FAQs #2

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Q2. Help, my parents are both very confused, and they have lost weight and seem increasingly unable to care for themselves in spite of my efforts to help with meals and organizational support. I have had my work interrupted with increasing frequency with emergency phone calls from concerned neighbors. Their physicians have expressed concern about their ability to cope in an unsupervised situation, and I have attempted to get support from my 8 brothers and sisters who live out of town, to insist that they accept help outside the family. However, my parents can pull it together and look competent long enough to assure them that they are fine, and I am the only problem. A lot of conflict is developing. Any ideas?

A2. Ruth Tipton:
>Wow — that's a tough one! I only had one brother (and sister-in-law) to contend with but I had the same situation: I knew what was going on with my mother — how she was becoming more frail and unable to take care of herself, take care of her affairs and live on her own. But every time my brother called her (he called every Sunday!), she sounded fine to him — and on his visits two or three times a year, she was fantastic! Almost like the "old" mom with all her faculties, etc. Of course, as soon as my brother and sister-in-law left town, mom would let down and be sick and everything reverted to the way my husband and I saw it day in and day out.<cite>

What did we do? Well, I gave up trying to convince my brother what was going on because I knew it was a losing battle. I did sit down and phone our local hospital's "Senior" Club for information on the aging (that was before the Internet became so big and easily accessible!) and one source led to another so I got a wealth of information as to what was available in the way of help.

You're doing that right now by being on this site - and there is plenty of help out there. I arranged for some counseling for us; first she went in alone, then I went in with her — and finally, the counselor came out to our house to meet with all of us. That seemed to resolve a lot of things right there and finally, it was my mom's own idea that she move to an elder care facility. I guess we were lucky in that respect, that mom took the decision out of my hands. Would your parents agree to a counseling session? Would they listen to and take advice from their physician? pastor? any other people they like and respect? How about taking them to visit some alternate living facilities (independent and assisted living complexes) — after you have checked them out yourself.  It seems like new ones are being built all the time (we have two now within a half mile of our house — and a third one being proposed on the same corner!) and they offer so much to older people in the way of security, sociability, good meals and freedom from responsibility. Who knows, if your parents see a couple of good places and talk to some of the residents who are really enjoying living there, they just might want to make the change themselves! And the family home is probably worth a lot more now and could be sold well to finance your parents' new living arrangement. (Talk with a good Realtor and your financial advisors about that.)

I didn't think my brother and sister-in-law would like the idea of our mom living in "one of those places" - but after the decision was made for mom to move, and before the actual moving date, they came to town and we all went over to mom's new residence and we gave them the grand tour. Once they saw what it was and how excited mom was to move there, they were all for it. Day care may be another option for your folks — but it still doesn't address the problem of safety and security at night.

Anyway, you're on the right track, right here on this Internet site and the many others you can link to. Ask questions, talk to as many people — professionals and caregivers — as you can and gather all the information you can. Since your siblings are out of town and you're here with your folks, you're going to have to be in charge. Good luck!

Nancy Driskill, MS, RN:
>Well, first of all, there are some care options that can be explored. It will be important, though, for your family to be "on the same page" where your parents are concerned. A family meeting should be held where fears can be aired, priorities clarified, and a plan formulated that clearly identifies each member's abilities to help. This meeting may best be accomplished with the help of a third party who is not part of the family. A professional geriatric care manager is often a good choice for this role.<cite>

During the family meeting the care manager can help identify options and services in the community to safeguard your parents' well being. Whether a move to a more secure environment (assisted living) makes sense, or hiring home care to provide protective oversight and support in their home is the plan, the care manager can facilitate the processes and be available to be the "point" person, coordinator, and trouble shooter. Through it all, your parents' need for respectful, sensitive, and skilled care should be a priority.

Once your family is clear about what the realities of the situation are, understands that each family member will play a unique role in the process, and that there is someone involved who can coordinate and supervise services, the conflict and worry should diminish.

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