There was a time, not too long ago, when I was blogging every day. I was even getting posts done during the busy holidays. Then life got in the way. It's like exercise and dieting...once you get out of a routine, it's so easy NOT to do something.
We all have "things" in our lives...crazy schedules, work, family, travel, sickness etc. Whatever it is, we can usually handle it, work the changes into our lives and move on. January was crazy for me. I turned 50, traveled by myself to Florida to pack up and bring Kelsie home from her Disney internship and then I still had to de-christmas the house and pack it all away. At work, we changed over to a whole new computer system and digital x-rays, which after 34 years of old school dental records, threw me for a loop lol. However, my biggest challenge lately for losing my mojo and the reason for this post has been issues with my 90 year old father who lives with us.
Before I chat some more, you're probably wondering why I'm telling you all this. I debated long an hard about doing this post, because well, it's not a fun tutorial, recipe or decorating tip...it's just a peek into my crazy world. However, I know someone out there can relate, a conversation will start in the comment section and maybe this will help someone else in the same situation. Some of us have elderly parents or relatives, some of us know someone who has elderly parents or relatives and all of us will be an elderly parent or relative some day, so I'm hoping this post will resonates with at least one person out there.
For those of you who have followed me for a long time, you know that my parents moved in with us almost 11 years ago. We took care of my mom, who had Parkinson's disease, for 3 years until she passed away in 2007. I never thought, in a million years, it would be more difficult than that, but living with my dad has been a challenge. Every one's situation is going to be different, because of the personality of your parent or relative living with you. My dad is a retired military man and a retired teacher. He is head strong and always right...according to him Lol. It's even more difficult when they start to fail mentally or physically and try to keep up appearances like nothing has changed with them.
When you are living with or caring for an elderly parent you need a few things to help keep your sanity...a sense of humor is primary (if you don't laugh, you will cry), a support system (my husband is my rock and sounding board and my sister is my partner in crime) and you'll definitely need patience (which I definitely need to work on...and swearing under my breath...I need to work on that too.)
Having a parent living with you is great for peace of mind knowing they are with you, safe and not alone and they feel secure too. However, there is a trade off...simply put, your life is going to change forever. My father is still "somewhat" with it, he cooks and physically he can still take care of himself. However, he is starting to be very forgetful, making poor decisions about things and has health issues that he tries to fix with anything he buys online or out of catalogs. Common sense really goes out the window.
When living with a parent, you become "the bad guy", because you have to be the one with reason, the one who thinks logically and tries to explain to them what they've done wrong without making them feel foolish. It's a very fine line. For example, just a few weeks ago my dad came over to our side of the house, all smug and grinning from ear to ear. For about a year now, he has been trying to "prove all the sweep stake companies wrong" by sending in all the forms to see if he'll really win. Well, in his eyes, he won this one. In my eyes, he lost $900 and I won a weekend of fixing this mess and canceling his credit card. Here's the gist of this scam. They sent him six $400 vouchers to go towards six items. Of course those items all cost more than $400. He explained to us that he won $3300 worth of stuff, but he only had to pay $900 for it. This really was the straw that broke this camels back, so I literally looked at my husband and said..."I need to go up stairs before my head splits open". Two days of trying to explain this to him and showing him thousands of comments on the computer of other people involved in this scam, he finally conceded. Looking through his mail with him, he gets SOOO many sweepstakes entries it's ridiculous. In one day, he received 37 pieces of junk mail that said he won millions of dollars, but all he needed do was send in $29.99 processing fees. I don't even want to think of how many of these processing fees he has paid. There is now a mail filter in place at our house.
Companies preying on the elderly also trick him on the phone too. I won't go into it, but last Friday did it for me with him talking with a scammer on the phone and was just about to give them his other credit card number. He said he doesn't understand how these people get his name, address and phone number. I keep telling him that every time he sends in one of those entry forms or buys junk from those rip off catalogs, his name is being sold to a million other companies. All those "Do Not Call lists haven't worked for us, so I called our phone company. I found out that he can have 30 numbers that are added to a list of only the calls that are allowed to come in on his phone. All others will be blocked. I'm gathering up all his doctors number and family numbers to get that list going. Hopefully with me checking his mail and only the accepted phone numbers coming in, the scam artists should be stopped. The other obstacle that is next is cutting him off from the computer, but we're taking baby steps with that.
Your life is going to be a mixture of so many emotions...love, frustration, worry, guilt, anxiety, stress, anger etc. It's a fine line of knowing when you need to step in as the one in charge and still let them think they are the ones handling things on their own. You are literally juggling 2 lives.
Oh and by the way, if they are hard of hearing, not only will you be juggling, you'll be screaming a lot too. It's the best when you've repeated yourself four times and then you are screaming so loud on the the fifth time and he says..."young lady, why are you screaming at me?" My tongue is so raw from how many times I've bitten it !! lol You really need to pick you battles. It's like having a child again.
You need to be organized with everything...their doctors appointments, their medicine, their will and their end of life wishes. You need to be involved with their banking and finances and have a plan to pay their bills if something happens and they are in the hospital. All this needs to be legal with a lawyer and the bank. My sister and I have power of attorney for his health and medical decisions and my 3 brothers have power of attorney for his finances. One brother just came down during this last financial nightmare and set up online banking, so he can check in on my dad's checking account from his house in Connecticut.
Safety is another issue. Most of you know about the several (7) floods we've had due to my dad's forgetfulness with faucets, dishwashers and the laundry room. Fire is another concern too. A few things that we've done to help with this is to install a kitchen sink with an overflow valve and put a grate on the bottom of the sink, so he can't plug the drain with a pot or pan. In the past, he would put a pot in the sink to fill it up, walk away, forget and hours later come back to a sink over flowing all over his house and down into our basement. We wanted to put in a faucet that has a foot pedal to operate, but his corner sink didn't allow for the kick plate.
The stove fires are another scary issue, so we bought an attachment for the stove. It's called Stove Guard from Guardian. You simply pull out the stove, plug in the Stove Guard unit into the stove wall outlet, then plug the stove plug into that. Up above, under the counter, you mount a motion sensor. Every time he uses his stove, he has to be walking in front of the sensor. If he walks away and forgets, we have set the timer to 9 minutes. It will beep if he's not there after that set time. It will continue to beep (which he can't hear, by the way) and will shut the whole stove off if he doesn't walk in front of it again. It's worked out fine, but the toaster oven is another issue. lol
Next and final issue...taking away the car keys. This was not pretty, but my advice is to talk to a doctor or in our case, it was his doctor and his visiting nurse. He has some internal bleeding issues and the medical world has always been great with us knowing what it's like to deal with him...head strong and not willing to bend. The visiting nurse was great and made him shake her hand in a "gentleman's agreement" not to drive with his medical problems. He definitely wasn't listening to me or my sister, because what do we know!! Lol I did scare him when I said that he may not be injured in an accident, but he may hit a car full of children. I think that sunk in.
I hope this helps someone out there, even just a little. I know we aren't the only ones, because I work as a dental hygienist and so many of my patients open up to me about their lives and living with or caring for an elderly parent. It's good to get it off your chest and know you're not the only one with so many mixed emotions.
I know just writing this post helped me. I think I have my mojo back! LOL
Thanks for stopping by and listening,