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My father had a stroke in early July. At 88 years old he was living independently with our step mother, age 89. Her activity is limited due to various health issues and uses a walker around the house and wheel chair for distances greater than 50 feet. My sister and I who both live 2 hours and 3 hours away from them helped them transition thru the rehab process and setting up in home 24 care. I retired, so I could spend weekdays helping and my sister spent the weekends with them. Along with one care giver in house 24/7 we were able to help satisfy dads needs and step mothers as well. After about six weeks they decided they didn't want us to stay with them any longer. Step mother became very hostile towards us and my father confided that he believed she was suffering from dementia. She was also trying to stop taking Lorazepam which she used for anxiety and pain relief. He asked us to give them a couple of weeks and hopefully she would calm down. It's been over a month since we have been able to call or visit. Meanwhile, the caregivers report to me that step mom is withholding dads medications and dad has fallen 3X when his caregiver is sent out to run errands and buy groceries. My sister has tried calling to ask if we can make a brief visit for Thanksgiving and was hung up on. At this point, my father seems to also be against us. My last attempt to call him to find out what we did wrong or how we could make amends and at least visit, he had no clear explanation and she started yelling about how when we were there we used their car to run errands. I tried to explain it was easier for me since her wheelchair didn't fit in my car. Then they hung up. Anyway, that's one example of the confusion and inaccurate memories of events leading up to my sister and I from being prevented form spending precious time with our dad. How can we get past the misconceptions and mistrust issues when being completely shut out? Also concerned about dads safety since step mother seems to make irrational decisions regarding his health care.

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Reply to Llamalover47
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Unfortunately, step mom is DPA and isn't about to let that go. Your assessment is spot on regarding trust issues. It's strange how things change with a stroke. Dad and I used to have open honest conversations about each others finances. But now I'm under suspicion for trying to budget their finances to cover the high cost of 24 hour in home care. Mostly driven by her paranoia in my opinion. My wife gives me the same advice; just be patient and when things unravel they'll call for help.
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If the Caregivers in the home are concerned that stepmother is withholding medications from dad they are obligated to contact Adult Protective Services and have the case screened. As a daughter I would also contact APS and let them know that stepmother has cut you and sister off from contact and your concerns that she cannot properly care for dad.
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Both dad and stepmother need a higher level of care since this dynamic is not working.
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JJHAGER Nov 19, 2019
True That! The care givers frequently suggest Step mom needs care herself and is pulling from the care intended for father.
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Quit calling and go down there. You need to see what is going on. if you cannot get access to the house, then go straight to adult protective services in the county where they live and tell them exactly what you wrote here.
It is possible dad is choosing to keep you away in order to keep wife calmer - not because it's his choice, but out of self preservation of her ranting or carrying on after you leave.
My uncle did it to appease his severely bipolar, self medicated, heavy drinking wife. She would get mad, but I went anyway because she was simply not capable of taking care of him, feeding him, or returning to the house within a reasonble period when she went somewhere. He was dying of cancer in the home. She would leave the room to go get him food or drink and totally forget what she was going to do. Hours later she would return and realize she forgot to do it. Had someone else not popped in and out all the time, he would have starved to death instead of cancer claiming him. She couldn't manage her own meds, so not the best person to manage his.
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JJHAGER Nov 19, 2019
Sorry to see what you had to endure and applaud your ability to stay engaged with your uncle in person. Surely he appreciated it.
I think you hit the nail on the head. Rather than listen to her yelling and screaming about us (sis and I) he's agreeing with her to keep us away.
My only solace is the care givers are doing a good, job despite her. However, when I get disturbing news about his falling while the care giver is sent on step moms errands or withholding his meds it makes me want to do something. Did call APS and after interviewing dad and step mom, found nothing indicating he was in danger and left it at that.
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When a man and woman remarry, after years of marriage, they come to depend of each other if they have had at the least a decent marriage. They take care of each other. That is what they are trying to do but due to their ages and decision making abilities, they are becoming unglued. They still want to be independent & look after each other to a degree. They know they need the caregiver coming in, but now, they are getting defensive if either of the two feels like a "child" is overstepping. You are not overstepping since many of us on here have had to check our parents' meds when they are closing in on 90 years old. In this case, both your Dad and Step-Mom are aging out and their thinking is not the same and the woman is not going to give you the reins yet even though she NEEDS your help to just check on them. That was dangerous of her not to take her anti-anxiety meds too since you can have seizures and get sick with withdrawal when you stop taking anti-anxiety medications abruptly. That is what my own family doctor told me. He said when a patient wants to stop taking that medication, they need to go to their doctor and they will instruct you (like reducing very gradually or changing to lower milligrams.....you get the idea). You may have to wait just a little while on this and believe me, something will happen to stop the insanity of it all with them. She most likely will wig out and the caregiver will call you. She is also a fall risk. Another phone call. Just stay in touch with the caregiver to keep an eagle eye out for you. Otherwise, you will be opening up a brand new can of worms if you call in protective services, etc. This will start playing itself out shortly at their ages. It will just have to. Hang in there. I know it is frustrating.
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JJHAGER Nov 19, 2019
Thank you so much for this perspective. They do really love each other and want to take care of each other. And have complained that we are overbearing at times. My sister and I just want to give them our love and spend what precious time we have left with dad. My problem is patience. I have been calling relatives (dads sister, sister in-law, cousins) to inform them of the situation and asking them to check it with dad. At least he will get some family love from them by phone.
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It is time for round the clock care for both of them. Mom does not sound competent to make decisions and needs her antianxiety meds desperately so she doesn't interfere with dad's care as well as her own. You may have to get a doctor to declare her incompetent... and maybe dad too. Then, you and your sister should be able to direct their care legally. A POA would make it so much easier. Otherwise, check with an lawyer who specializes in elder care law to see if you need to pursue legal guardianship. If mom is violent and obstructing her care and dad's care, you may need to have her hospitalized to get her on a good drug/activity regimen that deals with her problems. Then, you can reintroduce her back into their home with round the clock caregiving.
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Reply to Taarna
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I think the best you can do without getting anyone else canned is call Adult Protective Services.  Tell them everything and let them investigate.  Right now, your priority is your fathers safety and well-being.  Unless they put him somewhere or put her somewhere, your time with him is on the back burner.
You are trying to make sense and reason with dementia and/or possible addiction.... call APS.
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just go to the local animal shelter and get an older rescue dog INSTANT LOVE and super appreciative of your care
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dazednconfused Nov 18, 2019
That's a rather smart-ass reply to someone who is honestly trying to resolve a bad situation. You need to re-evaluate why you are on this site.
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How did step-monster find out about the meeting?

I didn't talk to my dad for years because he didn't want to upset his wife, not my mom.

Sorry, I don't buy that. You are his children and he isn't telling her to back off? My dad gets off on people fighting over him, so he really enjoy the time before I realized that he was participating in not talking to his own children. He always makes excuses why she is such a wack job.

Just be careful that he isn't enjoying all the turmoil you are experiencing by not being able to see or talk to him.

He is obviously not telling the doctor about the behavioral problems and that is telling.
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NeedHelpWithMom Nov 18, 2019
Sad, isn’t it? My FIL had very odd behavior. He liked being controlled by the woman he was with.

Had absolutely no backbone to stand up to her. She controlled everything in their lives.

She even told him that him that he couldn’t eat his favorite foods because she didn’t eat them. The first time I saw that in a restaurant, I couldn’t believe it.

I would never dream of telling my husband what to order in a restaurant. My FIL wanted oysters and she told him to order fish.

The man had no health issues and is very fit, not an ounce of fat on his body. Great genes. No one was ever overweight in their family.
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It appears the Caregivers are having a BIG problem Here, Dear, And They can Get into a Heap of Trouble with their own Liscences or the agency they work out of, If there is One, hun. If Anything, Contact a lot your Parents Doctors and Get Help, Even Adult Protective Services may come in Handy dandy. I see a Slope of Down Hill, If you Will.
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Reply to Parise
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Give him time and space. Phone him regularly for short calls, not any length, so he knows you are in touch, and wait for him to come round his way. He may do he may not. He may have decided you are better off without him. I certainly wouldn't be using the word estranged, it suggests that you are needy for this relationship and not appreciating his difficulties and need for space. Be a little more patient, but keep in touch and DON'T try and get answers to your problem with what you did wrong or anything like that. It is his mind and his way of dealing with things he feels responsible for and you need to respect that whilst letting him know you are always there for a simple chat. See how it goes over the next couple of months.
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You mentioned your father told you that your step-mother was trying to withdraw from lorazepam, a short-acting benzodiazepine. If she has been taking lorazepam for a long time and/or at a high dose, she may have become physically dependent, and it may take her months to withdraw successfully and completely. If she withdraws too quickly, she may show irritability, anxiety, and ""hyper" behavior. You can read about it by googling "lorezepam withdrawal" or "ativan withdrawal."

I'm not discounting your father's suspicions of dementia, but the behaviors she is exhibiting may at least partly be a function of her being in withdrawal. While her doctor cannot legally discuss with you her treatment or why she is taking lorazepam, perhaps she/he would be amenable to your discussing your step-mother's behaviors with her/him; or better yet, your father could do it if he can find a way to talk with the doctor privately, or perhaps write a letter. The doctor might also have some luck with trying to help her with the withdrawal (if that is what is occurring), or with giving her at least a brief mental status exam in the office. Best of luck!
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TaylorUK Nov 18, 2019
I never understand the use of Lorazepam and the vilification of other benzodiazepines. In my experience Lorazepam is far more addictive, has far more hangover effect and is far harder to "get off". I think this is prescribed far too often as a knee jerk away from Diazepam. There is insufficient monitoring people in the first couple of weeks of taking it, and it should be used for very short term treatment only. Everyone reacts differently to these drugs, and Drs need to keep a much closer eye on people to ascertain suitability of individual drugs, not just go with what's "in" at the moment.
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Last month I was able to meet the care giver and dad at the fitness center in their development. He confided in me about step moms erratic behavior and signs of dementia. We enjoyed a sweet face time call with my sister. He was very emotional and said he wanted to spend time with us but was afraid it would upset his wife. At this time I'm unable to arrange any meetings since that care giver was fired for meeting with me.
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Reply to JJHAGER
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Oh boy,

This is touchy. Your step mom is calling the shots and holding all the cards. He is under her spell.

It’s so sad. I feel for you. She isn’t going to let go of her control, over him or you and sis. So for the sake of your father’s safety go over her head. Call APS.

Best of luck to you. Be prepared for backlash and don’t back down. Hugs!
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JJHAGER Nov 15, 2019
Thanks for your suggestion. However, I already called APS. They interviewed each of them and found no indication of abuse or safety issues. There was backlash so we're back to being blocked. Next step is trying to reach out to her daughter who has been in daily contact with her by phone.
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Seek the professional advice of a geriatric care management professional who can help mediate with these issues, concerns, problems and help to re-establish trust and relationship. You can find one in your area by going to Aging Life Care or searching within your community.
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JJHAGER Nov 15, 2019
I am hopeful to find a geriatric care professional to mediate and establish trust. That would be wonderful. Thanks for your suggestion.
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I'm not sure it is productive at this stage to try and have "rational" or "logical" discussions with them, as they (based on your descriptions) seem to be already tipping into dementia. You will exhaust yourself doing this. Even if you did, they may not even remember they had that conversation with you. Been there, done that. I realize you and sis aren't local to them but investing the time and effort to be near to them (over the course of a few weekdays) would help you get an idea of what's really going on. I say be there on a weekday so that if you needed to contact social services or any other office, they'd be open and available. I agree with other posters who recommend calling APS, but not until you can eyeball the situation yourself (your dad and stepmom may be totally hostile to this). I'm not sure I agree with the suggestion of contacting stepmom's family until you can get a total read and strategy on what's going on with them and how to actually solve any of it. The more people involved during a time of crisis and chaos, the less productive it becomes. Better to assess the situation and provide family with what the reasonable/do-able options actually are than everyone being in the fray. Good luck!
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JJHAGER Nov 15, 2019
Your right about the difficulty attempting to have rational discussions. So far it's been useless. Since stepmoms daughter does have an influence on her, my hope is that she is willing to help our cause. Hate to admit it, but she may be the driving force behind alienating us to change my dads trust in her favor.
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I think the fact that step-mom is withholding medications and dad has fallen multiple times you could call APS to evaluate the situation.
Also if the paid caregivers think the situation is getting dangerous they could also make a call, or at least report that to the agency if they're from an agency. The more documentation you have the better. This would be important in case you need to get court involved if you think you need to step in and obtain guardianship.
Does step-mom have children as well? If so are they noticing a decline in their mother?
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JJHAGER Nov 15, 2019
Yes she has one daughter fairly near by who only speaks to her by phone as she is unable / unwilling to visit in person. She also has another estranged daughter with whom she hasn't spoken to for 30 years over a 3k inheritance.
Trying to reach out to the local daughter to see if she concurs with the onset of dementia.
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Is there any way you can get Dad away from Step Mother and have a serious talk with him? Use the excuse of taking him out to lunch or something. It’s pretty obvious from your post that their living conditions are not safe for either of them, but especially Dad. Who knows why Stepmother is withholding Dad’s meds, but bottom line is that she cannot care for him, even with caregivers there. When they leave, they’re on their own and it’s not working out. Whether or not she has dementia, she has proven incapable. You could call Adult Protective Services, but if there are no outward signs of abuse, they really can’t do anything. If you are in contact with his doctors, try calling them. If you or your sister don’t have Durable POA for him, now is the time to get it. Also, if you have a cordial relationship with her family, try speaking with them.
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elaineSC Nov 18, 2019
This is great advice, Ahmijoy. However, I doubt very seriously that the step mother will allow him to sit down with an attorney and sign a Power of Attorney with his daughter if step Mom is behaving in the paranoid way the OP described. Dear old Dad knows one thing too......he has to live with that woman when everybody else goes home so he's not going to stir that pot. From OP's description, the Dad is not distrusting toward his wife. He will defend her and they are leary of anybody stepping in too much. They become afraid of being put into a home or being separated. They cling to each other even if they are fighting each other. I watched Mom & Dad have arguments or say smarty things to each other but they BOTH would clam up when suggestions were made that threw up a flag in their minds that somebody was going to disrupt their lives in any way. At their ages, they are afraid. That's all. They need help but afraid to trust anybody. This always, always plays itself out and it drives the grown kids crazy. One of them will fall and end up in the emergency room and that's when the daughter will find out what's really going on and all will be exposed.
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