I’ve been writing over the past few weeks about Sandy and the after effects of this super storm on people. Sandy left me an unwanted gift and responsibility as well, I realized my elderly father was in need of an intervention as he was in poor shape physically and mentally. He is 84 years old and has lived alone for years.
My dad chose to hide his deteriorating condition from me and others. After being told by his caring neighbors as I picked him up during the power failure in his building and Spending 3 to 4 days with him while we were “power less” revealed to me his true state of being. It was sad. I did not expect to be thrust into the forefront as a primary caregiver for elder care so quickly. I always saw my father as the man who was so independent, strong, stoic and wanted to be alone and he would never need my help. Yet it was painfully obvious over the days I spent with him, he had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer take care of himself.
What I realized also was that I had ignored the danger signs because, of my selfish prejudices on what I thought of my father. I allowed my personal feelings to get in the way of responsibility and I guess this is the guilt speaking, but I’m sure many children who are thrust unwillingly into this role may feel the same way.
When life returned to some resemblance of normalcy I did what I had to gain control of his life. Even as he resented, my intrusion into his personal life, I had to gain control of his affairs. Every part of his personal life was a mess from where and how he lived to his mental state. A lesson to be learned here is that the few steps that I took to gain control of his financial and his medical life will now enable me to at least be able to take care of him on his terms.
I quickly realized how ill he was and took him to a doctor (which he had not done so for years!). The new doctor, quickly advised me to admit him to the local hospital via the emergency room. He’s been in the hospital for over 8 days now with his mental state in tatters with dementia and his physical state now being a shell of what I knew of him over the years.
A man who could balance his bankbook, penny to penny is now not able to walk, feed himself and has no idea why he is in the hospital. Of course his stubborn nature doesn’t help his outlook.. A man who was always independent now has to rely on everyone else to take care of him.. I can imagine how that feels.
I have empathy for my father, even as I was never really emotionally close to him and neither is he the most loving father anyone could have. I quickly realized all my old wounds had to heal quickly and my forgiveness and being able to go above and beyond as his son, was key to helping him. For me being helping him in his time of need, was never a priority and now my only priority is making him comfortable as his primary caregiver.
- If you have an elderly parent, YOU MUST have “The Talk” with your elder parents: This involves financial and medical power of attorney. I got lucky, only due to my instincts and my wife’s ability to push me to get things done.
- Make sure you and your family is prepared to make one person the “in charge” of all financial and medical matters related to the elderly relative. If you can’t do this, split the responsibilities between family members. Everyone should contribute and support the individual (to keep him/her sane). In my case, my wife and kids have stepped up and given me the critical support during this difficult time.
- Be prepared to dig into financial records that you had no clue that existed. I had to dig through mounds of paper at my dad’s house to figure out his finances. Shockingly, even with his ongoing dementia state, his finances were in perfect order!
- Make sure you have full access to the medical history of your elderly parent. Without this, doctors will not even recognize you.
- Make sure you have in writing, signed and notorized your elderly parent’s wishes in case of any final health care of end-of-life care decisions have to be made. There are many sites on the internet that allow you. I found this site and everyone should visit the site fivewishes and fill in/print out the forms that this site will create for you for FREE. If I knew of this site, I would have been in better shape than I am now. I am preparing my fivewishes ASAP and getting them witnessed and notorized. New Jersey is one state that accepts these five wishes as a legal document.
- Talk to your parents. Keep the lines of communications open. Don’t allow them to be reclusive and isolate themselves. If I had paid more careful attention to my father’s deteriorating condition, I’m almost certain that we would not be in the situation we are currently in.
- When your elderly parent needs care, make sure you balance your life with the need to take care of your parent. I’m finding that the more I dedicate to my dad’s care, the less I’m taking care of my emotional and physical health.
- Keep things in perspective in a daily basis. As the days progress, treat each day as a new day and wish for the best. Each day will be different as I see with my dad in the hospital. There is no guarantees when it comes to an elderly person being in a hospital, and you have to take everyday as a “moment in time”.
- Make sure you tell your employer of the work-life balance you are facing. Many employers today will be very considerate and give you plenty of leeway to do what yo u need to do.
I could ramble on and on beyond this point (which everyone who knows me, will agree that I’m very good at), but I think I’ve put on paper, my thoughts as I progress through the minefield that is known as elder care. I like to call it when a parent takes care of parent..
As I proceed down the path to taking care of my father, I now realize that every day is an adventure in to the abyss of the unknown. Yet I can peek into the abyss of darkness, if I prepare myself and do the research and use my natural given ability to dig into details. I guess old habits just follow you around..
I’ve linked some articles below on elder care, I
- Elder Care: Balancing a Loved One’s Needs With Your Own (everydayhealth.com)
- Plan For Eldercare Before A Need Arises (lifefoneblog.com)
- Vital Signs: When aging parents need your help (marketwatch.com)
- Face the Facts: Family Caregivers Work (aarp.org)
- Elder law, special needs planning, and special needs trust attorney in New Jersey (pattidudek.typepad.com)
- Finances and Your Aging Parents (creditrepair.com)
- 5 Things Caregivers Must Know About Elder Care Law (assistedlivingtoday.com)
- Elder Care Planning (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Elder Parent Caregiving During and After SuperStorm Sandy (asourparentsage.net)
- Understanding Dad … before it’s too late (wnd.com)