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January 26, 2009
When Mom Wants to Break Up Your Relationship


January 5, 2009
When the Inevitable Moving Day Comes for Mom and Dad


December 15, 2008
Running Ragged in Caregiving Runaround


December 1, 2008
Getting a Handle on Your Own Stress


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Posted: March 24, 2008

Practical Caregiving

When Dad Is Stubborn and Fearful

These are the times that try caregivers’ souls, to paraphrase the famous quote. And it seems so totally appropriate. Just as Sharon in Des Moines and Lynn in St. Paul, because I’m sure they would agree.

Sharon and Lynn understand all too well that the daily cycle of stubbornness and drama can be so totally trying. I think you’ll see what I mean when you read their questions to me, the most recent ones pulled from my e-mailbag to share with you.

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Dear Jean:

We are having a terrible time with my father. He needs to go into assisted living or a nursing home, but he keeps putting everything off. He agrees that an assisted living facility would be the best place for him. His mind is still good. He knows that he can't take care of himself very well. What can I do?

Sharon M., Des Moines, Iowa

Dear Sharon:

Your father may be having trouble facing the fact that he can’t take care of himself and that his situation will not get better. If you stop to think about it, he also has to face the fact that life as he has always known it is gone. He's always been able to decide what he wanted to do, and then do it. Now, he can’t do what he wants to do without asking other people to help him. That's a big blow to his ego. And that's something everyone has trouble facing when they get older.

Try helping him this way. Tell him you are going to get information on assisted living facilities. Also tell him you are going to visit them with him so he can make a decision about where he wants to go. Stress the fact that he will make the decision.

Some facilities have various levels of care. A person can go into the assisted living portion, and then when they need more help, they can go into a different level of care. Some even have levels that provide complete care, as in a nursing home. Call them and ask if he meets their criteria for getting into the assisted living portion of their facility. If he does not, you must ask about their other levels. You'll also need to ask about financial arrangements necessary to get into their facility.

It is very important for your father to be involved in these decisions. As you make the phone calls, be sure to tell him what you find out. After you have found two or three that he might be interested in, make appointments so you and he can tour the facilities. He might be more willing to move into an assisted living facility once he visits them. They typically offer a lot of activities for residents, so he won’t be sitting alone at home with nothing to do. I would think he would like that.

Good luck, and if you have any more questions, be sure to write.

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Dear Jean:

I am so upset with my Dad that I don't know what to do. He hurt all of us so much, especially Mom. He did something absolutely horrible -- I think he was trying to commit suicide. He has never believed in suicide; he always said it was wrong.

Just before they took Dad into surgery, he told the doctor to let the knife slip. We all stood there horrified. After they rolled him into surgery, Mom almost collapsed. She had been trying so hard to keep his spirits up.

What was going through his mind? When he woke up, he said he did not remember saying that, so we dropped the subject.

Lynn K., St. Paul, Minnesota

Dear Lynn:

That would be a shocking experience for anyone. I'm obviously glad he didn't die because you would have always wondered if it was intentional.

I doubt if your Dad was seriously thinking of suicide. And I don't think he was actually telling the doctor to kill him. He probably was thinking that he might be a vegetable if the surgery didn't go right. He didn't want to become a vegetable, so he was trying to tell the doctor not to keep him on life support, if he could not recover.

You need to talk to your mother about this. She still has that moment in the back of her mind, I’m sure. Try to get her to understand that your Dad was not telling the doctor to kill him; he was just telling the doctor that he didn’t want to be resuscitated if he would end up being a vegetable.

If you don’t do something to address this issue with both your parents, all of you might worry that he will actually try to commit suicide. Why don't all of you discuss this with your father when he is feeling better? That also will help your mother. Good luck with this touchy topic.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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