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Mental Decline & Dependency/Coping With Aging Loved Ones

 
 
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 05:46 am
There are a number of us out there who are dealing with the problems of caring for an aging relative. For me, it is my 93 year old mother, who, although cognitively still clear, has lost just about all of her short term memory.

On this thread, I would like to share the concerns, problems, and ambivalences that surround having an aging, declining, person in our lives.
Maybe amongst all of us, we can come up with a few hints that can make this time in OUR lives a little smoother.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 35 • Views: 139,726 • Replies: 3,133

 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 06:22 am
Hmmmmm - I confess I did not love my ageing father much, which made it all the more difficult to do the caring - since there was a constant struggle because I was doing far more than I wanted to and far less than I felt I ought to.

In contrast, caring for my dying mother when I was 14 was a pleasure....sigh.....

One of the things that helped me a little with my VERY difficult father - who had always been a home misery-guts and a social livewire, but became globally depressed in his final years, and refused to do anything which might have helped with the depression - was to repeat a sort of mantra to myself about not being responsible for his misery. I also used my poor friends for support - emotional, not practical.

It also helped that I was working in a hospital at the time and knew the system - and I was able to talk sufficient medical jargon with my father's doctors that they treated me as a colleague and took me very seriously and hence were very responsive and informative.

The hard bit is that weird crux time, when your parents move from being people on whom one may - sometimes - depend for support etc to being dependent and frail. That is such an emotional upheaval - even when you know it must come - when many of us really face the human condition, I guess.

Then that ambivalence - love, resentment, guilt, frustration..... frankly I don't think I dealt with it well, and I am still mopping up ten years later.

I suppose knowing what your real limits are and insisting that other care comes in at that point - if it is available - (it was for my father - but he would not accept it) - and working on being ok with your limits - being compassionate but not at the expense of your whole life.

I wil be interested in hearing what others have to say...
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Mapleleaf
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 10:57 am
FINANCES....while my mother was alive (80s), I pushed to have them complete a will and to review their finances. This was not all kindness as I had been worrying about how to fund the care of my father.

I found over $600, 000 in assets. Unreal...my parents didn't believe me (Mother didn't know about the money. This was a couple born before the Depression.) What ensued divided our family, yet, the monies did provide for Dad's care in his own home by his daughter and her husband.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 12:00 pm
i at age 58 have moved back to colorado to assist with my parents aged 80-mom has alzheimers and dad is showing signs of senile dementia, then this past spring, my brother aged 43 suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage with attendent neurologial damage and he continues to reside in San Diego. while i do feel a great deal of inability to solve anyones problems i also feel that i have given up any sense of self determination and see no potential for me in the foreseeable future. both parents and brother's conditions are not going to improve. i flucuate daily between depression and pulling my hair out. dad, says there are no problems to attend to (doh). i am indeed overwhelmed!!!
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 12:09 pm
I'll listen and watch.

Maybe I'll talk a little.... My mom's parents were pretty much confined to their house for the last 4-5 years. G-ma had alzeimer's - she just died in october. G-pa has had two major strokes and is bed-ridden. My mom and her siblings were able to keep them in their own home by hiring in-house care. They each did their share (unequal shares) in going to the house and helping things run smoothly. Now that G-ma is gone, they can't affard to keep G-pa in the house with full-time care. So, one uncle and one aunt of mine offered to care for him in their own households. 3 of the 5 of that generation refuse to put G-pa in a nursing home. They're running out of money.

Now there's the added stress of what to do with the house. One uncle wants to keep it to use part of it as an office and rent out the rooms. The extra income could help with G-pa's care. The problem is that that generation all spent their inheritences to care for their parents, the sale of the house was to be their pay-back..... ok, so I talked a lot.
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Mapleleaf
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 04:36 pm
dyslexia,
You need to find a trustworthy someone to help you sort through the issues. Your local Council on Aging would be a start. Most communities have some free services after age 55 or so.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 04:53 pm
dyslexia- Mapleleaf is right- As important that it is to assist your parents now, you need to take care of yourself. It sounds like you have boxed yourself into a corner, which is not helpful either to you or to your parents.

Find yourself an agency will help you sort out the problems, and possibly give you some information and referral for whatever services that your folks need.

I see by your profile that you are a retired social worker. As such, you are probably more capable of accessing available services than the average person on the street. If you get stuck, you can always call on us to put our collective heads together.

You cannot put your life on hold because of your parents. You need to create a life for yourself, outside of whatever you are doing to assist your folks. Dedicating your life completely to them will ultimately do nobody any good. There is a way out of this. You just need to sit back, and calmly assess your options. Good luck, and let us know how we can help!
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 05:04 pm
Well, dyslexia, being in a similar situation, I really can understand your problem: it's very easy to give others good advice, clearly seeing their problems. But it is totally different, when we are captured by these problems personally.

I nearly broke, because I KNEW the right way, but acted just by -what I thought- my heart.

Having got a good professional knowledge and some years of experience of life, I think, take the advices given above - children, close relatives aren't always a great help in these affairs!
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 05:47 pm
I'm watching and reading with great interest.
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JoanneDorel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Dec, 2002 06:45 pm
Taking care of family has always been a tradition in my family. And because of my experience, 14 years at SSA I was determined that I would take care of my mother. I took care of my mother in my home from 1979-1984; however, in January 1985 she decided to stay in California after a Christmas visit with my cousin and his wife. I was lucky that in May 1989 I was able to travel to CA for a visit with her and we spent a wonderful week together. Soon thereafter she suffered a stroke and was to sick to take care of herself and unfortunately I was also ill at that time and unable to go to California to take care of her. I could not afford the cost of a Careflyt to Virginia for her so I was in a real dilemma. My cousin and his wife, without consulting me, put my mother in a nursing home and she died very quickly thereafter of natural causes. But I never have been able to completely resolve the issue of "not doing the daughter's duty" no matter how sick I was. Unfortunately neither has my family they no longer speak to me and it is as if I never existed.

In May of 1998 my 88 year old father-in-law became unable to care for himself. He had developed sudden onset of (Macular Degeneration partial but legal blindness) and had suffered from severe loss of hearing over the years from and from his service in WWII. I had known this man since I was 17 and he was always good to me and he was a good friend of my mother. I was living in Oakland, CA, at the time and had re-married his son my first husband and it seemed right to move to San Diego and take care of him as the other children in the family were not willing to do so. So David and I packed up and moved into his four bedroom house in the San Diego area. He was healthy and strong he just could not see or hear.

To my chagrin he had discharged his house keeper ostensibly to save money several months before we arrived. Needless to say the house was more than dirty. The refrigerator, well I will not discuss it here. In any case I was on a mission. I cleaned and cleaned, and cooked and cooked, and was the perfect little care giver. At first things went well I was full of do goodness and he and I shared a passion for baseball and watched every Padre game that year, they one the NL Championship, we took trips to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.

I chauffeured him to all his clubs retired officers association and other similar activities including his weekly Macular Degeneration support group. In I guess June of 1998 his daughter bought him one of those special radios for the blind and a tape player provided by the National Association of the Blind which also supplies unabridged books on tape. And that is when I first started to suffer from some burn out. He played that radio all day and listened to books most of the night. Needless to say the volume was rather loud, actually more than loud you could here them from the sidewalk outside of the house.

Because he was retired Army we got a special ID for me so I could accompany him to the Navy Exchange and the Commissary. He had always done all the shopping in the house and wanted to continue do it so I went along with it. There were also trips to his private eye physician. Oh ya an bowling once a week. Then there were the side trips to the pharmacy at Balboa Naval hospital,.

I NEVER HAD A MINUTE TO MYSELF. AND WITH EQUAL EMPHASIS I ADD THAT I ALLOWED IT TO HAPPEN.

Finally in October 1998 I joined a care giver's support group. Most of the folks were caring for parents or spouse with Alzheimer's. But our issues were very much the same exhaustion and no time. Finally I asserted myself and bought a head set for him to wear when listening to tapes and the radio (that psych torture they do to our enemies by playing loud music or sounds 24 hours a day works), I stopped allowing him to try to shop and cut about three hours out of the time I spent with him a week, in addition I demanded that my husband and his other three children in the city help (they did not like that at all). Next to the support group the two things that help me the most were a book called the Forty-eight hour day and the dissertation a friend had written on Care Giving For the Elderly (she said other than her professors I was the only person who ever read it).

This is probably way to long but the problems in care giving are huge and take an enormous toll on the care giver. My father-in-law died in December 1999, in his home, in his easy chair listening to books on tape. I was not there however. Because of problems with his son and the other children would not provide any assistance I finally moved out in May 1999. And again I am not forgiven.

Doing the best I could was all that I could do and it was not enough. I recommend before undertaking any such task be sure you have a support system, assert your self when confronting an older person who you respect even when the are grumpy and stubborn. Be very careful you are not putting your self at risk.

Macular Dengeneration
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coming
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Dec, 2002 03:54 pm
It is easier to care for the elderly when you are fit and have a positive view about life. Unfortunately when your parents need care you are probably tired out yourself. For me having a spiritual and a biological view helps. I try to maintain my zest for life by scripture reading and to divorce my emotions from the task ahead of me. Having a regime helps.
Any one knows of a good exercise to free up the lower back?
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Dec, 2002 04:10 pm
Coming- Welcome to Able2Know!

What I do for my lower back is:

Lie on the floor. Bend one knee and place your foot on the floor. Grab the opposite knee, and pull it as far as it can comfortably go into your chest. Hold. Change legs and repeat.
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coming
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Dec, 2002 11:45 am
Thank you for your advice Phoenix. Your exercise appear to have worked and it also reminds me of an old exercise I used to do for my back. I lie flat on my back and gently tuck my legs up towards my chest holding it there with my hands and keeping the back flat. Quite relaxing.
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Dec, 2002 11:50 am
coming- Great! Happy that it helped.
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Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Dec, 2002 12:45 pm
My parents are in good health and in their swinging sixties right now. However, if they decline in health and need us, I would move back home to take care of them. I have another sister still living with them and she and I would share the responsibilities. My other three sisters have marriages, kids, homes, live in other countries so my single sister and myself would not be overly burdened to drop everything. Since I do not intend to marry, I am more flexible. Although this is my plan and I have not discussed this in detail with my other sisters, I do not think any of them would disapprove. One sister is married with four children, living in Australia and it would be unbelieveably difficult for her to be there for them. Another two sisters will soon get married and live in other countries. That leaves two remaining - myself (I would leave the U.S. and return to Ireland) and my sister at home. The home, being my parents home with no mortgage, remains theirs and we (two sisters) would live with them rent-free in return for taking care of them. We would both also have jobs outside of the home because that is necessary for income and to get some time-away. The other three sisters are expected to provide input and since I am a bossy-pants you can be sure I am not shy about asking them for assistance should I feel that sister and I want to go away for vacation.
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Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Dec, 2002 12:48 pm
Plus I promised my mother that when she got old and unable to get about that I would buy her and myself motorized wheelchairs and we would drag-race each other down the street and terrorize teenagers. She thought I was kidding!
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sumac
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Dec, 2002 12:47 pm
I am astounded at the posts here, but still reeling from the emotions, emotional conflict, and emotional aftermath expressed here by some. I also feel a huge avoidance within me so know that the issues and emotions touched upon have deep significance for me. Both of my parents are now deceased, and both had different experiences and situations in their final years. I will think about what is bothering me so, and return when I can be clearer.
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quinn1
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jan, 2003 11:28 am
I am stuck in the middle of family problems while trying to aid in best caring for my grandmother. She has 6 children living, my mother has been her caretaker for about 13 years but, when she was married a few years ago, my grandmother insisted that she did not need her to be there constantly, must have her own life, etc etc. Grams Alzheimers has grown increasingly worse and she would rather die than go to a home.
She has a younger sister living in CT who has a large home and is willing to have her move in with her, she would love to care for her but, Gram doesnt want to liv in the cold..and besides she says..my sister is boring. Okay gram...but, you have options you know?
She has one other daughter in Florida who is willing to help her with her remaining finances but, cant do it alone. One son in LV is willing to help but, I just found out yesterday, she wrote him a letter and wrote him off wishing to never be contacted by him again..shes done this with her other children in the past 15 or so years so, its just a matter of time when she writes us all off I think. Shes very strong willed about this stuff, and its usually due to something so very insignificant its mind boggling. The sons write off is due to his not taking her out to eat with him and his wife when she last visited, and stocking the fridge with her favorite fast food, and a few other little things that she just didnt like, which is what she had originally told him she preferred. Its insane really and now looking at how she has treated the other children over the years..it makes me wonder if perhaps its part of her disease. I mean, she wrote one off because she had written her along letter instead of a post card to just brief her of things, she really is unconcerned with anyones problems...especially her childrens. Dont get me wrong..she is a nice lovely woman, and I adore her but, these last few years have been very hard. Being the oldest Grandchild, and really one of the most responsible of her children/their children as far as being even interested in her well being, it gives me a great amount of mental stress.
I do however have to go get some post cards before she writes me off as well. Smile
I keep my spirits up and try to keep as much of a line of communication open as possible for everyone really but, gosh...shouldnt her kids be doing this themselves?

nice to have a place to whine...thanks Smile
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JoanneDorel
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jan, 2003 03:39 pm
MC I know my post seemed dour and maybe even a little poor me but taking on the task of elder care of those you love who are not the same person you know in earlier times is so complex. My father-in-law was in good health but very old and there is always some mild demntia going on and denial involved. I think I did the right thing, I did it voluntarily, but I did not know the complete ramifications when I ventured into the arrangment. I would not take that type of thing again unless I had outside help, i.e., housekeeper and someone to fill in for me so I could have time off.

My major mistake was moving into the home of the person I was taking care of. It was not my house and because of his limited vision I could not move stuff around - even when cleaning things had to be put back exatly where they were or he would get so distressed. And then there is the individuald depression and he was of a generation that did not believe in it. Not to mention he was bred and born in CT, an independant yankee in every sense of the word (I know you know what I mean by that).

I think the worst thing was not privacy none
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quinn1
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Jan, 2003 03:54 pm
humm...me know about independant Ct yankee stubborness..well..I practically look like that I think! Wink

I realize that dementia and againg can go hand in hand and that with definate Alzhiemers in progress already, the task of taking care of granny is a daunting one. Add to that also her disability..which has cracked me up for years actually...polio. She could very well start to have ramifications of that as well, and when Im around I just love how she all of a sudden cant cut her own food. Her own daughter was amazed one day when she caught her off guard cutting her own- she was so busy and hungry she forgot to get attention .. so darn cute! But, could be annoying after a while no matter how much you care for someone. Also could become very much needed as well.
I certainly dont wish to not care for her, or to have someone else take on the burden alone, but it seems so odd that with 6 kids and I think its like 16 grandkids...there are only a few of us to aid her. Then again, she burned her own bridges with them but, you know some of the things that have happened are more like..unconditional love aspects of such a relationship, and I cant really see how her children can hold these things against her.
I can make others care or want to help either and I know it will only get worse and more complex so, it just a daunting task I take a bit at a time while I can.
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