I had it easy! I know that.
Dad was hospitalized in a city far away from me, and even though I called my mother every day on the phone, arranged for her to have personal assistance in their home, investigated possible assisted living facilities, flew out to Arizona to help make arrangements, arranged for Mom’s move to our area (after Dad’s death), and sold their house for them . . . I had it easy.
There was a great deal of work that needed to be done, but we did it without having to fight Mom and Dad, without having to do much convincing, without having to take away car keys and force decisions that were not palatable for them. My wife and her sister are not so fortunate.
Their parents (ages 90 and 86 currently) live in a small apartment in their home town. Neither should be driving . . . but they do; neither is strong enough to flip the circuit breakers in the apartment (and so there have been some problems from that in the midst of 2° F winter weather). Thousands of dollars were lost in a car purchase fiasco last year, and there is no telling what other disasters have occurred to which we have not been made privy.
What is a child to do?
My wife’s mother may have early Alzheimer’s Disease. We were told that she did, but then . . . months later we were told that she is merely being medicated “as if” she has Alzheimer’s but there is no official diagnosis. How can one know the truth?
My in-laws are not willing (yet) to allow either of their daughters to have Power of Attorney with regard to finances or with regard to health. And they are not willing to discuss these issues without displaying a healthy dose of anger directed at any loving, concerned interventionist (especially if that interventionist is in the immediate family). They have not saved their money particularly well, so they do not think they can afford to live in a reputable facility near to them. And I am quite sure that leaving the state would incur health expenses far beyond that to which they are accustomed.
They have become a danger to themselves and to others in many ways. But until something horrible happens . . . what can be done?
Sometimes it is comical. Like recently, when my father-in-law dropped my mother-in-law off at church at 7:00 PM on a Sunday night (this is the time the service ENDS, not when it begins), then drove off and left her. Don’t even try catching him on his cellphone in this kind of situation; that would be a waste of time. He can’t hear it ring!
Or when my mother-in-law came out of the bathroom at church with her pants around her ankles, completely unaware of the disturbing predicament until someone led her back into the bathroom to remedy the situation. Her explanation? Well, she had three layers: pantyhose, panties, and pants. She got two of them right. Just not the third. [This story during a recent phone call from a concerned friend who witnessed the event, and wanted us to do something about it all].
But I am afraid the comical situations are not the whole story. And at some future point we will receive a phone call that tells of a much more serious disaster that injures, or takes a life . . . or even takes the life of someone outside the family. How tragic that will be.
Do you drive to their house, steal their car and abscond with the keys?
Do you try . . . once again . . . for the umpteenth time, to sit down and discuss the realities that lie ahead of them? And if this meets with the same negative reaction you’ve gotten from them before, what then?
If you want to live with no regrets in regard to the way you treat and care for your aging parents . . . do you force them (like little children) into situations while they kick and scream, or do you wait for them to make mature choices that reflect an understanding of the situation? A time (of course) that may never come. In fact, you may grow quite old yourself if you wait for that fantasy to become reality.
How I wish this were easier for my wife and her sister. But it is not.
Is regret going to be inevitable?