Assisting Elderly Parents

I have spent the last several weeks trying to get my parents (Dad – 88, Mom – 82) organized for their move to an assisted living apartment.  In addition, Mom ended up in the hospital in pretty bad shape, so it was quite a stressful time with lots on my plate.

The House was Sold

An offer was finally accepted even though it was about $30,000 less than the original asking price.  Shame on the realtors and potential buyers who thought they were dealing with a senile old man and presented ridiculously low offers and even more ridiculous conditions.  As an example, one man wanted to be reimbursed if his utility bills were higher than what my parents were currently paying.

The fellow whose offer was accepted then wanted to store all his possessions at the house because his house was sold and he had nowhere to put them.  We had enough of my parent’s possessions to deal with (what stays with them, what goes) without having to trip over someone else’s boxes.  My dad’s still pretty sharp mentally but I’m still glad I was there.  I don’t think I have said the word “no” so often since my children were toddlers.

Mom in the Hospital

My mother ended up in the hospital due to a severe drug overdose (legal medication over prescribed by her doctor) which made her almost psychotic.  A simple (but severe) arthritic pain in her neck resulted in being prescribed thirty-six different medications!  We knew things were not right because of her behavior over the past year, but the doctors saw nothing wrong with her and suggested we all see a psychiatrist.

Admittedly I don’t have much to compare to, but the B.C. health system is so frustrating to deal with I almost lost my own mind.

No one will actually deal with her pain problem and until it is looked at she has to stay in a respite facility, which just seems like being in a really bad motel.  More doctors’ visits to come in the next week so I hope it can be resolved shortly.

Moving Day

Due to Mom’s medical condition we decided to leave them in Kelowna instead of moving them to a retirement community in Langley.  Luckily an apartment opened up and we jumped on it right away for an August 1st possession.  They have separate living quarters and go to a communal dining room for meals.

Medical personnel on staff and constant monitoring gives me some peace of mind when I’m not there.  Hopefully my mom with soon be joining my dad and they can both take advantage of the many facilities.

Living in Different Provinces

One thing I never anticipated when deciding on my retirement goals was the expense of travelling frequently to my parents’ home to take care of them or their affairs.  It’s an eight-hour drive.  The flight is only one hour but when the trips are sudden you can’t take advantage of seat sales so the flight there and back can cost up to $800 each time.  Then there’s renting a vehicle and loss of income when I’m not at work.  It’s all adding up.

Dealing with elderly parents can be very difficult.  They are frequently crabby, argumentative and demanding.  Before my patience wore too thin (and I started to turn into an alcoholic – Alberta Vodka was on sale while I was there), I had to remember that they are ill, have their own worries and are making a huge lifestyle change and everyone else seems to be making their decisions for them.  Nevertheless, I hope I remember this experience in the future so I can be easier on my own children when it’s my turn to be taken care of.

To all those people who ask if I had a good vacation I say – “Not so much.”

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  1. Virginia C. Satterwhite on August 4, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Hey there,
    It must be hard dealing and taking care of your parents. I hope your mom gets well very soon.

    I also hope I remember this kind of experience that you have so that my children won’t have a hard time when me and my husband grow old.

    Virginia C. Satterwhite

    • Boomer on August 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      @Virginia C. Satterwhite
      Thanks Virginia for your kind words. We’re doing our best to keep everyone’s spirits up with all the changes happening.

  2. Jim Yih on August 4, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Thanks Boomer!
    Thanks for sharing your story. One of the biggest unknowns for people is what intergenerational issues they will face and how it will affect them. Unfortunately, there is no cookie cutter answer so hearing people’s experience is great perspective.

    I had some similar issues with my mom some years back so I know how tough it can be. Keep doing what you are doing and stay strong for them.

    • Boomer on August 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      @Jim Yih
      Thanks Jim. When my parents moved away we never would have imagined how tough it is to do inter-provincial care for them, or how it can impact your life and plans for the future both financially and emotionally.

  3. Mike Holman on August 4, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Loved the post. I can’t believe some of the BS from the house buyers – reimbursement for higher utility bills? Lol.

    • Boomer on August 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      @Mike Holman
      Hi Mike. I couldn’t believe a realtor would even let them get away with suggesting that (and more). It makes you wonder what’s in people’s minds.

  4. Sandy - yesiamcheap on August 4, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Sorry that you’re sandwiched. I know that I’m going to be a part of the sandwich generation and my mom does not have the means to pay for her own care. I’m dreading the future.

    • Boomer on August 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Sandy. You always hear about the sandwich generation but it doesn’t really sink in until you’re actually faced with some of the problems. Keep thinking positively with regards to your own mom. Not everyone has tough experiences.

  5. mred on August 5, 2011 at 11:11 am

    I enjoyed your post since we are elderly parents .I`m 77 and my wife is 75 both with serious health issues, but we are not ready for a retirement home or condo and prefer to live in the home we have been in for 52 years .

    I can understand your parents being crabby at times and demanding as well.

    The pain of afflictions and the lack of decent medical care here in Ontario contributes to that as well

    As well as you get older your wants are minimal but necessary, as you see it, not as your kids see it.

    After all we worked for over 45 years so we deserve some consideration in our old age ?

    we intend to stay in our home til we die if possible as a move would be very stresful and I`m sure youre parents find it so.

    I always operated on the principle of not judging someone until I have walked a mile in their shoes?.

  6. Boomer on August 5, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for your comments and I wish you all the best and hope you stay healthy and happy in your home.
    My parents were still travelling 10 years ago and actively gardened, and swam and walked almost daily. In fact I could hardly keep up with my mom when she walked and I consider myself to be quite fit. It was almost scary to see the deterioration in the past couple of years. This move was necessary for them and we are very considerate of their changing needs.
    Making life changes is very stressful but I hope that if I make it to their age I will be realistic about any limitations I may have and do my best to move on to a more realistic and workable plan.

    • mred on October 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      I understand where yioure coming from I was quite active till recently when my cancer metastisized and I didnt know what was wrong wth me ? To make a long story short that was six months ago and I was swimming about 5 kl. week until this episode.I just got too weak as my abdomen swelled with fluid

      after several hopsital stays to drain me over the last six months and trying to recover my strength >?and cytology to discover the reason for the fluid they deduced it was my P-cancer.

      I am finally getting some of me strength back so will try and get into swimming again

      The good part of this is that it is the same old same old cancer not another one so I just have the one to fight.

      The point of all this explanation is : you cant fool mothernature , as you get older youre immune system works less well.It happens to all of us some sooner than others

      • Boomer on October 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm

        @mred: I wish you the very best with your health in the future and hope you get back on track soon. My prayers are with you. Good luck.

  7. donna on August 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Hi Boomer,

    Five years ago, I faced a similar situation in Ontario. Unfortunately, both young and old tend to think/hope this situation will not be one they must deal with and, in truth, have no idea what “the situation” really entails.

    The truth is most of us will have to face these shocking and stressful times. Caring for my Mom myself was less stressful than dealing with “the medical and care systems – including LTC facilities systems”. The constant stress from – financial, social, medical challenges is enormous.

    I recommend the book: “Let’s Talk The Care-Years” Taking care of our parents Planning for ourselves. A guidebook – first-of-its kind in Canada written by a Canadian for Canadians. Author is Patty Randall.

    This comprehensive and sensitively written book is an absolute must for all of us regardless of age!!! Wish I had had access to it before the “crisis” years came for my Mom and me.

    My husband and I (age 71) are well aware of the difficulties we and our children (not close by) may have to face in future – we are certainly better prepared since my mother’s calamaty but our children are still in the denial stage of their thinking – our next challenge is to get them on board.

    All the very best, your parents are fortunate to have such a caring child.

    Please purchase the book you will find it extremely helpful and reassuring.

    • Boomer on August 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      Hi donna. Thanks for the tip about the book. I didn’t know there were any resources available for this kind of information. It helps to at least be aware of what could happen. Like they say – prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

  8. retirebyforty on August 8, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Sorry to hear about your mom’s health problem. It’s great that the house is sold, but really sad about the buyers trying to take advantage of the situation. Hope things get better.

    • Boomer on August 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      Thanks for your comments. Things are thankfully starting to look up a bit.
      I realize house buyers try to get a good deal (I would too) and some actually look for “distress” sales when people have to sell quickly for whatever reason. But it’s not cool to try to take advantage.

  9. Linda on October 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Good article. I’m actually, quite young to be dealing with this at 37. My parents have always been clingy and meddling (only child) to the point of my making my life decisions based on what THEY wanted; I would have relocated to BC 15 years ago had it not been for their constant guilt trips etc. I’ve had an unforuntate love life and want a family of my own, still looking for a good man. And now, of course, I’m getting the call to move closer (15 minutes away isn’t enough apparently) because my mother’s health is deteriorating. (mom’s 72 and quite ill, dad is 81).

    So when do I get to make decisions based on what I want and need to make me happy? I’m actually reconsidering having children of my own because I’d be placing my kids in the same position I’m in now, which is entirely unfair.

    • mred on October 13, 2011 at 7:14 am

      My wife and I are very fortnate in that our daughters prepare meals for us so we dont have to cook as much and we have CCAC come in every day for me to sponge bathe me and OT comes in for my wife and bathe her,I have asked my diughters NOT to put temselves out for us as we can still handle ourselves reasonably well/

      The daughter who lives 5 miles away is a Nurse-Nurse-Practioner who specailizes in geritrics in a Toronto Hospital so she advocates for us in the health-care? system here in Ontario which is truly a nightmare of multiple appointments for the same thing and some lack of co-ordination on the part of health care workers.

      Without her knowledge we would have been totally lost ? I dont know how other people manage.

      We have a registered nurse come in every two weeks (for which we have to pay ourselves.)

      All in all I would say we are very fortunate to have two such loving girls although I have repeatedly told them NOT to do so much but look after their own familys.

      I realize it IS an imposition on them but they seem to want to do it , out of love not neccessity.

      I wory MORE about them doing so much I think? than they do about us as I know it is a strain on them.

      We thank GOD every day that we are blessed so.

  10. Boomer on October 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    @Linda: I know it’ll be difficult, but you can’t put your own life on hold – you have to make some decisions for yourself. I had tried setting up home care, grocery delivery and meal deliveries for my parents but they cancelled them all. You probably know how guilty I felt when I called them and they told me they hadn’t eaten in two days because there were no groceries in the house. You can’t live with a guilt trip though. I’ve done ( and still do) what I can and then leave the rest up to them. Good luck to you.

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