Dad's laundry: How should we proceed?

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I've posted before about my dad. Here's a brief summary of the situation. We've been assisting him for over three years now. He lived with us for almost ten months while recovering from serious health problems. Now he lives "independently" in a senior residence with a great deal of help from my husband and me.

Last May, we finally managed to remove one of our responsibilities: Dad started doing his own laundry. This came about because I had surgery and we needed a break. Our plan had been for Dad to pay to have his laundry done at the senior residence, but he refused to spend the money and instead started washing everything himself. (At most, it's only one load per week).

Now he's trying to give back the task, and he's using a variety of tactics to make it happen. My feeling is that we have done everything else for him and if he won't pay to have the laundry done, he'll have to continue to do it himself. Is that an unreasonable approach? I told him again today that if doing the laundry is making him tired, he should make use of the laundry service instead, but he came up with more excuses about why that wouldn't be a good idea.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
AngieJoy, may I ask how old is Dad? If he is a certain age, then he still feels that laundry is "woman's work".

My Dad [95] never did laundry in his life. When in college he use to mail home his laundry for his mother to do, of course back then one didn't had a washing machine and the dryer was the clothes line. After college Dad found work and lived in a boarding house where the house mother did the guy's laundry. Then he got married, and my Mom did 72 years worth of laundry. So, it is your job :P

It could also be he is tying up the machines at Assisted Listing by forgetting he has a load of wash that needs to be dried or he has dried clothes sitting in the dryer. Bet the ladies who live there aren't happy campers.

It's funny, he lives "independently" yet you and I feel so exhausted.... like, what is up with that?

Buy an arm sling and wear it when you go to visit Dad. Back when I broke my shoulder I was out of commission for 6 months yet the doctor didn't want me to wear my sling after the 2nd month.... I told my physical therapist about my parents and how they act when they see the sling, and he laughed, told me I have his permission to keep wearing the sling any time I am around the parents :)
AngieJoy, I wouldn't take on the laundry duties again, but I would try to figure out just what is causing his insistence. One thing that might get my curiosity is whether he remembers that you have have already told him no. It's possible that he's forgetting the previous conversations and that's why he seems insistent on the matter. I'd see if that is the case.

It also could be that he's not sure how to pay them. Could it come out of his account or would he have to pay separately. Maybe, his check writing skills are going and he's afraid he won't be able to do it.

Or, who actually comes to get his laundry with the service. Is he having accidents in his underwear and he's embarrassed for them to know about it? Maybe he gave up doing laundry for a reason.

I noticed that my cousin hadn't done laundry in a long time and wondered why. Later, I discovered that she had dementia and she could no longer navigate the instructions on the washing machine.
Why does dad think that his laundry is YOUR job?

Send it out, get it done in house, do it himself. Not your problem!
Of course there is no logical reason why you should do Dad's laundry. None. If this were a man you were considering marrying I'd strongly advice you to refuse. But, hey, this is your father. He is 95. Is one load of laundry a week all he wants from you? I think I'd be inclined to do that small favor for him. (This assumes he is not manipulating you for all kinds of favors all the time.)

He is not willing to spend money on it now. Well, any money left when he dies you are probably going to get, right? So use some of it to send your own laundry out when the time comes!

Pick your battles. This one, it seems to me, is not one worth fighting. A pleasant relationship in your remaining time with him would be worth doing a load of laundry a week, to me. (But then, my mother just died last week, so maybe I'm looking at this from a slightly different perspective.)
Babalou, You've summed up the situation perfectly. Although I know that other people on this board do far more for their parents (especially those who have parents living with them), I feel as though my husband and I are constantly working to facilitate Dad's "independence" and to give him semblance of an enjoyable life. This week, I took him out to lunch; today we're buying and delivering a couple of grocery items and his lottery tickets; tomorrow we're taking him out for recreational shopping; Monday we're taking him to a medical appointment; and earlier this week I set up his next two appointments with a couple of specialists. Although I certainly understand why some of the posters who responded to my question thought that Dad might have early dementia, he has no cognitive issues that would prevent him from doing his own laundry. He just wants a resumption of our free services. And what really annoys me is that he no doubt is complaining about his laundry efforts to anyone who will listen rather than speaking positively about all we have done for him.
Dad is 95 years old, and although he has no cognitive problems, at his age, he shouldn't have to be washing clothes if he doesn't want to do so. (That said, though, he always did his own laundry when he was living at home with my mom. He was in his 90s at the time.) I just don't want to be the solution to his problem. Three years of free laundry service is enough, and he can well afford to hire the laundry done. We would take care of labeling the clothes for him, which is required.

I'm really irritated by his passive-aggressive approach to the situation. Today he told me how tired he was from doing the laundry and that it always made him tired but that he'd take a nap after lunch. When I brought up the subject of paid laundry service, he said that they didn't return the clothes quickly enough and he would run out of clothes. He brushed off my offer to equip him with more garments. Later on, my husband pointed out to me that we had been giving Dad one-week turnaround when we did his laundry--apparently that wasn't a problem for him at the time.

FreqFlyer, I love the idea of the sling, but I doubt it would help, because Dad brushes aside any mentions of my own health. After my surgery, I mentioned that I was feeling a little "off" because of the side effects. At the end of the conversation, he said, "I'm glad you're doing beautifully."


Angie, a couple of thoughts. Does your dad have dementia, or cognitive decline? Back in the day when mom had MCI and was in Independent Living, she wouldn't have been able to figure out how many of each item she needed to have enough clothing for a one week turn around. Also, due to anxiety issues, she would never believe that her clothes would find her way back to her. She also would have taken as gospel truth any awful story another resident told her about laundry turn-around. Not sure if that helps, but it might be part of this thinking.
I think that there are a LOT of other tasks that the OP has taken on in order to help her father live "independently" and that the laundry is one that is easily taken care of elsewise. I don't think this is about one load of laundry a week; I think it's a load of laundry piled on top of a lot of other tasks.
You are not going to like this but the first thing i would do is go with hime down to the laundry facility to see for yourself exactly what is involved and what if any problems exist. They may have installed new machines he does not know how to use for example. This may not be your idea of a visit with dad but if he needs his laundry done once a week that becomes the purpose of your visit and anything else he wants to do like recreational shopping has to wait till next time. it is just possible he may find another way to get his laundry done.
People do loose their skills slowly and there does come a time where a basket full of laundry is just too heavy or it makes him feel unbalanced and he has a fear of falling and no longer being able to live independently.
Angie, I don't think you are being unreasonable about the laundry IN THE CONTEXT. I've read your other posts. The father's narcissism is in play - he could afford laundry service - he has options for someone to be paid to do laundry for him - but he wants YOU to take it back on. This is about exercising CONTROL over you and your husband. This is a boundary that you want to have in a situation that you feel little CONTROL in. I rarely disagree with Veronica and Jeanne, but I think that in this situation you are trying to have some sort of boundary so that your anger and resentment does not completely derail you. If this boundary is one that you need to be able to help in the other areas without being so overwhelmed by your frustration that you don't want to do ANYTHING, then it's ok by me. My MIL and FIL who are retired but have health problems didn't want to pay for help in the yard or home when they moved. They go to gun shows, bought 2 new vehicles, and go to gun range 2-3 times weekly. They can afford it. My husband and I both work. His parents had the money - just didn't want to spend it that way. I have the problem with them and same boundary issues but told husband he could do anything for them he wanted. However, I would not do their work and it would be interesting to me if he did stuff for their house that was still waiting to be done at ours. Help is not enable. You have provided options - your father is trying to make you do what he wants, not working with you on what can be done. Hugs to you. Hard road, I know.

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