aging parents

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My Dad has just become increasingly frail but continues to try to do things like put the trash bin on the curb and cut the grass.  He’s always been a hard worker and is happiest when he’s doing physical things.  He complains bitterly of being tired and when he does get up and try to do something it’s to be celebrated.  It’s just that he puts himself at risk so often.

The other thing is he has always been sort of reclusive and with each passing year leaves home less and less.  He is anxious when my mother leaves him.  And she is anxious when she leaves him as well.  She used to go out once a week and play cards and volunteer at the church but she has pretty much given up her social life to run around after him.

Decades ago my brother offered to build them a house near him where he lives, which is about 30-40 min from where they are now.  We’ve pleaded with them to move out of that house they live in now, that they bought in 1969.  It’s on a steep hill, so the driveway is as well. 

Both front and back steps are tiny little concrete pads with no handrails — the back is especially dangerous.  My Mom suffers from vertigo and recently fell coming down the attic stairs, knocking my Dad on the floor.  She sprained her ankle and he hit his head on the tile.

I think you get the picture.

Then there’s the mental illness part of this.  My mother is afraid of doctors and mistrusts all medication.  So she tinkers with both Dad’s and her own drugs.  She only takes a fourth of her antidepressant and she takes it like a tranquilizer.  She cannot comprehend that it’s not that, nor a narcotic, and that it needs to be taken just like her blood pressure medicine.

She has dismissed sitters, who would at least make sure they got their meds and would get her out of the house now and then.  She is unwilling to go up against Dad, who doesn’t want to move, to get them into at least a retirement community, OFF THAT DAMN HILL.

She calls us in turn, telling us all that no one else pays any attention to her (we all check in regularly) to say that she is very sick.  Yet when we manage to squeeze out 2-3 hours from our schedule to make the trip to visit, she either disappears into the kitchen or the bedroom or sits down and tells us every thing is fine.  This makes both of us crazy, and simply mystifies the rest of the family.

So my brother woke me up last week worried about Mom, and after investigation it was determined that she’s simply now picked him as her current rescuer.  She’s even called my ex from time to time.  It’s insane, and my brother and I have just had about enough.  So I took a day to talk to my peeps and even went to the church and ended up having a pastor pray with me.  But I think we have a rough plan in place, and have agreed to intervene with Mom and Dad AS A FAMILY, which is something new for us.

Mom has always been the gatekeeper of all the family relationships and she has always been threatened whenever any one of us appeared to have a relationship that didn’t include her.  She is very controlling while appearing sweet and guileless.  She’s a master manipulator. 

While she and Dad have very real issues that concern us all, she has sabotaged any attempts of aid, pits us against each other and has succeeded in alienating us all from each other until just the last few years.  It’s a real testament to her, though, because she’s always ensured that we meet at her house at least half a dozen times a year or more for family dinners, and over the years at least we remember who each other are.

And we love each other, all of us, through thick or thin, through the spats and the silent treatment.  We are family, and we all have that value in common – we stick together.

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