What to do about Christmas when my hubby and I and parents live apart?....and keep everyone happy. - AgingCare.com

What to do about Christmas when my hubby and I and parents live apart?....and keep everyone happy.

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OK, it is my turn to ask this group for help. For those who do not know....I live 5 hrs from my parents. My Dad was placed in dementia unit last January and mom, with her own dementia beginnings is alone at home, in same town. This is our first holiday season living this way, and Thanksgiving was awful. I felt bad that we left Dad alone, but I drove down to Tucson and brought Mom back here for Thanksgiving. Hubby tolerated her, because we had friends here for dinner too and it was only 4 days she was here. She whined and cried about being away from Dad the whole time, but, then again, she wouldn't stay there by herself to go be with him during the holiday because she hates being around 'those people' and finds fault constantly with the place he is in. NOW...Christmas....she wants me to bring him up here with her! I said NO...I cannot do 24/7 care plus her and hubby too....and it's not good to move him to strange location for days. Hubby doesn't want her here by herself either. She's a real pistol to have around because everything is about her, and she's like a puppy dog who constantly follows me around and wants me to give her undivided attention. My parents and husband have never gotten along and he's spent years being nice and tolerating them at holidays and other visits. He won't go to their house because we cannot take our dog and Mom has too many 'rules' in her home. She is very OCD about life. No shoes on in the house etc. Super cleanliness...Hoards food and other stuff and doesn't cook. Anyhow....he won't go there with me. I want to support him, as he's got his own health issues and is currently being worked up for early Parkinson's disease, so he's got a lot he is dealing with. HE says I should just go down there for Christmas and spend it with both of them and leave him home alone. BUT....he doesn't do well alone for days either, especially when 'snowed in' during winter. I was unhappy myself not being with Dad at Thanksgiving, thinking these are likely his last holidays, and even if he doesn't remember after the fact, he will remember at the time that he is alone and others have family around them and wonder why we or Mom are not there. So, I don't know what decision to make. IF I go to get her, I have to bring her back on the 20th as she has an MD apt on the 19th that I was going to go down at attend to with her. Otherwise, I come back for a couple days and then go again to get her. Of course, then, cannot take her back until the 26th or 27th....so 6 or 7 days here and hubby doesn't want her around all that time. And all that will happen is the 3 of us sitting around here together, as all the other family....2 daughters and their families, live out of town. Holidays were tolerable to him, with my parents around, when we had the girls and husbands and grandkids coming from one side or the other. Of course, Christmas for me, at her house won't be fun either except for being able to be with my Dad. I would want to spend lots of time there with him....and do all the facility celebrations because she won't have anything special going on at her house. She will attempt to undermine that time with him though, cause she always does. In reality, even though she is in the same town with him, she cannot bring herself to spend more than an hour a day visiting him. She treats it like visiting a pt in the hospital.....yet whines constantly about all the things they do wrong there. She won't deal with her own issues, expects me to phone them and fix all her issues with them for her!! She doesn't like it there and won't eat with him or go and stay any longer than an hour. It is so frustrating and I am at the end of my rope here trying to determine how to make a decision. Please share your thoughts to help me!

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Here are 2 books that I have in front of me, to give you an idea of what is out there. The 36 Hour Day - Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins. A guide for caring with people who have alzheimers, etc. And The Boomer Burdern - Julie Hall. Dealing with your parents lifetime accumulation of stuff.
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I too have a lot of stuff and twice have gotten rid of a lot
The first time was when we left the UK. We actually chose what we wanted to bring with us and it was shipped. We hired an auction house to do the shipping and sell the rest. We just walked out and some months later we received a check from the auction. no much I may add and they also sent a detailed list of the prices obtained. That upset me the most. The second time was when we sold our farm and downsized. We did the same thing and this time the proceeds were better. We decided not to be present at the auction and that was a good decision. Now we still have a lot of junk and I would prefer to sell it myself but if it is too much will again approach a local auctioneer and they will come in and pack everything up and include it in one of their household auctions. This has worked for us and will stop my efficient bossy daughter from just throwing it away.
Joannes you seem to have a really good handle on everything and hubby is very understanding so I hope all goes smoothly and you are able to spend quality time with your Dad. Best Wishes
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Hmmm...writing is an interesting notion! I need to ponder that one. Isn't this just the weirdest situation to be in? Gregg and I both tell each other, we never anticipated that parents 'old age' and end of life would create all this mess. I am alone, since my brother died at age 37...so all their 'stuff' is up to me. And they have saved EVERYTHING since they bought this house in 1960. They throw away nothing!! Depression era upbringing I think! I am 69. When we moved here in 2005, we got rid of much stuff, yet we still have too much for our girls to take care of and having gone through all this, I almost understand about the camper van! Gregg had a brother and each with a wife, and both their 2 and our 2 daughters were all in town, when his mom died, so lots of help to clear out her townhouse....BUT much of that is now stored with us too...family pictures and history stuff. Everyone got things to remember her by and it went smoothly but still took over a year cause of probate. Our younger daughter who lives in London, Ontario right now...she and her family...will be moving back to Phoenix next summer so she will help me I know. Our other daughter and family live in WA state now but she homeschools and has 6 kids, so very busy. She is the other RN in the family, so is good for 'medical type' help and has flown down twice in the past year to help me with parents. She is an ICU RN though, when she worked, so she has no patience for her Nana's games at all! She is very direct with her, politely. Both girls are afraid that their grandparents will cause an early death for their mother....so I am constantly being watched. AND now they are worried about their own Daddy too. I really do believe that few people have any clear picture of what is facing them in either their own aging and end of life days OR their parents either. Maybe a book would help. But then, I wonder who would actually PAY for facing this reality???
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You write rather well Joannes. I think you should look into publishing your experiences.

When I think long term and if it is just me, I might get rid of everything. And purchase a Roadtrek (camper van). Getting my MIL's possessions distributed was a long drawn out process and she still has plenty of her antiques in her AL room. We still need to sell her mobile home.

My own mother left her home 10 months ago and never stepped foot in it, again. It just sits there, full of everything. Her van is still in the garage, Airstream in the yard and RV in the carport. My sister and I are on the title of everything, so it will fall to us, to go through all of that mess. Mother is in IL., I am in AZ. and my sister is in WY and is 75 YO.

I will be 60 next month and my husband and I look after our (soon to be) 4yo granddaughter, so I would not look forward to spending several months tending to my Mother's estate.

Good luck with your plans and the weather.
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to Chicago1954, I enjoy the drive really, and as long as I stop for about 30 minutes or so in Globe, I do OK at the time, but it's the after effects that get to me. I have a bad back and I have nerve damage in my right leg from a very bad episode of shingles back in 2003. That's what resulted in my having to go on disability as an RN in 2005 at age 61. All that, plus the crash in 2008 is what messed up our retirement and the main reason I am, at 69 still working this home based business. Anyhow, you had also asked what plans my parents had made for their latter years, and I want to respond because this has been another learning aspect that might help others down the road who are at this crossroads. My Dad had dementia and was in treatment for it for over 8 years before it got so bad a couple years ago. He did excellent planning, in terms of finances. He set up a living trust, met with me about it, was taking me to meetings with the law firm that handled this so I could learn what I would be doing when he could no longer manage. It was clear he could not count on Mom to become trustee....heck, she could barely right a check let alone make decisions about anything. I remember after one of these meetings that we all went to, where the focus was on what actions the remaining spouse would have to take upon the death of the first spouse, and, in the car, he asked my Mom if she understood what things she would do first, if he died. Her response was that she would call me and ask me what to do and she would expect the attorney to 'handle everything' for her! He simply stated then, that he thought they should by pass her as trustee and just change it around and name me as the trustee if he passed first or became incapacitated. I tried to explain to her that if she were trustee, then SHE had to make the decisions and I was not going to tell her what she should do or tell my Dad what he should do, when I had no legal authority to do that. So when he could no longer pay bills timely and she could not help him except to nag, they went and removed themselves as trustees of the trust and they signed over POA to me for when they became incapacitated and starting then for financial. We had our RN daughter and husband who then lived in Tucson come with me and have a family meeting to try to get the parents to talk about their wishes for long term care ideas. BUT....all we could get out of either of them is that they wanted to remain in their home as long as possible. At that time, my dad's 'solution' for when his dementia got bad involved a gun as he stated he never wanted to be in a nursing home or have anyone physically have to care for him. My Mom refused to even consider that she wouldn't live to 100 like her father and die in her sleep in her own bed....even though she has some serious health issues already. My Dad made his own cremation arrangements and discussed with Mom and I that he wanted to be buried in a VA cemetery and have as little money spent on a service as possible. My mother refuses to consider cremation. She is afraid of fire .....and she talks and talks about people she knows who had lavish full open casket funeral services as being the ending way of showing true love in a family!! What a mess for me if I try to please them both! I hope the VA will allow Mom to be buried in a VA cemetery in her casket and that we can put Dad's box in the casket with her!! The only way I see to make them both 'happy'. So....the 'lesson' here for others.....you may do all my dad did....and have that family talk about what to do in the end, but need to face the realization, that VERY FEW people get to live in their own home until they die, OR to die in their sleep in their own beds.....so an alternative needs to be discussed. My parents refused any consideration about new living arrangements EVER. They owned their home and they would stay there no matter what. My Dad had no idea, and neither did I, that if you exhaust all the money and have to move to Medicaid, you lose your home in the end to the gov't or I am sure he would have signed the title over to me early on. THAT is what we intend to do this coming year with our girls....move all assets into their names so the gov't doesn't get them....if that is legally possible to do. Well before the 5 year look back period. WE could decide to live with our girls or accept their help if needed. My parents couldn't do that. I could no way agree to take in my mother. I could have taken in my father. And both of our daughters and husbands agreed to take in either parent rather than a nursing home too, but they refused to even consider those offers. We tried in home care for over a year before Dad had to be placed....but Mom hated having caregivers come in to her house. But she couldn't even FEED my Dad regular meals. They had lived parallel lives for too long. She nagged and dementia doesn't handle nagging and rambling conversations and round about ways of hinting at what she wanted him to do...so they fought and fought and he started drinking to block her out...and it all spiraled down hill until we had to call the cops one day and they put him into a 72 hour eval geri psych center. I was looking at placement facilities at the time....fortunately...but that's how it got forced to happen. Mom thinks I did it 'on purpose' and is totally unable to see how she contributed to having him not be at home. So...people need to be sure their plans include NOT staying in their home....as it generally comes to that point hard as that is! Every elderly person I know has had to leave their home to go with family or to a facility. Only my mother in law basically died in her sleep. And all those I know who are still 'kicking', I tell them, they should come up with a plan no matter what they HOPE will happen. My mother still insists that I had better NEVER MAKE HER GO IN A PLACE LIKE DAD IS IN! And he is in Pacifica....a really NICE place! AND she knows she has early Alzheimers herself but refuses to deal with it. Currently says the testing was all wrong and there is NOTHING wrong with her memory at all. OH well....I am not promising to honor her wishes. I'll bring in caregivers when it's time and as long as it's possible...and then she'll get her placement too. We can only hope she can't remember a lot more when the time comes...but since she cannot fathom thinking up any other solutions for herself, she'll get stuck with my decisions. It's helped Gregg and I see how far outside the 'box' of our own home, WE need to look and make decisions about...and that's good. I hope by sharing, this would help others see how detailed their own discussions need to be too!!
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By George, I think you've done it. Unless the goldfish is now complaining, you really have thought of everyone - go forth and enjoy, may the weather be with you xxx
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It isn't an easy drive from Pinetop to Tucson. Travel mercies to you.
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Thanks to everyone for the ideas so far! I also counseled with our daughter who has a MS in Counseling yesterday. She is so grounded, reasonable and full of love. So right now, based on reading all of these comments too....I am thinking I will go down to Tucson with them for 3-4 days from 24 through 27. To Chicago....yes....I am living in the White Mtns, so weather has a lot to do with any decision at this time of year and everything could change at the last minute. I drive a Hondah Accord....so I don't go if there's predicted snow. Even if I could get there....I do NOT want to get snowed OUT either and be stuck down there for several extra days either!! Most of you pointed out that I should do what is best for me first... Jinx mentioned the concern for future holidays and husband's health...something I had not considered yet. HE and I talked yesterday and he would rather miss Christmas day with me....to avoid having Mom here for 7 whole days. He says we can celebrate our Christmas after I come back. And, as he pointed out....going down on the 23 or 24th gives me more time to get our out of state gifts wrapped and shipped. We also discussed that we are feeling much like gladimhere this year....BAH HUMBUG about the holiday in general...and if I go there and no one comes here, we do not have to do all the decorating and planning and special dinner plans and have the huge grocery bill either. We can put up the tree and few little decorations that we love and have it just be about us when I get back. I WILL enjoy being with Dad at his facility and doing little things to add to a nice Christmas for those residents in his cottage that may not have family come too....little gifts, surprises etc. And I WILL insist that we spend most of the day with him....or go back and forth a couple different times to be with him there. In reality,to ismiami, because of my own health issues and finances, I cannot make multiple trips back and forth at 5 hrs each way myself. Already, just for the parents own health issues, it is regularly coming to bi monthly and that is hard. Coming home with her for Thanksgiving, I was so fatigued from driving that I ran into the house....so car is currently in the shop. Second time in 3 years I've done this and long story about nerve damage in my right leg! So, more frequent trips are not possible, nor is doing close together trips. I need two days rest between driving minimally all the time! Veronica, hubby is willing to travel with me to help with driving, but his comfort level is to stay home. He sleeps on Cpap/oxygen so travel overnight is not easy. He enjoys being at home too. But that's possible...and especially if we aren't happy about weather, since his vehicle is 4WD. Pstiegman....you are totally on about Mom. All her life she's been as she is now, only her dementia beginnings is starting to make her worse even. I am learning NOT to be manipulated most of the time. She IS drama and like a 5 yr old whining. And countrymouse is totally right! I cannot keep everyone happy! And, as major holidays go, there are life changes we must adjust to. We had to go through the changes when we moved from Tucson in 2005 and again, 4 years ago, when our daughters moved away with their families due to their husbands work too...so, as my daughter pointed out, this is just another life change we have to work through. And finally, to blannie, I must say, that to keep ME happy, the best choice is to be with my Dad on Christmas Day, because while it is true that he won't remember after the visiting time, he WILL be aware that day that he is alone and that family isn't with him. He has enough awareness left that he misses when Mom doesn't come and he still recognizes people he knows and HE, much more than MOM was my strength and support as a parent. I promised HIM that I would take care of both of them, when he early on knew about his dementia. He had always been the one in charge. Mom had always been weird as she is and he knew she wouldn't be able to care for him. So doing my best for HIM in his last days is much more important to my happiness, than being focused on keeping my mother happy. I've known since around age 12 that there was no way anyone could ever 'make' her happy cause she will take no responsibility for her own happiness, life or decisions anyhow...never has....and now is increasingly unable to even if she tried. It's been great how each of you added different aspects to my decision and now I really think I can go forward with strength and organization for the next couple weeks! THANK YOU ALL!!
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"…and keep everyone happy"? Ho ho ho!

Oh, sorry, you were serious? No no no, then: it can't be done. Joannes, what would make you happiest (short of the unattainable everyone else being happy)? Do that.
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You cannot EVER satisfy and make happy all the people all the time. Do whatever you need to do for yourself and hubby. Could you go there for a couple of days, you decide the length of time? Maybe even between Christmas and New Years?

I'm just not feeling in any sort of holiday spirit this year, its worse than last year. Please just January hurry up and get here already! BAHHUMBUG!!!!
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