Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When Parents Know Less and Less

You know when we're kids and our parents know everything?  We wake up to the fact they don't, say about age 11.  What about when dear old dad never wakes up to the fact he doesn't?

I rallied my first conscious thoughts this morning to step into that mind of his and walk around a little.  Of course this is all hypothetical, but if the profilers on detective TV shows can do it, maybe I can too.

Dear old dad is resisting a temporary move - temporary!!! - into a respite care facility while his live-in caregiver, his son, attends his own son's wedding in California.  We're all going, that is, everyone except Dad.  He doesn't want to go.  He doesn't want his son to go, either.  Considering Dad will have no live-in caregiver during our absence, that is, live-in caregiver he can't fire, we're giving him the choice between two really nice assisted living homes, one 20 years old, the other 150 years old, give or take a decade.

Sound good?  You know his answer.  I'm fine.  I can take care of himself.  Uh, huh.  We're well past the option of making him believe the nice short term stay is his grand idea. His trust in our love and motives is just about shot.  Besides, we're his children.   Parents always know more than their children.  So he flip flops. We've got our team slowly circling, all shepherding him into Place A or Place B, not Place C - home.  Eldercare services, his lawyer, his doctor, his financial manager, is eldest daughter, his youngest - me, another daughter, his son, his daughter-in-law, all of us.  The fact is, he cannot be trusted by himself in his own home.   Yet we very much want to stop short of forcing him to take this vacation. 

So this morning I took my hypothetical walk through his mind to understand him.  Dad knows himself to be a repair man.  Only he hasn't successfully repaired anything by himself in years.  Don't tell him that.  He is repairman extraordinaire.  Truth is, the eyesight, the coordination, the strength, the keenness of mind isn't there.  But he won't talk and he won't listen.  He blames the hot water for being too hot, when he could simply turn on the cold water tap and mix the two.  He ditches his walker the minute he's alone to climb the stairs to take a shower. He falls sometimes, typically doing just that.  He 'repairs' his catheter's attachments because all of them are poorly designed, and regularly spills urine on his bed.  He tried to repair the refrigerator by flipping it over.  He tried to repair a broken dial on the electric stove without turning the electricity off.

Goodness, I'm way past my 15 minute time limit for posting, going on an hour.  (I've been doing that a LOT lately.)

To conclude... I've been thinking lately about the Fixed mindset and Growth mindset.  This morning I applied them to his situation.  Fixed mindset, when we know ourselves as an unalterable blueprint, wonderful, wretched, whatever.  Growth mindset, when we know ourselves to be potter's clay and we the potter, with input, of course.  We and we alone get to transform ourselves into the next grander version of ourselves.  That's fine, but what about when the next version of ourselves cannot possibly be grander?  This is where my little walk through my Father's mind leaves me.  My Dad is lost in his grand version of himself.

   Good morning!  
  And who are you this fine day?   


  1. How different your father is from mine. Night and day. He was a true gentleman to the end and did everything he could to make my brother and me happy. We shared his care in his own home for 5 years and when I broke my elbow and had to have surgery to put it back together---They wasn't sure they could save the lower half of my arm---I could not longer care for him or myself. My brother had no choice but to put dad in a Hospice Home. When my brother told him, he said "I can give you a couple of days to get used to the idea" and my dad said, "No, let's go right now."

    You and your siblings are now the adults in charge, not your dad. Don't forget that. Don't let him blackmail any of you into missing that wedding! Tell him the truth, that HE may think he can care for himself but if something happened while he's alone the family could face criminal charges of elder neglect which is true here in MI. Ask him if he really wants the family name dragged through the media like that? If he forces you to get a order order to move him so be it, that's his choice and that's what's in his best interest in the long run. For him to expect his son to miss his own son's wedding to stay with him just shows how self-centered and irrational he's become.

  2. I'm going to share your words with my siblings. So helpful! Yes, splash some cold water around to wake him up, and wake us up, too! More to come....

  3. I was mentor on a caregiver site for several years and there isn't anything I haven't heard before. Your situation isn't unique except for your dad's age.

    1. It's so good to hear your perspective. A couple of my siblings were glad to read today's post. Some things are just plain hard. Our family has devised a new strategy we think will work. Geesh. It takes an army to manage difficult times. I couldn't do this alone. Thanks!

  4. Much harder for men to realize when they have become too old to do whatever they used to do. My Dad realized it at age 85 and became quite content with it all, HOWEVER, he had no problems with senility or dementia, and that makes a lot of difference. I guess I would just tell him that he get to take a vacation at Place A or B, for a few days, because "all of us want to much to go to the wedding and if you don't--we can't go." Even old people can be guilted into something--just like they did us when we were kids. You never can tell, he might like it so much that he'd want to move there.

    1. Wouldn't that be a hoot, if he loved it there. It would only take one sweet woman to turn his head, and he'd say "Sign me up. I'm staying!". It's so wonderful your father became content with his lessened abilities. Was someone - his wife - picking up the slack?

      I wonder if we will be content or ornery when this happens to us, when we can't take care of ourselves. So much depends on our support system. I think about that, sometimes.