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Posted: April 16, 2007

Practical Caregiving

When Caregiver Emotions Blur Dad's Care

Sometimes the interaction between adult children and the aging parents they care for can be just plain exhausting and certainly daunting. After all, by being their caregiver, you are leaving the realm of being their "child" and strongly influencing their destiny.
 
That's a lot of responsibility, and that's exactly what Kelly in Davenport, Iowa, and Monica in Glendale, California, are wrestling with. While their uncooperative parents are in the middle, though, its their own feelings and emotions they have to deal with to effectively care for their parent. And that takes strength and determination.
 
Let's see each of their stories, taken from my e-mailbag recently.
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Dear Jean:
 
My dad has dementia and Alzheimer’s. I have Durable Power of Attorney and Health Power of Attorney. His doctor said it is time for me to get Guardianship, but Dad does not want me to have it. He has “friends” who tell him there is nothing wrong with him. Dad believes them over me and doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. I have always been the one he calls instead of my brother and sister. I am going to do what the doctor suggested and apply for guardianship. I want to take care of my Dad and make sure he has the care he needs. Will Dad’s word carry a lot of weight with the court, and can these so called “friends" get involved in this guardianship?
Kelly M., Davenport, Iowa
 
Dear Kelly:
 
Mom had Alzheimer’s and she got very confused -- like your Dad is. I don't know thye role of these "friends" or what their relationship is to your Dad, so I am just asking questions for you to think about.
 
The fact that his “friends” seem to have turned him against you, the daughter he has always called for help, makes me wonder about elder abuse -- and it isn’t always physical abuse that is a problem. Have these “friends” known your Dad all his life? Are they about his age? Are they fairly new friends? Is it possible they are fairly new friends and he is giving them money? Are they helping take care of him in any way?
 
You seem to think they are not concerned about what is best for him. Why don’t you consider calling the elder abuse hotline? They can give you more information about elder abuse. You can contact them at (202) 898-2586, or e-mail them at ncea@nasua.org. Their website is http://www.elderabusecenter.org/.
 
If your Dad's doctor thinks you should become his legal guardian, then contact a lawyer and get started. I’m sure the doctor will be willing to write the recommendation. The laws are different in each state -- and I am not a lawyer -- so I can't advise you on what it takes. There is a website with information on guardianship in the United States. Check out http://www.guardianship.org/.
 
A guardian is like a parent. They are responsible to care for someone, protect them, provide for them, see that they are taken care of as well as possible, manage their money and other holdings, and give them the best life possible under the circumstances. It sounds like you would be a good guardian.
 
Please let me know what the lawyer says, what you decid eto do, and so forth.
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Hi Jean:
 
I read your articles about how to address elderly driving issues (How to Reasonably Take Away the Car Keys and  A Primer on Elderly Driving -- and Alternatives), but you don’t address the “emotional” side when the elderly won’t willingly give up their license.
 
My father has been told by his eye doctor that his eyes are deteriorating and that he should no longer drive. He refuses to listen to the doctor and continues to drive.
 
My sisters and I have talked to him about the risk he poses to himself, his wife, and others. We’ve given him information about the bus routes, taxi’s and other means of transportation he could use, but he won’t consider any of it.
 
Do you have any suggestions about how we as a family can work with our father? Instead of taking the cars away from him, what can we do?
 
Monica H., Glendale, California
 
Dear Monica:
 
The emotional side of this issue is difficult to deal with, and a big part of that stems from your own emotions. You still see your father as you always have -- as his child. In other words, he was the one you turned to when you needed guidance and help. Now it's time for you and your sisters to become parents to your father. That is very hard to do, but you need to do it.
 
How would you feel if someone with your father’s problems hit and kill your child? Would you be as "considerate" of the driver as your are of your own father? Or would you be upset with his family for not stopping him? The latter, I would think.
 
So, if your father's doctor told him to stop driving, then you should do everything you can to prevent him from driving. It's as simple as that. That's your obligation.
 
You must protect him from himself. When he is asleep or involved with something so he doesn't see you, disable the cars so they won't start. A mechanic can tell you how to do that. Maybe you can simply take the keys away. Or you can drive his car to your house or someone else's house and not tell your father where it is. Do what you need to do -- but don't let him drive a car again.
 
After you have actually removed his ability to drive, talk to him about other ways he can remain independent. Help him learn how to get transportation to go where he and his wife want to go. Help him learn how to use the public transportation, and then help him again and again if you need to. Part of his reluctance is that he feels awkward or doesn't know how to use public transportation.
 
Not being able to drive means a loss of independence. For some people, they feel this is "the beginning of the end." But what it really means is that he is getting older and won't always be able to live his life the way he wants. Stress the fact that he will still be independent and able to live a full and happy life -- ad then do what you can to see that this is the case.

© 2007 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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