34 Replies Latest reply on Apr 21, 2014 12:28 PM by JerryD

    Caring for parents

    michele
      michele said...

       

      I am lucky enough to still have both of my parents living relatively independantly near me. The problem is helping to get them to face their limitations. My Dad is 92 and still drives locally. He will not use a taxi or the senior citizen bus to get to the senior center or to shop. He says that he can not give up his independance ( his car). He and my 87 year old mother did however allow me to arrange for a woman to come and clean once a month. Has anyone else found a way to keep their parents active but restrict their driving?

      This is so hard.  My dad lives alone quite well, but his eyesight is failing and he knows he won't pass the next driver's test. For now, he won't give it up, but only does close to home during the day.  It worries me!  Now he is talking about selling his home and moving to a retirement community, but he knows he would hate it!  And the area where he lives doesn't have taxi service.  My next task is to check with senior services for the aging in his area and see what they recomment.

        • Re: Caring for parents
          ff_rolemodel
          I hope this reply gets to both Michele and Sherri, who both wrote about the difficulties of helping elderly parents, especially regarding driving automobiles.  Yes, this is certainly one of the greatest problems.  The DMV could help us by establishing regular checks of road skills and vision, and in some places I think they do.  Mention it to your Congressperson.  The core of the problem seems to be that driving is a symbol of the independence that they cherish.  Could we substitute a different symbol?  Maybe writing their memoirs and sharing insights with younger people.  Maybe e-mail correspondence with a variety of people.  If you have an adolescent with a new driver's licence, who needs lots of practice in driving, maybe you could pair them up.  The elderly person could be persuaded that riding with the young driver is doing a service to him or her, the parents, and the entire community.  At the same time, the elderly person could be given a ride to wherever he or she wants to go.  The adolescent could indeed get good practice and could also be praised (and maybe paid) for doing a service for the elderly person.  Encourage them to chat as they drive!  Let's talk more. 
            • Re: Caring for parents

              Thanks for your thoughts.  Fortunately there is a new Taxi service near Dad, and he didn't freak when I brought him the info.  Also, he is now accepting of my stopping at the post office and picking up his mail (home delivery is problematic) plus he has decided that shopping with me is easier and more fun!  Now if I can just schedule these shopping trips into work schedule and the 1.5 hour drive to his house we will be that much better off.

              Another wonderful thing is that he loves to buy me lunch!  I love my dad, but as so many, I get caught between so many things pulling at me.  Right now I am about 12 hours away with work.  I do envy those of you who have siblings to share this all with, or who have supportive community around their parents.  Another of my friends is so grateful for the church community who are supporting her recently widowed mother who is 800 miles from her.

                • Re: Caring for parents
                  vs_rolemodel
                  Hello, Sherri, Michele, ff_rolemodel.  While my parents are both no longer alive, I can certainly relate to the trememdous
                  emotional conflict that arises when we as children try to protect our parents from harm without insulting their desire to
                  remain independent for as long as possible.  I really liked  your ideas, ff_rolemodel, regarding pairing up one needful
                  group [adolescent new drivers] with another [seniors in need of a ride to the store, to the doctor, etc.].  And I too wish
                  we could come up with another symbol for independence, other than the automobile.

                  Fortunately for me, my late mother was realistic enough to realize early-on  that her driving days were over; she
                  chose to give up driving in her mid-seventies, after my father had passed away.  She instead arranged for taxi service or occasionally neighbors [only if they would offer first] to get her where she needed to go.   She lived far away from me
                  [Sedona,AZ - Seattle,WA]; and whenever I would go for a visit I would rent a car locally in order to help her stock up on
                  supplies, go to doctor appointments, hair salons, etc..

                  Nowadays, with the possibility of placing a grocery or other order onlilne and having it delivered, I wonder whether this
                  might be another option for  your dad, Sherri; or is the area where your dad lives too far removed from any grocery delivery
                  area? 

                  Best wishes,
                  vs_rolemodel
                  • Re: Caring for parents
                    sftblchik4

                    Hi all,

                    New to the forum; looks like it has the potential for being a great resource.   My parents are both in their upper 80's, and still drive, although only locally.  As the daughter who lives closest, I'm often the one who takes them to doctor's appointments in the city.  I broached the subject of them getting a handicapped placard  (in MA, it's just a hangtag for the rearview mirror) and met with incredible resistance!   I even put it to my father that it would be helpful to ME if we could park closer at times when parking is a problem at some of these places I have to take them.  No luck!    Any suggestions?

                    Lisa

                     

                      • Re: Caring for parents
                        Knitter34

                        Hi Lisa:

                        I've been in your shoes, as the daughter in town.  I was able to enlist the help of my father's doctor in getting the handicap hang tag.  Give the doctor's office a call and let them know you want the doctor to discuss it with your parent on the next visit.  When the recommendation comes from the MD it is easier for the parent to accept it--after all you are still the "kid".  Good luck.  One other piece of advice, if you don't do yoga now, you might want to start.  It strengthens your back for the extra physical efforts you'll need as your parents age, plus it gives you a place to unwind.

                        Mary

                         

                        • Re: Caring for parents
                          gpjohns

                          I heartily agree with Knitter on getting the doctor into the mix. Only way I could get my parents to agree to get one. Now they love it and won't leave the house without it.

                          Also if your parents are needing help around the house (i.e. housework, laundry, meals on wheels) have the doctor mention it to them. I fought for years to get my Father to get some help. He takes care of my mother who is a full invalid. He finally listened when the doctor told him that he had to have help in order to continue caring for my mother.

                          Be sure to have your parents tell the doctor that you wish to be able to discuss their medical conditions with him. This will save you some headaches down the road too.

                            • Re: Caring for parents
                              sftblchik4
                              gpjohns said...



                               Be sure to have your parents tell the doctor that you wish to be able to discuss their medical conditions with him. This will save you some headaches down the road too.

                              I have to chuckle about this comment....that was a battle that was hard fought!   I had to convince them that I would NEVER call their doctors without asking them first.   They finally relented, and of course, now, they are always having me call their doctors with questions, or to interpret something that they weren't sure they heard right.   (for example: my father, who is 88, announced that the doctor had told him that he had "chronic bulimia" and that was why he was tired all the time.   Turns out, the doctor told him he had chronic ANEMIA!   Have to admit that it made for a good laugh) 

                              Lisa

                               

                                • Re: Caring for parents
                                  rr_rolemodel
                                  As someone who has spent over ten years on the Board of The National Council on Aging dealing with many of these issues I am convinced that you have stumbled on a key issue for older Americans. Often their best advocates are their children. Even though many of us are already retired there is much we can do to make their life easier. Dealing with Doctors is not easy as you so well illustrated in getting anemia misunderstood as bullemia. I am convinced as are many professionals dealing with this issue that it is essential that we accompany our frail elderly parents and friends to their doctors appointments. With medicare requiring that doctors stick to a tight timetable in dealing with their elderly patients it is essential that younger family members accompany them on these visits. My wife volunteers for a free senior driving program for low income seniors who cannot afford taxis to visit their doctors. She stays with them to the visit and has been amazed at how often these folks have not understood what their doctors have told them. Some agencies suggest a booklet with suggested questions which should be covered during the visit. As we are beginning to see more intelligent understanding of medical problems through the internet there is no reason why children cannot make their elderly parents doctor's visits more understandable and productive down the road.
                                    • Re: Caring for parents
                                      gpjohns

                                      Accompanying my father through his visits to the Dr. during his chemo treatments has become vital to helping my parents.  As they age things can be "misheard" or "misunderstood". They simply must have someone there to help them understand and to help get their questions answered. 

                                      One thing that we must be careful of is to not turn our own lives off and stop enjoying ourselves as we step into the role of caregivers. Older parents may be come spiteful when you explain your not going to be there for the weekend etc. Patience works best here. That and taking time for yourself makes it much easier in the long run.

                                        • Re: Caring for parents
                                          Roberta

                                          Hi all, I am new to this website and hope that you all will have some thoughts for me.  I am the only child of 2 elderly parents (87 and 91) and a nurse (which sometimes makes things worse).  I am making all the health care decisions now, since my dad has some dementia and my mom looks to me for the decisions.  My dad has ulcerative colitis with flairups a couple times a year.  The flairsup are getting closer (usually it was every 6 months but now closer to every 3 months).  The doctor wants to start him on a drug that will compromise his immune system.  I have second and third thoughts about doing this.  In addition, the prescription when we received it said to use gloves when handling the pills.  My mom will be the person handing out the pills to him and she has lymphoma.  I don't know what to do at this point.  Any thoughts would be appreciated. 

                                            • Re: Caring for parents
                                              swebber

                                              Roberta,

                                              I'm not a nurse but work in the medical field at a big trauma center as a clerk and I don't think that I would subject my father to that kind of medication.  Can't they do any type of surgery that would help him with the colitis?  There must be some other way.  Have you looked into Herbal medications?  Maybe that would be a better way to go.  I hope you find an answer that is better than the one you are contemplating at the moment.

                                              Concerned

                                              • Re: Caring for parents
                                                michele

                                                Roberta,

                                                 I can relate to your having second thoughts about your father's treatment. I suggest that you get a second and third physician's opinion and do some research on the internet. When my father was diagnosed with anemia after having his pacemaker/defibrillator replaced, the doctors put him through all kinds of tests and bloodwork. When they could find no cause for the condition each doctor forwarded him to a different specialist. He saw his G.P., Renal specialist, cardiologist, oncologist, etc. The final straw was when the oncologist wanted my 93 year old father to go for a colonoscopy. My dad said " The colonoscopy doctor said that if I lived this long without a colonoscopy I don't need one" I was there when the doctor said that. The anemia improved on it's own. I said to my dad, " How many 93 year olds do you think these doctors have treated? That's why they don't know how to treat you and they each pass the buck."  I had told each of the doctors that I thought he might be anemic due to blood loss during surgery but they said I was wrong. After  the pacemaker/defibrillator was replaced my dad had major bruising in the area. The surgeon couldn't understand why. I had to say 'Maybe it's because my father takes Plavix" and the surgeon said "Maybe, but I doubt it". The doctors don't know everything. Follow your instincts and do some research.

                                            • Re: Caring for parents
                                              katydoes

                                              I would also suggest that everyone as they get older take one of the driving courses for older drivers. These are not only an excellent source of valuable information but will give you a discount on your auto insurance. Furthermore, it's easier to hear from a non-family member the truth about the challenges of continuing to drive as you age. My own feeling is that everyone should have to take the written portion of the exam every ten years, people with points should have to take both the written and the road test, and that drivers older than 75 (or pick an age!) should have to show evidence of taking one of the courses for older drivers. As a practical matter, I also feel that older drivers should voluntarily take a road course (not retake the test if their driving record is clean, just take a refresher road course.) For example, one of the things I learned is that a very high proportion of fatal accidents involving older drivers occur when trying to turn left against traffic so the advice is: don't do it!

                                              The issue about loss of independence is very real. My late mother used to comment that if she had to wait around for family members to make time in their schedules to help her out, she'd sometimes be waiting a very long time. She did love it, though, when I was available to not only help her with errands but go out and just have some fun! (Given the accident rate of teen drivers, though, I don't know if asking them to shepherd older folks around adequately addresses the problem!)

                                              This should be an object lesson for all of us as we grow older - are we going to behave any differently from our parents?

                                                • Re: Caring for parents
                                                  I agree that all seniors should sign up for the driving class.  I took the four hour class, so we covered the booklet pretty fast.  There is an eight hour class too.    But, it did not take long to figure out where I needed to do some extra work.   I took two pretests and flunked both of them, so I know I learned something from the class.  At the end of the class I got to keep my booklet to use for further study.  I also got a slip to give to my insurance company for a discount.  The class was worth the cost and the time. 
                                                    • Re: Caring for parents
                                                      katydoes
                                                      I took the 8-hour course and it was wonderful. I want to take it again as it has been some time since I took it the first time. They covered everything from that left-turn thing (a family friend of ours was killed doing exactly that - his reaction time had slowed to the point where he thought he had plenty of time to make a turn he had done hundreds of times on his way home; luckily the on-coming driver was not injured seriously but our friend, while not injured all that seriously, was not able to recover from the shock and died several weeks later) to keeping the radio off and opening a back window slightly to allow for better hearing of sirens, passing cars, etc.,  to not allowing people to eat to avoid a choking incident that could cause an accident (good advice for everyone actually!) to installing bigger rear-view mirrors to make up for less acute vision - lots of really good tips. I highly recommend this course!
                                                  • Re: Caring for parents
                                                    BoBraxton

                                                    Excellent points (discussion). I am coming to mistrust my own ability to retain all the things covered with the doctor as well as my own memory and motivation to follow through on every count. For myself, I have started having my spouse accompany me -- both with Internist and with specialist (Urologist, nephrologist SP?). There may be legal issues involved with e-mail and social media in medical (virtual) care but the strengths that are attractive to me is the asynchronous nature (I can ask questions or clarification at my convenience, the medical doctor / staff could do so at their convenience - not like making and keeping an appointment at the office -- not in place of the strict time limit but in addition to the office visit, which I agree is critically important.

                                                      • Re: Caring for parents
                                                        JerryD

                                                        One does not have to be older for it to be a good idea to have another in with you when discussing serious medical issues with a doctor. If the findings are not good one may shut down listening while trying to digest the initial statements and miss important information or fail to dig deep enough. I have seen the non-patient add valuable points to the conversation as well as helping to define the implications and choices available. Other than routine doctor visits and simple follow ups on more serious issues, I insist that others accompany me on doctor's visits and have done the same for others in the family. On one particularly important matter, there were three of us firing questions at a very willing and informative specialist. When there are serious consequences, especially life changing or threatening ones, I would do it no other way.

                                                • Re: Caring for parents
                                                  Sadie

                                                  Hi, Lisa,

                                                  I am also in your shoes- the sole caregiver for my 90 year old mom even though I have 3 siblings who are retired and I am still the one who is working!!!( I retired from teaching in public ed after 32 years and now teach full time again, but in a heavenly private school!)

                                                  In order to obtain a disabled tag here in GA, all I had to do was ask Mom's cardiologist ti sign a form and take it to the DMV. When my late husband's colon cancer was demeed terminal, the oncologist wrote the orders for the disabled tag. Both were qualified for the disabled tags due to the fact their health conditions rendered them unable to walk over 20 feet without experiencing medical challenges. My new husband has severe asthma and qualifies for the tag, too, but elected not to get one, which is appropriate for now. When the time comes and he needs it, I will certainly ask for the little tag for him, too!

                                                  Good Luck!!

                                                   

                                                   

                                                  • Re: Caring for parents
                                                    BoBraxton

                                                    father in law (who died 1984) who also was a physician - before he got hip replacement with increasing pain with mobility got handicap designation (state of Georgia).

                                                • Re: Caring for parents
                                                  canterburyfred
                                                  My mother refused and refused and refused to consider voluntarily stopping her driving, and refused to acknowledge the new dents that kept appearing on the car.  I took her keys away, and she found a spare set of keys. Because she was forgetting to put the car in "park" when she parked my brother and I decided she was endangering herself and others, and the only thing to do was physically take the car away. She was angry and miserable for months. Although my brother and I were both there on the day, I was the one who got in the car and drove it away, so I was blamed for stealing her car. She's finally gotten over it, partially by moving into an assisted living home where she doesn't need to go grocery shopping, gets rides to the doctor, and she has company, is not alone.
                                                    • Re: Caring for parents
                                                      donna223

                                                      I, too, am in the position of dealing with a parent who refuses to give up driving. This issue can damage family relationships. I wish that we had a system that required professional caregivers to report when individuals cannot safely drive, similar to the requirement for reporting child abuse.

                                                      My father has sever glaucoma and is developing macular degeneration. For at least 4 years, he was told by his opthamologist that he should not be driving. My mother was telling everyone that he should not be driving. Two of my siblings agreed, but one sibling refused to accept that he was a danger to himself and others (even after several accidents). I asked my father repeatedly to give up driving voluntarily, but he insisted that he could still drive. After an incident where an elderly woman who could not see well enough to drive, ran into my daughter, her husband, and their week old baby as they were walking across the street, I decided that I had to take action. I asked the state licensing department to review his ability to drive. He lost his license, but still refuses to quit driving. In addition to my father still putting others in danger, I damaged my relationship with my parents and my brother. I had, and still have, the full support of the other siblings. I don't regret reporting my father, but I wish that the cost had not been so high.

                                                        • Re: Caring for parents
                                                          KathyC
                                                          I agree.  The doctors were never willing to take this step with my mother.  Finally I submitted a report to California DMV.  They required my mother to come in for a test.  They evaluated her ability and she didn't pass.  (my sister drove her there).  However, they never disclosed to my mother why she had to take the drivers test.
                                                            • Re: Caring for parents
                                                              LSPotter

                                                              I had to do this with my husband, Larry Potter, who has Alzheimer's. I called the doctor out of the examining room and asked the doctor to tell him it was no longer safe for him to drive. He took it better coming from the doctor. For years after that event, he kept asking why the doctor took his license away. Still, it did not create bad blood between him and I as it was the doctor who took responsibility.

                                                              E.G. Lord

                                                        • Re: Caring for parents
                                                          ideonomy
                                                          Statistics show that it is the young, inexperienced drivers, ages 18-23 that cause the majority of traffic accidents. Why not have congress do something about that age group instead of ADULTS who know their limitations. Shame on you for just targeting the seniors.
                                                            • Re: Caring for parents
                                                              jkom51

                                                              And shame on you, ideonomy, for getting defensive and going OT. Many seniors refuse to acknowledge their limitations, and that's what we're discussing here. The issue of seniors who are reluctant to face their physical limitations is a difficult situation for all family members.

                                                              What exactly would you suggest Congress do? Congress is in the grips of total partisanship and has been failing for decades to do anything substantive.

                                                              My DH and I have faced it with our own parents and seen first-hand who hard it was for them to admit they were beginning to be a danger on the road. We know that eventually, we will face this problem for ourselves as well. We will have to be willing to 'face the facts' head-on, because we don't have children to watch us decline.

                                                            • Re: Caring for parents
                                                              BoBraxton

                                                              Would love for my grandchildren to drive for me. I am 69. Grandson is 6 (in July 7), grand-daughter four years younger. What a neat idea for pairing.

                                                            • Re: Caring for parents
                                                              Sadie

                                                              Sherri,

                                                              I have certainly dealt with this with my 90 year old mother. She lost the vision in her left eye and was still driving. She bought a new car thinking that would make driving easier, but instead had 2 accidents in 3 months. I had talked and talked with her about the fact that since I came by every afternoon to see her after teaching at my school, I would be happy to take her anywhere she wanted to go. Like your father, she only drive to the bank and the grocery store, but continued driving nonetheless.

                                                              I tried to drag her wonderful cardiologst into support the no-driving stance, and he was reluctant! After several visits he finally chimed in to say there was nothing wrong with her heart that could keep her from driving, but that he was worried about it from the perspective of her natural aging and how quickly she could respond in a quick-stop situation. He was sweet and kind and she took that to mean that HE said she could still drive!!! He suggested asking local police about elder driving assessments that actually test one's response time in a simulated driving situation,  but we did not have them in our area.

                                                              After the second accident, where she only lightly tapped the car in front of her at the red light because "her foot slipped", I had a VERY serious discussion with her where I took a totally new, but honest approach. I was teaching first grade at the time and I calmly told her that this time no one was hurt, but what if next time she had an accident one of my much beloved first graders was in the car and they were hurt? What then?  I told her she has lived a very long and healthy life, but how would she feel if in her next accident she maimed on of my six year old students for life? What if their entire life would then be spent in a wheelchair or with leg braces or without legs at all because she felt she HAD to drive to the grocery store? She did not respond at the time( I did not press her for a response-I wanted her to think about it from a different perspective), and the very calm but quiet discussion led to her never driving again.It was never discussed again-ever-and she never even tried to drive again. Of course, I was available daily to ask if she wanted/needed to go anywhere, and that helped her "save face" as she was never in a situation where she felt she had to drive somewhere independently.

                                                              She kept the car, and it is still in her garage. Every time we go anywhere with her, we take HER car. That is very important to her, as it helps her feel like taking her somewhere is not a burden if we are using her car! Is it necessary for her to have kept that car for the past three years in her garage? Of course not, but somehow the thought that her car right there for her to hop in to provides her with peace of mind.

                                                              So, my advice might be to try a think-about-others discussion apprach with assurance that you have no intention of taking your dad's car away from him, but that you are worried about him AND the people he could hurt!

                                                              Good Luck!

                                                              PS After a five month steady and rapid decline in my mother's health I am moving her into an assisted living center on Monday. HER car is coming with her!!! It is is STILL important to her!!!

                                                               

                                                               

                                                               

                                                                • Re: Caring for parents
                                                                  BoBraxton

                                                                  You are a wonderful and supportive offspring. Your caring reminds me of my teacher first grade and second grade 1950-51 and 1951-52 Rachel Hall. I loved to stand on the playground with her and have adult conversations.

                                                                • Re: Caring for parents
                                                                  Carolina47

                                                                  My parents are both gone now.  I admit that I am one of those siblings who lived away from the parents.....My older sister lived with them and was their main care giver.  I cannot give her enough credit for doing so.  I traveled home as often as I could and would take my vacations there.  My older sister became involved in the Senior Advocacy Group that had been formed in the county.  She attended a course that made her familiar with all services that are available to the elderly in that area.  She is able to refer people to places where they can now get help and while Mom was going through her final illness was able to access those resources for herself.  You might want to check through your county or city government and see if they do have a Senior Advocacy Group.  These are not paid employees; they are all volunteers who have been recommended by someone and who have undergone training.....

                                                                  • Re: Caring for parents
                                                                    taconner

                                                                    I finally convinced my elderly mother that she should no longer drive with some assistance from her GP, bought her car & gave it to my daughter. I found two other things helped - one is I basically take her wherever she wants to go on Saturdays - hair done, shopping, special errands & any chores she has. Secondly, we bought some "tickets" with a local man who has a business of operating a taxi like service for the elderly. His wife is a social worker for the elderly & advertised for him on her monthly newsletter. It's $25 an hour & we gave her a few of them for Christmas. She also lives in a retirement community five miles from us as we moved her down from Pennsylvania & they provide shuttle service to the doctors & special trips for shopping, but she says it is too demanding shopping with them as they tend to rush them through either Target or Walmart - so I take her.

                                                                    • Re: Caring for parents
                                                                      BoBraxton

                                                                      I don't envy your current position. Have you read Alice Munro (ninth short story in her 2001 book)? I just read it. My own mother is 90 and is cared for (lives at) my sister's (two younger brothers, five younger sisters). Her breathing is somewhat obstructed so she has quit driving by now. My mother calls it (breathing) her "pump." Eyesight: my spouse is 70 and just had her first eye (cataract) surgery, the other one scheduled (May). Her own mother lived to 92 and continued to drive. I went along to do most of the driving on 12-hour drive from Atlanta to the Chesapeake Bay (Virginia's Middle Peninsula). The best to you (all).