The Parents, part 1

I’ve mentioned before that within the last couple of years my sister and I have taken our parents into our homes with me taking our father and Barbara taking our mother. This is something I’ve rarely mentioned online in the past but I feel like maybe I should talk about it more if only to give a little background on it so that when I do refer to the situation in the future everyone won’t be completely lost on what I’m talking about. I say that because it’s become such a normal part of our lives now that sometimes I’m surprised when others comment on it when I do mention it in passing. So even though it may take me several individual posts to tell the entire story, the plan is to share the entire sequence of events over the next few weeks.

It all started a little over a year and a half ago in the summer of 2004, when our parents, who’ve been married for sixty plus years, both started having health problems. At first, we thought it was primarily our father who was having some severe memory issues but it quickly became apparent that our mother was also having difficulties of a completely different nature.

I live in Kentucky in relatively the same community that my parents do but Barbara, my only sibling, lives in Missouri about 3 hours away. So, she came in to visit over the course of a couple of weekends to assess the situation with me. I should probably add here that Barbara has worked in nursing homes in various capacities from aid to administrator for about 25 years although she’s currently on disability so she brings that expertise into the mix.

We quickly realized that regardless of the medical issues, the first thing we needed to do was make sure all our parent’s important papers were in order so we spent some time during those weekends asking them and making note of where everything like bank accounts and insurance policies were. This was something that took both patience and perseverance to accomplish, let me tell you.

Then we hustled them off to a lawyer our father was comfortable with to make sure their wills, living wills and power of attorneys were up to date. We also made an appointment to actually meet their doctor in person and discuss our father’s memory problems with them. It’s a good thing we did because within a matter of two months everything started going seriously downhill. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to make sure they know where papers like this are for important people in their lives. I shudder to think of the mess we’d have been in months later if we hadn’t taken this approach from the beginning.

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  • CindyS

    Oh dear. I just blogged about my husband’s parents – 85 and 87 (to be 88 at the end of this week) and how I was completely useless this weekend. I have a lot of respect for my husband’s younger brother because he has been taking care of them for years. Well, Mom and Dad sold their family home to Paul for 1/2 the value on the condition they could live with him until they died. Also, their eldest son had to remain with Paul (the youngest) until he died.

    I’m not sure Paul knew what he was signing on for but I give him immense credit. He has to make sure they have taken their medications, cleans up when they have accidents, deals with their finances, takes them to all their appointments and at their age, they have many. So Paul and his girlfriend Carol, Mel, the oldest son, David (divorced) and his two girls and Mom and Dad live in one house together – they bought a brand new place with 5 bedrooms about a year and a half ago.

    I wish I had the abilities of those who are able to care for others.

    I’m sorry about your parent’s health but it sounds like you took the bull by the horns.

    I’m only 35 but I have told my entire family how everything is to happen. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone and I told my Aunt that *God forbid* I was on a machine that she would have to be the one to end it because, A) Bob won’t and B) I’m not a parent and couldn’t imagine forcing them to do it. My Aunt looked at me and said ‘Thanks.’ ‘Hey, at least I have told everyone what I want!! You just have to make sure they follow through with my wishes’ ;)

    CindyS

  • beverly

    Please, give yourself some credit, Cindy, because at least you care enough to let it bother you. And to be perfectly honest, my sister is much more capable with the caregiver stuff than I am but then she’s worked in the business for years.

    Thankfully, my father is still quite able to dress and for the most part groom himself and my ex, who thinks of my parents as his and vice versa and who also has a nurses aid certifcate, helps with giving Papa his bath on a more or less weekly basis. If it wasn’t for that, I’m not sure how I would manage except for getting home services to come in.

    One thing you can do to help is make sure your brother-in-law has the relief help he needs along those lines. Believe me, it’s sometimes more valuable than gold to just get away and there are a lot more services out there than people usually realize.

  • CindyS

    Wow, sounds like you and your ex have a good relationship. My best friend is my husband’s first wife. Bob and her just didn’t have an acrimonious divorce and since I didn’t fell threatened by her we all became friends. Sure, it took some work but I think we all benefited. Bob and Sue never had kids and there was so much else wrong that they separated. I met Bob soon after and we got together meanwhile, when Sue left Bob she moved in with a guy she had been having an affair with. That didn’t end well. Sue met her husband Mark two months after Bob and I were engaged and they were married one month after us. They met and married in 7 months. They have 2 beautiful kids and we are their legal guardians (and we make the jokes about cutting their brake lines so we can get the kids) and they are the Godchildren that I talk about all the time.

    There are people who meets us and think it’s weird but it’s just not. We are blessed to have her children in our lives and I’m blessed in having a best friend who has been there and done that. She was an immense help when my panic attacks got out of control.

    Oops, I’m hijacking your blog!

    CindyS