The situation is that my Dad (85) has some dementia issues (also diabetes and heart issues) but still knows who I am. My stepmother (78) was diagnosed with cancer and was treated, but she also has some dementia issues though not as bad as my father. They both live in another state and my father is extremely unhappy living there as my unemployed stepsister moved in with them to "take care" of them both.

I don't think my stepmother is cognitively able to make good health decisions about my dad. I'd like to be able to do that for him, but she and my stepsister have made it clear to me they don't want me involved.

I've done some research on my stepmother's type and stage of cancer and the prognosis is not great.

What is the best option for me? It's hard to listen to the anguish in my father's voice when he talks about his unhappiness at home, but I'm not sure of the best route to help him.

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Oh my. How hard and sad for you! My heart goes out to you.

You sound a little skeptical of your stepmother's daughter's motives. And you could be right. But many caregivers on this site have moved in with a parent and step parent to help them both. They may have been unemployed and so it seemed like a good time to transition into the caregiver role, or they may have decided to give up employment because caring for 2 elderly people can be a full time job. So maybe she is taking undue advantage of the situation, or maybe she is a godsend, for at least her mother.

If you browse around these forums long, you will notice that many persons with dementia are miserable where they are and they long to "go home." This is true whether they are in a nursing home or in the home they have lived in for the last forty years. In other words, if someone with dementia expresses extreme unhappiness with where he is, that may or may not be caused by the objective reality of where he is.

Can you arrange to visit for several days, and see the situation for yourself? Can you have a heart-to-heart with the caregiving daughter? Ideally the two of you would cooperate in the care of both parents, until the cancer runs its course. Life is seldom ideal, but that would be a starting place to aim for.

After you have visited, you would be in a better position to decide what you might change if you did have guardianship. Would you separate him from his dying wife? Would that make him happy? I doubt that you could change the stepdaughter's role, since she is taking care of her mother and I don't think that your guardianship would give you any power there. Would you bring in an additional caregiver? What if your father hated that even worse?

Who has your father's POA and medical proxy? Who has your stepmother's? These matters should be attended to now, if Father is still legally competent to make decisions.

Your question about whether you could get guardianship is a legal one. But maybe if you are clear about what you would like to see done if you had guardianship you can find ways of accomplishing it without that drastic step.

Good luck in finding ways to ease your father's unhappiness.
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One of the reasons you are considering guardianship is that you don't think he is getting good care where he is, right? If you had guardianship, how would you change that? That is the part that needs some thought.

You think the fact that dad hasn't been taking his blood sugar is evidence of poor care. Maybe. Does he take insulin? Is it dependent on his bs reading? What diabetic drugs does he take? Does he ever experience blood sugar lows? Is his A1C level safe and stable? Does he eat regularly and sensibly? Does he exercise? Taking the blood sugar reading is not treatment. It doesn't make anything better and not taking it doesn't make anything worse. (Like taking your temperature doesn't cause or cure a fever.) There are periods I've gone without taking my readings for several weeks. When my husband developed dementia, we stopped taking his readings at all. His doctor just keeps an eye on his A1C. So, depending on a lot a variables you haven't mentioned, not taking the blood sugar readings may not be such a big deal.

I'm glad that you were able to get a medical appointment for him. And arranging a day program was great, and should be appreciated by all concerned.

It does sound like Dad needs you as an advocate. I don't know whether he needs you as a Guardian, but it should be very helpful for you to visit as often as you can, and for you to have decision-making power for him.

Best of luck to you resolving this stressful situation.
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Thanks for your help. I did recently visit during the last Thanksgiving (about 2 months after her surgery). It was tense, to say the least. During my stay, my stepmother and stepsister complained incessantly about how she couldn't get any rest at night since he sometimes wanders at night. Of course I wanted to help. I suggested perhaps he could sleep in another room? Oh no, they were too "bonded" for that and it wouldn't help. So I suggested he stay with one of his daughters until she was more recovered.

That suggestion went over like a lead balloon. Stepmom accused me of trying to take my father away from her...and has since refused to talk to me or let me know what is going on with him. I was supposed to go out in December for an additional visit and to go with him to his doctor's appointment (the first he'd had in over a year, made at my insistance), but a day before I was to leave I got an email from my stepmom saying my dad didn't want me to come out. She told him I was coming to "talk to his doctors". Which was true, I wanted to try to be his medical proxy, not send him to a nursing home, which is what she told him.

I was chagrined when I visited for Thanksgiving because I discovered my dad had not checked his blood sugar in over two months--he couldn't recall how to use the glucose meter. My stepsister--presumably taking care of him--hadn't noticed. And now she won't talk to me either. She thinks I'm "stirring things up." When I call on the phone, as I do every Sunday, she just hands the phone to my Dad and doesn't even say hello.

They are mad at me because they think I think they aren't taking good care of him--but if I hadn't gone out at Thanksgiving they probably would never had noticed he wasn't checking his blood sugar. Or seen a doctor. Or gotten him into adult day care 3 days a week--which he likes somewhat.

As for my stepsister's motivations...I'm sure she is doing the right thing by taking care of her mom. I wouldn't interfere with that. Bringing in a second care giver might be helpful--they can certainly afford to. They have a sizeable estate. I'm not sure my stepmom would, however, agree that they had enough money to bring in another caregiver.

I will try to arrange a visit in the next month or so and try at least to get the medical proxy...while Dad is is still able. And try to assess the situation better.

Thanks again. It's a difficult situation...
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I would talk with an eldercare attorney who handles guardianships in the state your father is in to see if it's even possible to ever go one.
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I would talk with an eldercare attorney who handles guardianships in the state your father is in to see if it's even possible to ever do one.
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I am going through so much of the exact situation right now, I felt like I was reading my own life. This is soo hard, when all we want to do is take care of our father's in the best way possible.
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Thanks for all the input. It's hard for me to say what happens to him when I am not there--this was all I observed during my Thanksgiving visit. Plus what my stepmother had told me about him. I don't know about his A1c status--even though they checked it when he finally went to the doctor, they wouldn't tell me.

I want to do my best for him and I've always been his advocate. In fact I'm usually the one my step mom turns to to take care of him when he travels (I travel with him).

My stepmother said she would talk to me again if I apologized (for threatening to take my dad away from her--which I didn't do!). So I apologized by sending flowers and said on the card I'd call on the weekend if she'd talk to me, I'd apologize in person. She emailed me and said that was OK.

My apology is the best I can do for my dad, even though I didn't do what she said. That part doesn't matter to me anymore. I know she's very sick and I recently discovered she'd been doing chemotherapy, so tell myself it's the cancer and chemo drugs talking.

I just have to remember that I will get through this--they won't. So I will try to do what is best for them. And that means when she passes, for my two sisters and me to get guardianship of my dad.

There's no way in the world we will let my stepsister (unemployed former drug addict) make any decisions for him. It's not her, all of us have health/wellness training/degrees of various sorts and really can make informed choices for him.
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