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Helping my dad


Debby

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My dad is 86 and just lost my mom, his wife of 67 years, and his 62 year old son (my borther) in the span of 2 months. They lived in WV,

My brother, Tom, had lived with them for the past 20 years and was basically their caretaker since mom became ill 3 yrs ago. Tom died in the yard

unexpectely, and dad found him. Dad is now living with me. I need to know how I can best help him. 3 out of remaining 6 children wanted Dad to live

with them . He decided to come live with me since he had previously lived in the area and felt he had a history here. He is unable to continue to live

by himself , at this time, since he has been falling a lot. Last night was his first night with me and he had a panic attack. He tells me he doesn't want

to upset my life, be a nuisance or a bother and I am constantly reassuring him that I chose to have him live with me and it's my turn to take care of

him until he's able to care for himself, etc. He has over dosed twice. Thankfully he threw it back up. He is on medication and I have a psych appt for

him on Monday. He was a strong religious man but he's given up. How can I best help him? What shouldn't I say? Any advice is appreciated.

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My dad is 86 and just lost my mom, his wife of 67 years, and his 62 year old son (my borther) in the span of 2 months. They lived in WV,

My brother, Tom, had lived with them for the past 20 years and was basically their caretaker since mom became ill 3 yrs ago. Tom died in the yard

unexpectely, and dad found him. Dad is now living with me. I need to know how I can best help him. 3 out of remaining 6 children wanted Dad to live

with them . He decided to come live with me since he had previously lived in the area and felt he had a history here. He is unable to continue to live

by himself , at this time, since he has been falling a lot. Last night was his first night with me and he had a panic attack. He tells me he doesn't want

to upset my life, be a nuisance or a bother and I am constantly reassuring him that I chose to have him live with me and it's my turn to take care of

him until he's able to care for himself, etc. He has over dosed twice. Thankfully he threw it back up. He is on medication and I have a psych appt for

him on Monday. He was a strong religious man but he's given up. How can I best help him? What shouldn't I say? Any advice is appreciated.

Debby,

I am very sorry to hear about your mother and your brother.

Your father is probably in turmoil and feeling guilty and helpless all at the same time, the poor dear. Your father may be depressed on top of everything else, and that may be why he has given up, or appeared to give up his religion. Does he have a regular doctor? Do you go to church? Is there an elder care association or senior center around where you live? There may be others in similar situations who may be able to comfort him.

I would just continuously reassure him that he is welcome. In fact, have you brought some of his furniture and beloved belongings in and arranged them so he can feel comfortable? Maybe his favorite chair in the spot of his choice would help reassure him.

I think you are doing everything you can. He's been through alot. He's probably scared, too. Just keep telling him how much you love him and how happy you are to have him. Do you have children? Are they excited or have they told him they are happy he is with them? What about your spouse or significant other?

You are obviously a caring and good person. Keep up the good work. It's going to be a tough adjustment for him (and you), but you are doing great.

Keep us informed.

ModKonnie

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EulogyAdvisor

Hi, Debbie,

My mom died at the age of 85 in August of 2008. At the time, my dad was 94. Although he didn't live with me, I traveled to Ohio once a month to spend a few days with him and help him take care of things. If you don't mind, I have some general advice that might be helpful.

My father was fiercely independent. Same as your dad, he didn't want to be a nuisance, and he was used to taking care of himself. At the same time, he was losing strength, and of course, he was devastated by my mother's death.

He had spent so much time taking care of my mother (she had multiple myeloma for 10 years) that he had neglected his own health care. I told him that we were going to take care of him, and that he got to choose what we were going to do first, second, third, etc., from a list of health things I had put together: teeth, eyes, hearing, heart care, feet, skin--all of his ongoing issues went on a list, and we took care of them in the order he wanted. I should add that although he was grieving, he was of sound mind--no dementia, Alzheimer's, or anything like that--so I felt okay about putting him in charge of his own choices.

He was also worried about his finances. I went over them with him every month and showed him expenses against income, and we planned so that he'd have the basics and a little extra, like cable TV.

We worked out a general daily schedule for him, and I made sure he got out to low-key social events when he felt strong enough (one of our best times was watching the young kids performing on open-mike night at a local coffee shop).

I made sure that going to church was a possibility, and that a priest came by with Communion if my dad couldn't get out.

We went over his wardrobe. One time I checked shoes, polished them, got them repaired. Another time I checked socks and underwear & made sure they were clean, comfortable, and plentiful. I had a tailor come to the house to get his pants hemmed and taken in. When winter was coming, made sure he had plenty of washable sweaters and that his top coat, gloves, hat, and scarf was clean and ready. For summer he had short-sleeved shirts. PJs, slippers. He also tended to dribble while eating, so I made sure there were enough clean, white terry-cloth bibs so that he got a fresh one with each meal.

I took him to the doc. Turns out he was on 13 different meds, so we switched to a gerontologist--this is MAJOR. Get your dad to a gerontologist if at all possible, at least for a checkup in addition to his regular doctor. They understand elderly bodies better than anyone else, honestly. We got my dad down to 4-5 meds, and I started him on some basic vitamins.

BTW, It occurs to me that your dad may be getting sick on his meds for at least three different reasons. 1. He might not want to live so he's taking too many. 2. They're interacting with each other and making him sick. 3. He has so many to take at different times that it's hard to keep it all straight, so he might be doubling up sometimes and skipping other times. You can help him with that by setting him up with one of those pill holders that cover a week and have slots for morning, noon, evening, and bedtime.

We also checked his diet. Turns out he was eating about 650 calories a day. I wanted him to know how serious this was, so I told him that was how many calories concentration camp victims got during World War II. That got his attention and he began to eat a little better. Then I got him a new housekeeper who would make tempting, healthful meals. I also got him a scale and made up a chart for a weekly weigh-in. In the year after my mother's death, he went from about 87 lbs to 117 (he was a little guy).

I also got him to talk about the old days. I wish I had recorded that, but it's not too late for you with your dad. If you want to do that and you need help on how to set it up, just let me know.

He loved to read and listen to music, so I made sure books and music were available. This is not expensive; you can get books and tapes & CDs at thrift stores.

Okay, I've written quite a bit already, and I hope you're not bored!!

The main thing is to quietly figure out what your Dad can do for himself and what he can't, and then let him do as much as he can by himself for himself. What he can't do you might be able to find workarounds for (for example, there are specially weighted spoons, knives, and forks for people whose hands shake when they eat). My dad was incontinent near the end. He hated facing that, but he had to. We worked with him to set up a routine that he was satisfied with, and he stayed in charge of changing himself until the day he died.

The other main thing is to make sure your dad has regular meals, regular sleeping hours, regular bathing, and regular exercise (I bought my dad a couple of 1 lb hand weights for his 95th birthday and showed him how to use them). Everything needs to be mostly regular, with a little variety thrown in now and again for fun.

Also, you may find that some days he'll be able to do more for himself and other days less. It will vary. I told my dad that I would never interfere with what he was doing, but that I would give him honest feedback if I thought things were going especially well or not so great, and that we always discuss the pros and cons if there was an important decision about his care to be made. (For now, you may need to allow for the irrationality of grief as you and your dad face the loss of your mom and your brother, and I"m sorry about that.)

My dad died, exactly a year and a day after my mother died. I think he wanted to be with her more than he wanted to keep on living. But I believe the quality of life he had during that year helped make up, at least a little, for the loss he had endured, and I'd like to think that he died knowing that someone was taking care of him as carefully and lovingly as he had taken care of my mother.

Handled with kindness and care, your dad living with you could be a wonderful experience for both of you. Even if it turns out that sooner or later he might need professional care that you may be not able to provide for him at home, this time together could be a nice opportunity to rediscover each other as adults.

Please let me know if I can answer any other questions!

Fran

My dad is 86 and just lost my mom, his wife of 67 years, and his 62 year old son (my borther) in the span of 2 months. They lived in WV,

My brother, Tom, had lived with them for the past 20 years and was basically their caretaker since mom became ill 3 yrs ago. Tom died in the yard

unexpectely, and dad found him. Dad is now living with me. I need to know how I can best help him. 3 out of remaining 6 children wanted Dad to live

with them . He decided to come live with me since he had previously lived in the area and felt he had a history here. He is unable to continue to live

by himself , at this time, since he has been falling a lot. Last night was his first night with me and he had a panic attack. He tells me he doesn't want

to upset my life, be a nuisance or a bother and I am constantly reassuring him that I chose to have him live with me and it's my turn to take care of

him until he's able to care for himself, etc. He has over dosed twice. Thankfully he threw it back up. He is on medication and I have a psych appt for

him on Monday. He was a strong religious man but he's given up. How can I best help him? What shouldn't I say? Any advice is appreciated.

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