So, I'm back. The cast of characters includes Dad (90, depression, Parkinson's, no driver's license, some memory issues) and Stepmom (87, cancer, introverted, some memory issues--but better than Dad). I'm in Michigan, they're on Cape Cod--and other kids involved are in LA, Baltimore, Seattle, and Princeton.
Stepmom called last night--"I can't take it anymore". Latest issue was them going to dinner the night before for ~$100, and him wanting to go out again that night (despite the fact she had prepared dinner) so he could be among people. Bigger picture is that he wakes up ~2pm and goes to bed ~9pm and doesn't do much besides walk the dog; she wakes up ~6am and is exhausted by 6pm and wants to do it all (despite having a great woman come in a couple of days a week). She claims he gets angry and calls her names when he doesn't get his way (but neither my brother nor I have ever witnessed this, even when we stayed there for a week this summer). I had called one of her sons a couple of weeks ago to discuss the situation but never heard back--until he wrote me back this morning, likely spurred by the latest development.
So, I lectured Dad on the 'obvious' stuff--take your meds to help avoid depression, put Stepmom's needs above yours (she's exhausted), get up earlier and use other resources if you want to be 'around people' (eg, friends, or the local seniors network). He didn't argue, fortunately, and didn't even mention trying to get his driver's license back (which he does during almost every phone call), but not sure it will 'stick'.
Some thoughts/ideas I had (and shared with her son):
1. She seems reluctant to get help--even letting the woman helper do basic chores or meal planning.
2. Both my brother and I think she needs to speak to a professional therapist of some sorts--I can act as a sounding board and try to advise long distance, but I'm not exactly trained in this.
3. Yes, assisted living would work (especially for Dad's socialization) but he doesn't want to leave the house he built and she apparently isn't good socializing among larger groups of strangers (per her son, which was news to me). Both have longterm care insurance which would help out here.

Any other advice for me or for them? Other resources I haven't thought about? And, yes, I told her about this particular site, which has been very helpful thus far--kudos to you all. Feeling frustrated and powerless about this point, and with no idea how this is going to play out.

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In reading FF, Jessie's and GSA's posts, I see that mine seems naïve by comparison. I was trying to think "proactively", pushing a bit to expand what might be available as opposed to thinking more in terms of addressing what the situation is as well as its limitations. So I do apologize if my comments seemed a bit naïve.

Adam, your father's clubs would be great; if he's too depressed, perhaps one of the group can visit him, or someone can pick him up just to get him out of the house. Sometimes a little friendly intervention can work miracles.

I've noticed my father cheers up when we go to the Dairy Queen, drive around and see the fall foliage, or just get out of the house. When someone is limited and can't drive, it's easy to feel trapped.

Two of the assisted living places in our area have guest events - join them for a meal, special presentation, etc. Lockwood of Waterford is one, and Sunrise Assisted Living is the other. I don't know if that might be an option for your parents as they might think they're being encouraged to go there on an eventual permanent basis. But it's a thought.

If your father is a vet, there are dozens of events on Veterans' Day, including free meals for vets at Applebees.

If I can think of other alternatives to a $100 meal, I'll post back.
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Guestshopadmin: I do have authority to talk to my Dad's doctors, but have not yet done so. Physically, he gets around ok, requiring only a cane (and they have a motorized chair for the stairway). As far as having the parents come and visit, I think that ship sailed a couple of years ago--she can't even talk Dad into a vacation driving up to Maine, and the rest of us are all a considerable distance away (the closest, in Princeton, is 5hrs by car). Hearing and sight are fine for both of them, for the record.
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GardenArtist: Thanks for all the input. Unfortunately, the nearest Gilda's Club is 1hr15min away, and there is no nearby family (the closest is the stepson in Princeton) to do things like cook meals or supervise in-home help. When we visit (as we did this past summer), we did do all the cooking for the big meals. Socially, Dad has a 'coffee club', the Kiwanis, and a Civil War roundtable--although sometimes he's too depressed to attend. I do like the idea of both of them getting out of the house together, eg at the Senior Center (as opposed to another $100 meal).
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Long post but some suggestions.
1. Has Dad been evaluated to see if Parkinson's dementia or Lewy Body Dementia is also now a factor? That will complicate his ability to follow through or understand how his behavior affects others. Dementia patients frequently treat caregivers poorly and their golden children well. Dad could have held it together for the week you were there or held off on bad treatment until private moments in his bedroom or bath. People thought my mother's marriage was perfect because they were never behind the closed doors or witnessed after-hours verbal abuse.
2. Depression is part and parcel with Parkinson's and meds used to treat it. Can you see if the Voice Project is active in his area? They have programs for therapy that are also social opportunities specifically for Parkinson's patients. Is he getting any kind of physical therapy or occupational therapy? These are also social opportunities and outside evaluation. Do you have HIPAA forms for your father – can you contact his medical providers directly to see if they have given the ideas to Dad and Stepmom already and they have been ignored/declined/too hard to implement? Is Dad really taking meds as he is supposed to?
3. Have you personally looked into setting up a day care or senior program for your father? What is available in their area? Do they have a pickup and dropoff program? At 87, your stepmother is trying to do it all. She is DROWNING, and both sides of this blended family are asking her to identify the store to purchase the life preservers from, plan a route, and pick a size and color of preserver. With cancer, depending on her treatment program, step-mom may not be thinking clearly either. If she has social anxiety as well as aging/chemo-brain, step-mom is not comfortable having others around, no matter how nice or useful they are AND she is not comfortable calling on the phone. Is hearing on the phone an issue? My best friend's mom is 89 and cannot hear clearly on the phone so she doesn't call-docs, helpers, etc. Period, even when it's in her best interest.
4. Maybe you and her children can arrange a visit separately to each of your homes. Keep your father with you for a week without stepmom running interference so you can see what is the real situation, not showtimers. Her kids can see how she is doing. If Dad won't leave, see if her kids can take step-mom on a visit/vacation and you keep him at home for a week. A college friend quit having arguments and suddenly got cooperation from her brothers on helping her Mom move into assisted living when they came down to help go through Mom's house and had to deal with an incontinent demented lady that threw food at them and recognized no one. And the family had all visited for a week about 2 months before and Mom was “fine” as long as sis had run interference. On packing visit, sis was busy working and the bros had to take over. Mom was moved within 48 hours.
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Adam, welcome back, although obviously not under the best of circumstances.

FreqFlyer has just gone through something similar with her parents. Her mother was reluctant to accept help, fell, hit her head, was hospitalized and is now in rehab or hospice, not sure which but I believe she's slated for hospice. Her father is now accepting home care in the house. She too faced challenges in getting them to accept help.

It's a sad situation, but one from which we all can hopefully learn as we share experiences and solutions.

If like your step-Mom, she's been the house and life manager for decades, that's not going to change over night.

In your family, it seems that your step-mother is similarly opposed to help, trying to do everything herself and exhausting herself in the process. Your father may not realize she's laboring under the belief that she either needs or wants to do everything herself, and continues to believe that she can handle it.

So, how do you get her to realize the dilemma? How can your step-mother's managerial skills be utilized to continue her self esteem, factoring in the fatigue factor of cancer, and how can you provide socialization for your father? These are the really difficult challenges as I see them - generally.

A therapist might help if your step-mother would accept advice, but I think in these situations there are roles that have been in place for years, and both partners have grown into them.

And honestly, even when social workers with home care come in and start offering advice, I find that if they're younger and haven't had that much experience with older people, they look only at the surface conditions and don't delve into the lifelong roles, change in women's and men's roles and how challenging this is for older people to accept, or the fact that these roles in many ways define who the older folks are.

The last group of home health aides we had were great, very insightful; this time we have a group that seems to have focused more on younger people and don't have too much insight into older folks. I'll actually be glad when they're through, as other than therapy and nursing, they're not able to provide much more insight.

Some random thoughts:

1. You might try the help for your step-mother approach by stating that you'd like her to be able to spend more pleasurable time with your father, and get more relaxation for herself as she battles cancer, so some limited help with the household chores would ALLOW that.

2. You might try having someone come in while your parents are gone just to clean house, do dishes, prepare a roast or big meal, or something like that. I'd start with family first just to get them used to the idea, then segue to paid help, as you have now.

But have one of the family there to supervise paid help and ensure that you're all comfortable with this particular person from an agency. Your step-mother could still plan the meals but let someone else do the work.

3. I've taken the approach, sometimes successfully, that life can be like a job. You work your way through learning and mastering your skill, then as you advance, your skill sets become more than necessary for the "doing" part and you become an adviser, manager, or segue into another position which allows you not only to delegate the work but to train others, sharing the knowledge and skills you've gained and in the case of a marriage, freeing yourself up for more time with your family. At one of the seminars I attended decades ago, the presenter characterized this as "doing" vs. "managing". Nice business buzzwords.

4. My father also won't consider leaving his home, in part because he built a workshop which is his pride and joy. So we bring the company to him. Since your father wants to stay in his house, think of ways you can do that, without overwhelming him with visitors.

5. Family in the area can take turns visiting, bringing food so your step-mother can segue into accepting meal preparation from others. Just make them old fashioned family get togethers. Then expand and bring over friends, again with your family providing the meals.

The goal is to work on one aspect at a time, so that eventually your step-mother will enjoy the extra leisure time and become accustomed to someone else doing the meal prep.

6. They can occasionally visit Senior Centers, or as I suspect may be of more interest, varied groups with similar interests, then hopefully eventually plan get-togethers either at those folks' house or at your parents house.

Years ago I joined a few discussion groups, one a subgroup of the American Association of University Women; the focus was on foreign policy issues. It was as stimulating as a college class. Then I joined the Michigan chapter of JASNA, the Jane Austen Society of North America. I met a woman from Provence - I even remembered some French to chat with her a bit. I met others with similar educational interests; eventually that expands to social gatherings as well. It was literally the intellectual highlight of the month.

7. Libraries generally have discussion groups, some on books of different foci, mystery, politics, business, etc. That might appeal to your father. Even if he doesn't read that much any more, I'm getting the impression he needs people and intellectual stimulation.

8. It would be helpful if you could get step-Mom to attend Gilda's Club meetings. I can't imagine how anyone who has cancer can manage to do everything she does. Gilda's Club has pot luck get togethers, as well as special sub group meetings for specific cancers.

It's a good possibility that one or more of the other members has gone through something similar to your mother's experience - trying to accept that either age or cancer or both have limited his or her ability to do what's been done for years.

It might not even hurt to contact one of the Gilda's Clubs here in Michigan to find out what resources they have for this specific purpose. Perhaps your mother would be more willing to accept reduction of her role if she knew others have faced and accepted the issue.

Gilda's as I recall also had a caregivers support group. That might help your family as well as your father.

Your step-mother is also going to tire herself out emotionally and physically by insisting on doing what she's done for years, and that will make battling cancer even harder.

That's about all I can think of now. I feel as if these are just obvious suggestions and not really insightful or helpful, as the situation is challenging and complex, but sometimes the basics are where to start.

I'm sure others will have ideas to offer.
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There are solutions, but there would have to be change on both sides. It seems like they need to bring their hours in sync with each other. By the time your father gets out of bed, your stepmother is almost done. It would be up to them to bring things more in sync. If they did, maybe they could go out to lunch and maybe to the shore for a bit of stimulation. Who is doing the driving now that your father isn't? Does your stepmom still drive?

I don't know what resources are available for older people on Cape Cod. Your father might enjoy them very much, but stepmom would have to put aside her housekeeping tasks. It would require change on both sides, and you wouldn't be able to do it for them. I rather suspect that they will continue on like they are. :)
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Welcome back, Adam. It is so frustrating how our parents choices can create havoc with us. In my parents household it was Mom who was stubborn and refused to realize she was aging and that she needed help. I would go around and around with them trying to help them make better choices as they got older..... they are now in their mid-90's and still in a 3 story house.... [sigh].

Sadly it will take a really serious situation to make the stubborn person to have a light bulb moment. For my parents, it was my Mom having a serious fall and is now in long term care never to come home.... it was then that I was able to get Caregivers into the home to help Dad with his own day, and Dad now asking about Assisted Living.

In the mean time I need to buy a new helmet because I broke the old one banging my head on the wall so many times [not literally] as my parents didn't want to listen to me.
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