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My 87-year-old father began living with me three months ago because he isn’t strong enough to completely care for himself. He is also having short-term memory problems.


Last week he decided he wants to go back to his home, across the country, and turn the garage into a library. There’s no way he could physically do this, but he insists he can. What should I say to him?

Play along with it and ask him details of how he would do this or that. Kill him with questions. Where will all of the stuff in the garage go? We better wait until the price of lumber comes down! Talk it up...ask him to draw it out, etc.... No need to kick him in the chops over it. Let him have some dreams. Sometimes its just nice to talk about what you would do and how you would do it even if it never comes to fruition.
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Reply to Jamesj
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”Turning the garage into a library sounds like a great idea Dad but do you think your ready to go home now? I would feel better if you were a bit stronger and had the blessing of your doctors to go back to living alone without any help. But transforming the garage is going to take some planing you could certainly start now.” Do you think Your dad could actually get himself cross country and home on his own or would try?

In my experience with my Mom she comes up with things like this from time to time and we would often ask her how she was going to do this or that going through the steps needed to accomplish whatever it was, she would realize she wasn’t able to do the thing rite now but we never closed the book on it forever. Other than driving, that she still brings up from to time to time and we have stopped walking her through why that can’t happen and just say “that’s not happening, that ship has sailed” and last time I said that to her she said “I know, I just like to dream” Now we often go along with her doing something if she wants to because we know she can’t possibly accomplish it without our help and apparently so does she. Most often without even asking how she is going to accomplish something she decides she isn’t going to do (whatever it is) today or this week but she will do it next year and then the topic either never comes up again or it pops back up 6 mos later and we let her do it if she wants and can on her own, picking and choosing the things we let go and the things we help her talk herself out of. I can only imagine how hard it is not being able to do so many things, having your world get smaller because your mind and or body is letting you down, trapped in a failing body when your spirit is 30 years younger. I know how hard it is for me just watching both my mom and dad slow down and loose various abilities I can only begin to understand how hard it is for them. I try to remind myself of that when I get frustrated with Mom but I’m not always good at trying to put myself in her shoes, guess Ill find out soon enough! Anyway there isn’t really any point in adding insult to injury by telling someone they aren’t able to do something they already know somewhere inside they can’t.

None of this is easy on any of us, our parents and loved ones included but I think it will be easier on him and you will feel much better about it if you don’t squash his plans or dreams just guide them when you have to and listen without positive or negative reaction the rest of the time. I feel better when I check myself and remember to do this anyway. Good luck.
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Reply to Lymie61
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Melissaj75: You could ask him 'what do you plan to do with the autos stored in the garage as well as the oil cans and accessories?' 'where are you going to obtain the books for your proposed library?' and other things. Maybe only then he will realize (or not) that his proposal holds zero merit.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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When we moved our mother in law in with us 15 years ago. We never told her we moved her in. We told her to come and visit then brought a companion in while we worked. This went on until she passed 5 years later at 97. When she said I think its time to go home, I would make some excuse to why she should stay another night. She would not mention it again for months.
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bundleofjoy Sep 29, 2022
incredibly kind of you.
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Try , “Maybe next week” ….. then next week say “ We will look into it “ …. the week after something else … if he hasn’t been tested you might consider having it done . If cognitive issues are starting , the more you know about it the better it will be . My man has gone from MCI to Moderate Neurodegenerative disease.. He also has Anosagnosia . In the reality he lives in , there is nothing wrong with him . He still thinks he can run circles around me. He can barely walk at this stage of the game . He can not use a phone, a remote control, remember what day of the week or season of the year or complete a sentence but believed he is fine ..
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Reply to Nanulinda1
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Say nothing.......................get busy managing your life while he's designing the next Taj Mahal. If he packs his bags and calls an Uber, but a tracker on him.
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Reply to ConnieCaretaker
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When dealing with someone with memory issues it is best not to tell them they can’t do something. Simply tell them they need to reach a certain goal before they can. My wife with dementia and is bed ridden wants to drive a car. I tell her she can when she can get in and out of the car on her own because I may not be there to help her when she gets to her destination.
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Reply to Sample
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Tomorrow is the best word ever! Everyone is out, the store is out of stock right now. I ordered it and it hasn't come yet. The flights are full and we cannot go today but we can plan on that tomorrow. Excuses, excuses, excuses is your friend!
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Reply to Ohwow323
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Some people with dementia don't realize that they have (or are getting) dementia. Are you his POA? While he is still capable of signing legal papers, make sure all of your father's paperwork is in order. He needs to set up powers of attorney for medical and financial matters, have a living will with his advance medical directives, and a will (if he owns a house, car, etc. he has assets). He may need an attorney to assist with these legal papers. You also should have these papers, so you could approach him to do this together. If you know what he wants to do ahead of time, you can make the actual legal part shorter and less expensive. His POA also needs to be on file with Medicare and social security to be able to speak on his behalf. While you are talking about this with him, can you discuss what he wants to do if he becomes unable to care for himself. He needs a plan. Would he want to be at home with in-home caregivers or in an assisted living facility? Much will depend on his finances. The advantage of a facility is people his own age, skilled staff and they take care of his meals, housekeeping, laundry, activities, clubs, etc. If he decides that a facility would be best, you will have to do much of the legwork to help him find a place and move him. You'll also have to help him find doctors near the facility. It would be best to find a place near you so that you can visit often and oversee his care. During the planning, you can bring up his house. Is it time to sell it so that he has more money for his long-term care? Are you able and willing to have him live with you long term? It might be helpful for him (and you) to get connected with a local social worker who can help explain his options. The social worker may also be able to refer him/you to templates for the legal documents, or pro bono attorneys, if needed. These conversations are difficult, especially if people don't realize that they need to plan for a time when they may not be able to care for themselves. All the best to you and your father.
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Reply to NancyIS
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Kick the can down the road. Help him plan it an draw it out for months. Tell him winter is coming and this work should be done in the spring. If he’s still on it by spring, kick the can to the summer “when you can buy the materials as everybody is out right now.” It’s really the only way from my experience.
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Reply to Caregiverstress
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Honestly, it has become a game we play "What will FIL decide he can do next" - and the players are DH, myself, BIL and SIL. I think often they KNOW they can't do things - but they are reminiscing about happier times or times when they felt like they could do more. In our case, we basically just ignore 99% of FIL's musings - which usually center around the things that need to be done to his house that he is going to do himself (that either one of us have to do or we have to hire someone to do if it is beyond our capabilities) because FIL believes he can do everything.

I'll be honest and say a lot of it for my FIL goes back to his narcissism - I've asked my DH and his sister if FIL was actually able to do these things when he was younger since I've never seen him do these things even when he was still physically able (FIL was not that much older than I am now when I joined the family and was certainly BIL's current age when I joined the family, so perfectly capable physically of a lot more than he is now). I think he likes to think that he has always been capable of more than he is to begin with. So now he REALLY believes he can do much more than he is physically capable of.

Most of the time we just let him tell his tales. We don't want to crush his dreams and there is little chance that the man who can't even stand up and go to the bathroom without the walker, and can't get himself a glass of water because he has to have both hands on the walker to remain upright, and weighs over 300 pounds, and hasn't been able to navigate even a single stair in years, is actually going to manage to get up the pull down attic ladder to fix the leak in the roof, or crawl under the house into the crawlspace to replace the all-house water filter, or take a trip on his mobility scooter and start pulling the decking down to replace it. He will say to us "I'll just do it myself" and we just smile and say "Ok dad, whatever you say" when we know these weren't even things he was doing himself 30-40 years ago.

I don't know...if he ever actually TRIED to do the things....yes definitely we would tell him to stop. But I think it is all talk. To hear himself talk. To provoke us sometimes into telling him we are taking care of it. To see if we will tell him he can't do it (which we do sometimes say (Dad, how exactly do you plan to do that?)

And sometimes, I think it is literally about just wishing that he COULD do those things. I think sometimes it's about wishing that he could do ANYTHING but what he actually does all day (by choice mind you) which is pretty much nothing. I think sometimes they need something to do with their minds to keep them occupied.
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Reply to BlueEyedGirl94
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You could have him draw pictures and collect photos from magazines to keep in a scrapbook. Just be glad he doesn't want to dig up relatives and build a mausoleum. That's what my dad wanted to do. He planned to have my grandparents exhumed and moved to another cemetery 25 miles away. There was going to be a large marble vault in which all family members could be interred, including him, and the family name would be prominently chiseled on the front. He drew sketches of what it would look like based on some he'd seen in other cemeteries. He died before he could finish the plan and actually forgot about it as he became sicker. I guess that was good - or bad, depending on how you look at it.
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Reply to Fawnby
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Melissaj75 Sep 25, 2022
Thank you. It’s nice to know someone else understands.
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You might even have fun talking about this. Plan how the shed needs to be lined, what shelving would be needed. The categories to organise the books, and what order they would be shelved in. How many are large size, and how does that affect the shelving layout. What books he already has, and whether he would need more. Could he go looking for suitable books in OP shops? Which categories?

In reality this would genuinely take a lot of planning, and the planning could take weeks or months. It would if I was going to do it myself! I go through my own books every couple of years, shed the books I don't want to keep, change where they are so I can find them easily, and decide which ones to reread straight away. And of course his library can’t be started until it’s all planned. Lots of lists, lots of sketches, just heaps to think through. Sounds like a good idea to me!
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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Melissaj75 Sep 25, 2022
Great idea. Thank you.
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You say "oh yes? Tell me more."

It seems that there is no possibility of his embarking on this project unaided, so what harm can result from his talking about it? And along the way, as you discuss the library scheme, you might come across ideas that would make him happier where he is (and therefore much more fun to have in your home).

Do you know what triggered this plan?
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Melissaj75 Sep 25, 2022
Thank you; this makes sense.
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