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Elderly, Disabled Parents? Just Pony Up!

That’s what a social worker and one of my parents’ neighbors say I ought to be doing. “Pony up” is the term the busybody neighbor used--the one who brings high-carb dishes to my diabetic parents. Let’s see how this might work in real life.

My parents live out in the suburbs; I work downtown and live halfway in between. I have a full-time job and a 45-minute commute each way. Certain times of the year (like last week), I work long hours to meet deadlines. I have 138 hours of paid time off I need to take. There’s also my house, yard and dog to take care of.

So every morning, I’ll jump in my car at 6:00, get my parents’ breakfast and make sure they’ve taken all their pills. Oh wait, they’re not up then. I’ll just water their yard.

At 7:00, I’ll leave to go downtown, park, and walk to the office. At 10, I’ll call my parents and ask what pills they’ve taken. If they’re out of something, I’ll get their prescription at lunch, fix their meal, drive back downtown, pay for another parking space, and walk back to the office, half an hour late. After work, I’ll do whatever they need help with (laundry, bathing, cooking, errands, etc.), check their pills, and put them to bed. Then I’ll go to McDonald’s for my first meal of the day. All of this is in addition to taking them to appointments in the middle of the day and jumping out of bed to help my parents with any midnight emergencies.I might as well sell my house and quit my job. I’d never be home except to sleep and shower and I’d miss too much work to stay employed.

Or I could just stick them in a nursing home. That’s the phrase most people use-- “stick them in a nursing home--” as if you can make someone go there, free of charge. Every dollar of my take-home pay wouldn’t cover the cost of one of my parents to live in a nursing home. You know, one of those places where my mother was assaulted and my father was put on statins.

Maybe I exaggerate about what some people expect, but what am I supposed to do about my parents keeping their medical appointments and taking their pills? Or falling during a midnight trip to the bathroom? My mother doles out the pills, and she knows what they’re supposed to take. I don’t. They hire help to mow the lawn, bathe them and run errands. I can take them to some medical appointments, but I need advance notice, and I’ve told my mother she needs to plan ahead now that they depend on others for a ride. I also advise my mother on diet and diabetes medications, which is more than her doctor has done. Following my advice, my mother has healed enough to resume taking metformin, reduce her dosage of insulin, lose weight, and see more normal blood sugars. Where were all the do-gooders all the times my mother was slumped over in a carb coma? (Their busybody neighbor probably brought over the carb-bomb that did it.)

And what about my parents’ wishes? They want to stay in their home as long as they can. My mother was in a nursing home for a long time while she recuperated from back surgery and she doesn’t want to go back and my father feels the same way. They don’t want me to get in trouble at work or spend my life’s savings supporting them. My parents aren’t senile and they’re not hurting anyone. The best course of action I can think of is to help them as I’m able in ways they want to be helped.


JanKnitz said…
People who have not been through this have no clue! Hang in there. If your parents can possibly afford a geriatric care manager, I highly recommend it. That's someone who can be of enormous help to you to help your parents stay in their home by assessing function and needs, coordinating care and providing the assistance that makes life easier--and they know the local resources so not everything has to come out of anyone's pocket (i.e. local paratransit to get them places).
Val said…
Hmmm, I think the phrase she may be implying is "Cowboy Up"...
But I'm in a similar boat, Lori - sandwiched between elderly parents, teenaged son, my business, my farm & oh yeah, somewhere in there is a poor neglected husband (#2) so I'd best quit surfing the Internet & give him some small measure of attn... Hang in there!
Galina L. said…
You are doing a great job caring about your parents . Unfortunately, my mom lives way too far.
I would absolutely confront anyone who has a habit to bring carb bombs to my mom if she were a diabetic.
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Jan. I'll look into it next week when I have a few days off.
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Val. I can only imagine what it's like to have that much responsibility.

It's curious how many people (usually women) assume that I can see them in the middle of the day during the work week at the drop of a hat. As Jan said, "no clue."
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Galina. I'm glad my parents live close by.

This neighbor is helpful in other ways, so I don't want to offend her. And it's not the custom in my family to intervene in situations like this.
tess said…
hang in there, Lori! i can see it's hard.... :-(

not that i'm suggesting a change, but both my mother and MIL moved out of their houses to apartment-style "retirement communities" and they love it. it's been a compromise between living on their own with all the responsibilities of home-ownership, and getting some cooking and housekeeping help along with extra social life.
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Tess. That's what my mom would like to do if my father died. Even if they moved to my neighborhood, it would be better. They'd be close to two hospitals, a gazillion doctors, and a bus stop, but they don't want to leave their house.
Never an easy situation, and what suits one family is not necessarily right for another. You must hang in there and as you said in your last sentence "The best course of action I can think of is to help them as I’m able in ways they want to be helped."

Take care

All the best Jan
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Jan.

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