times on calendar when each person will go to his home to "help" and only "help" during those times.
3 - Remind dad that you are "visiting" and "not working on projects" on social days. Bring lots of games, movies, activities to keep his mind off of "projects."
4 - His obsessions are probably attempts to control a world that seems frustrating and a little scary. He might benefit from a mild anti-anxiety medication.
5 - It might be time for dad to not live by himself any longer. He may need another person to make sure he eats regularly, takes medication, bathes, gets enough sleep...
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Taarna

Dear Disgusted, I don’t want to sound negative, but your idea of a long list, co-ordinated between several family members, sounds to me like a lot of trouble for nothing.

Any father who took 14 years to pick out kitchen counter tops, has long term habits that are not going to be countered by any form of logic, even a long list. And he has been training his family for at least those 14 years. They are the only ones who stand a chance of changing. You are right - they need to do it so save their own sanity!
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Reply to MargaretMcKen

Dear Dad,
Just let me know when YOU find the things YOU want at YOUR price, then I'll see if I can get them ordered for you. Otherwise, none of us have the time to spend looking for cheaper deals that wind up costing US a fortune in the long run.
P.S. I'm using your line, too, about riding a stationary bike to the store. LOVE IT! I feel like I've been using that technique myself for the past 10 years. :(

P.S.S. Why does dad need incontinence pads for the bed? His OCD/anxiety behaviors may have progressed into dementia w/o anyone realizing it, as incontinence is a hallmark of dementia. Time for a visit to his PCP with a cognizance test, maybe?
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Reply to lealonnie1

So, no mention of dementia. He's been this way for a long time. You indicated he wants help paying bills - does it get done? Once/month task, sometime between the 1st bill and the due dates, possibly twice/month, depending on the dates received/due. This should be easy, if you agree that you write the check and he signs, so he's involved. It would be easier if he'd do it online - no stamps, envelopes, or trips to PO. But, given what's written, I suspect it'll fall under "this is the way I do it."

You all try to "help" with whatever the latest "project" is, but he rejects the solution. Then he turns around and says no one helps, right?

I would make a list. Each thing asked for is added to the list and under each item/project, list what YOUR (or sibling's) solution was and when. Print a copy for when you "visit", but retain the original. Point out how many times you've provided the "HELP" or solution that he has rejected. After several attempts, the last entry for each item states that you can't find a solution for him, so you won't be spending more time on this item.

Use this list to stop the spinning. Coordinate with the others so that one keeps track of the times each attempt is made - aka he asked you about the pads, has he asked the others too? All attempts should go into the list under the item (add the name of who done it too!) and attempts would be cut off even sooner.

Help with "business deals"? Is he working? Running a business? If you aren't part of the job/business, exactly what could you do anyway? Be done with that, unless he's going to hire you as an employee, a LEGIT employee.

The list is to show him that you have ALL tried to help, multiple times, and he rejects every offer. He needs to see this in writing, over time. He asks. One or more of you jumps and provides an answer. He rejects and then forgets about it, asking again later. Since it's been a long term issue with him, I won't suggest dementia, but he clearly doesn't retain information since he's accusing everyone of not helping.

When he says "...this is the way he's always done things and he's going to continue to do it this way." I would cut him off and ask why he is asking for help then, if he's going to do it his way anyway? He says jump and you say how high? Your jumps don't satisfy him, so he needs to see a reminder of how many times you have attempted the jumps and they aren't satisfactory, and he wants to do it his way, so he needs to DO it his way and stop asking. Remind him again each time he asks and say how many times can I help and be rebuffed before you will stop asking? I CAN'T help you when you refuse every solution I provide, so I am done. Seeing it on the list and hearing it each time, it might eventually sink in.

"My siblings want to come over to visit but every time they say they want to visit, he asks, "What can you do for me/how can you help me?""

Maybe drop in without warning. It won't stop him asking, but he won't be thinking up something before you've even gotten there! Once there, if he starts with tasks, have an excuse ready, state you can only stay for a short while - you were passing by on your way to *XYZ* (appt, shopping, fill in the blank with something that can't wait.) 

"His granddaughter calls him to ask how he's doing and he just says, "When can you come help me?""

She should ignore the question and go on with something else, such as what's going on in her life, and/or ask specific questions about what he's doing, what he had for lunch or dinner, anything to get around the "help" topic. If he asks again, ignore it. Same exit plan - Oh, someone's at the door, gotta run. Oh, the pot's boiling over on the stove, gotta run! I'm meeting friend in a few minutes, gotta run!

Final answer TBD
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Reply to disgustedtoo
disgustedtoo May 19, 2021
The "cheaper" elsewhere has often been perplexing, esp for gas. So many people will drive across town to the station with the lowest price and wait in line. Meanwhile, they haven't figured out that the $.02/gal less isn't saving them anything really, because they use MORE than that driving there and waiting in line! Even when it's less/gal - the average car holds maybe 15g, so if it was a total fill, running on fumes, then the "savings" would be a pittance! If my errands take me past the less expensive station and I need gas, then I will buy it there, if there's no line. Otherwise, seriously? Save $.30 or $.75 or less? Waste how much to do this?

Anyway, the only other solution I can think of is to just buy the items (within reason, such as the pads.) Without knowing what all his "projects" involve, it would be hard to suggest buying everything he wants if he won't reimburse you.

If there's no dementia or POA, you can't pay yourself back and he may refuse to pay for it, but at least the items like the pads would be there, stop the requests for that item and give you a little peace. $12/month to put a stop to that one request might be worth it (alternatively they do sell reusable pads that can be washed, BUT that's probably not how he wants it done!) No idea what the other "projects" might be, so this method won't likely stop it all...

Reminders, on paper and verbally, each time he asks, and especially when he rejects might help. It's easier to just say no than to keep doing the same jumping over and over for no good reason. How's that definition of insanity go?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

Only you and the siblings can stop the insanity. There's a lot less effort in saying no, I've tried to help and you reject it every time than trying to appease him.
This sounds partly like needing boundaries and partly like needing a family agreement to say no.

‘When can you come help me?’ Answer, I can’t, but I’ve got time for a short visit.

‘I’m looking for cheap pads’. Answer, Fine, try Amazon.

‘Help me with this project?’ Answer, Sorry, I’m not getting involved in that.

‘Business deal?’ Answer, I’ve got enough to do earning my own living.

It really does sound like your family are all helpers. He asks, you think you have to help. The more you do, the more he asks. He doesn’t accept, because that would finish it, he couldn’t ask that one any more. It’s not about logic, except for the logic of getting attention.

It’s a game, you’ve been trained into it for years. Now it’s getting worse, and you and your family members can still decide whether or not they want to play. I certainly wouldn’t go there!
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Reply to MargaretMcKen

If your Dad is doing all the work then he gets to call the shots....but as soon as he needs someone else's help he needs to be considerate of them.

He does this because you all let him do it. If he can't decide on pads then tell him " ok Dad, figure out what you want and I will get it. But I am not going to be involved in you comparing 20 different items. Call me when you have made a final decision.".

My father would complain to my daughter that I never visited. She said I was there all the time. He agreed but said I was always doing stuff when there. Of course, I was because he put me to work the moment I got there. And if I worked it was no longer considered a visit.

Stop playing the game with him. My father loved to fuss over something. I refuse to fuss....I make a decision and move on. That drove him crazy. He wanted me to fuss over it with him. I don't have that kind of spare time to waste.
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Reply to lkdrymom
MarkDFW May 19, 2021
You are exactly right! My dad likes everybody to fuss over him. Thank you!
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Imho, if your father has "Depression Era mindset," he may opt to save cents. The time it takes him to locate the supposed piece of paper falls into the "time is money" category.
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Reply to Llamalover47
MarkDFW May 19, 2021
I agree.
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If you took dad to a geriatric psychiatrist, this habit of mind might get classified as rumination and anxiety, and yes, there are SSRIs and SSNIs that target JUST this problem.

But in the end, you can only control your own behavior. I would offer two choices (A pad or B pad). Dad says "no"?

Then you don't order them and tell him he will have to take care of it himself.

Step back and stop supporting the charade that he is "independent".

Like many folks here, Dad is one step away from the accident or illness that will get him hospitalized, sent to rehab and then will be unable to come home.

Set your boundaries firmly in place now. It gets worse from here.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn

"Fine, Dad; we'll just let you go ahead and do it your way because YOU know exactly how you want it done. We'll get out of your way."

"Trying to help him is like trying to ride a stationary exercise bike to the store."--a priceless comment I can add to my collection to use in the future; thanks!
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Reply to jacobsonbob
disgustedtoo May 19, 2021
I loved that comment as well! I was wondering why I never could get to the store.... ;-)
Assisted Living.

Sorry it's all I've got for you!

I feel worn out just reading about your Dad. Probably a sweet guy, but decision making is not his strong suit.

Maybe narrow the choices, A or B for everything. With pictures on paper to see. Set a time frame. Look at these options (I'll leave them here). Let him fuss (you don't have to listen). Next visit I will buy A - unless you specifically ask for B.

My Mother was the Queen of indecisivness! Never trusted her own judgement, always wanted someone else to help with decisions - same stationary bike going round & round. But if someone else made the decision! Whoa! I should have kept looking/found it cheaper/found a better one/what if what if what if...
I need to go lie down now just thinking about it...

Oh I just read Loopy's reply - Anxiety!!! YES! Mother MUCH better now some pills are in the picture.
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Reply to Beatty

How do you help him? By not helping him.

He is fixated on getting a bargain... likes the chasing aspect of it. It's a compulsion. It sounds like he always has to be searching for something; it keeps his mind occupied. I'm guessing it's an anxiety issue. Anxious people are always looking for something that will be better than the previous something, if that makes sense. They're never satisfied so the chase never ends. If he's not fixated or worrying about money, then he's alone with his thoughts and reality kicks in. Then the depression hits.

There is no point in going out of your way to do for him. No one should be going out of their way for him! It's all futile. Nothing will make him happy or calmed down long enough to not demand everyone to do his bidding. You could get him the best bargains on Earth and he wouldn't be happy, because he would have nothing to chase anymore. He doesn't understand why other people don't feel the same level of urgency he does.

For now, he wants to call the shots (again, anxiety) and tell you all what to do. He is happy to have all of you do his bidding for him. The money issue is another means of controlling you all.

Next time he asks for something. tell him you can't shop for him or do tasks for him anymore. Frame it as because you never seem to pick the right thing, and you don't want to keep disappointing him. OR, you could go on and buy things like the incontinence pads anyway and give them to him. He'll argue and you can say "Well, you might as well use them since they're here and I can't return them." (That last part may be a lie, but so be it.)

It would help if all the kids and grandkids involved would be a united front on this.

An anti-anxiety med could be a huge help, but I'm guessing he won't hear of that.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to LoopyLoo

The immediate goal should be how to do what's in your dad's best interest while having boundaries against his dysfunctional (or dementia) behaviors.

It sounds like all siblings need to have a meeting to discuss solutions, as this relentless orbiting is counterproductive for everyone and will eventually be exhausting and cause resentment and burnout. Maybe consider helping him work out a budget so that no one needs to get into the weeds with him over prices as long as they stay within the overall budget. This is where you can employ "therapeutic fibs". You tell him you've found the items at his imaginary price and just order it for him. Make sure the shipment only contains a gift receipt so he doesn't see what you paid for it. As long as you're staying in his budget, there's no harm in getting what he needs in this way.

Regarding him using everyone as his handypeople, visitors can tell him they're there for a social visit only (and maybe take him out to a meal or play a game with him to distract). If he continues to harangue then the guest makes it clear that if he doesn't stop they will need to leave. And if he continues then they leave. Everyone needs to draw a line with him and then make good on the consequences. If he's not suffering from age-related decline he may be able to change his behavior towards his family.

That being said, has he ever had a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or memory loss? If so, does he have a PoA assigned? If yes, then this person needs to start stepping in and stopping the chaos by making changes that help his helpers and him as well. What is the actual and realistic plan for his future care as he declines further? There needs to be one since ramping up the orbiting is not sustainable. If your father won't or can't come up with a plan because he cognitively can't do it, then the siblings needs to work something out, even if your father doesn't love the idea. I wish you much wisdom and clarity.
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Reply to Geaton777
Geaton777 May 16, 2021
MarkDFW, respectfully, he involves his kids because they allow themselves to be involved. They CAN and should say no when it turns unreasonable. When he goes without essentials because his kids create protective boundaries then perhaps he will get the message. However IMO his extreme indecisiveness may mean he may actually have had an undiagnosed disorder. You must agree, it's just not normal.
Maybe he wants to be sold. "The pads on Amazon are highly rated and no complaints of them being leaky like others I have researched. They have sold thousands and have thousands of positive reviews. Very popular. A lot of pads are cheaper because they ARE cheaper. You'll end up spending more on laundry detergent and hot water because of cheap pads leaking. These don't."
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Reply to ThomasY
MarkDFW May 16, 2021
Thank you Thomas but this isn't about the pads. It's about him thinking he can get them cheaper somewhere else. The real problem is this is how he treats everything. He will drive 100 miles to save $5.00 even though the cost of gas and time is much more than the $5.00 he would save. He has shopped for a rollator walker for two years. And he involves all the kids in his searches.
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