The Big Event – Travel Plans with Aging Parents

This occasion has been in the making for over a year . . . family is coming together and it’s a happy, happy occasion. The entire time your parents have been part of the plans . . . where they will sit, what they will wear . . . And now, it’s a month away and Mom is unable to travel because of her dementia and Dad a little weaker from a hospital stay. Often the kids make the decision — they cannot come. But wait, why not??

Again, we as the children have to ask the question, is it because we don’t want to be bothered or is it because Dad simply cannot handle the travel? Our company says: ask Dad! If he says yes, here are a few suggestions:

You want to avoid having your parent travel alone. We say, hire a traveling babysitter. Depending on your parents health, the person can be hired for both or one.

Why a babysitter? First, the airport mania is overwhelming. There are wheelchairs available but someone must supervise the attendant. I’ve seen seniors left by themselves while the attendant goes to pick up more passengers to fill up a terminal bus. That is not how my parent is going to be treated and nor should yours.

Secondly, the airplane ride. Will they need help getting to the restroom? Are they in an aisle seat where it’s easy to get up and down? What about getting those headphones in the ears so the show can be watched?

Thirdly, landing. Yes, the airline will have the wheelchair waiting but it’s a strange airport with all the chaos of any large meeting space. The babysitter adds calm to the chaos and supervision to the wheelchair attendants.

Lastly, the party! No one family member wants to go to take Dad to his room and skip the rest of the party. Nor is it fair to have a family member in charge of dinner, getting the elderly to their table . . . etc. Think of how much you’ve already spent on this party. What’s a few more dollars if it means your parents/grandparents can be in the photo? The memories last you a lifetime.

So yes, there are options. The babysitter costs money but helps to prevent resentment. At Parenting Your Parents that’s what we do — make certain that your family event is a family event with minimum trauma.

The Search Begins – First Steps for Choosing An Assisted Living Center

You walk into the lobby and take a deep breath. How did you get here? Why is this necessary? How did my very competent ‘elders’ all of a sudden need assistance living? Other questions pop into your head, will they be happy here? Will they be fed well? Will they like the people here? Whether you’re 40 years old or 80 years old — these are real moments. Change is coming and it seems to be screaming down the train track right at you. Do you jump or simply lie down? Before you decide ask:

  1. Do the elders want to live near family or friends? If both are in the same location the question is moot. Otherwise, this question comes first. It’s not about YOU as the child it’s about your parent’s quality of life. We all think Mom and Dad should be close to us, family, but that’s not necessarily what THEY want. If they have a life in a separate location and want to stay, keep them there. Today, with UBER and LYFT the ability to drive is not a necessity.
  2. What is your budget for a senior care center? Certainly this makes a small difference in the food or housing (food and maintenance are fairly comparable) but the big difference is location. You ask yourself — how long will it take to get them to their synagogue or church? How far is it to their favorite restaurant? What other bills will need to be paid?
  3. How much money is there? Can Mom and Dad afford this on their own or are will the kids have to assist financially? What other sources of monies can be tapped? Are there VA benefits? Widow/widower benefits? Can social security disability come into play?
  4. Can this facility be trusted? We’ve all heard those horror stories of badly treated seniors and none of us want that happening to our parents. There are many resources and most of them are online. You can look up assisted living centers and many will pop up — most with ratings right next to the name. There is also AARP ratings, YELP ratings and Facebook.

Bottom line: You will have to do some searching — online and in person Peace of mind is what you want in any location. As the children you want your parents well treated — as the residents you, too, want options in food, activities and people. The most important aspect of this is that you and your parents feel comfortable and secure.

Our company, Parenting Your Parents takes no fees from assisted living centers. Our concern is you and we want the option of defending you against them — which can sometimes happen.

The Emotional Toll

NOTHING prepares you for your parents aging. Our company can assist with the financial scams and pitfalls but you’re the one who has to watch Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandad age and weaken. It’s heart wrenching! I write this column as a daughter who has a demented mother (87) and a weakened , non-driving father (93).

Mother is in a nursing home. This nursing home has an excellent reputation and a low employee turn over rate but it’s still one of those places where the halls are filled with moaning people in wheelchairs or portable beds.

This home charges close to $7000.00 a month but accepts medicaid. This means we had to impoverish Mom. By “impoverish” I mean I had to do the paperwork to make her medicaid eligible. We now pay a little over $700.00 a month. I do not have the words to detail the pain . . .humiliation that I felt in using my legal education to make my mother poor enough so she could live with other poor people in her old age. This is not what she wanted nor is it what we wanted. However, Dad is lucid, Mother is not — we couldn’t afford both and neither could they.

Each time I visit Mom I cut her nails, take off the old nail polish, pay for a weekly hairdresser. rub Lubriderm on her skin and place vaseline on her lips. It kills me to leave her although I know in five minutes she won’t remember I was there.. But, there is a silver lining, Mom and I were oil and water as I grew up. We simply didn’t get along. Today however, it gives me great joy to minister unto her — to do little things that allow her to feel special and loved. She always has tears in her eyes when I say goodby and so do I BUT (and this is important) I know when she dies I’ll have done all I can. For that I’m grateful.

I am a “Daddy’s Girl” so watching him weaken is difficult. On one hand I’m so grateful that he has a quality of life that allows him to live alone in an assisted living facility but I still have to cut his nails, hire a barber, and cajole him to use his walker. I accompany him to the 3:30pm weekly Happy Hour when I’m in town but I see his failure to thrive. Who can blame him? He lives in place with lots of old people all of whom are simply trying to get through the day. I know Dad is ready to leave us — I don’t want him to but I know he’s tired of growing old.

And let me end this column by stating that as hard as it has been for me I am once removed. My father chose to live in Atlanta where my brother and his family reside and Matt has had to deal with the day to day. Matt is more stoic but he’s also the baby of the family — and this is a true role reversal for him. He does a phenomenal job and I’m grateful.

To make it a bit more personal I’ve added a photo of Mom and Dad before dementia took hold and we had to take over.

mom and dad
H. Frances Reaves’ Mother and Father

The Big Move – From the Family Home and Living Alone to the Next Chapter

By way of introduction, I became an advisor to families dealing with “aging parents or grandparents” after dealing with my own. The amount of legal work, CPA work, and residential home issues, facing Dad at the age of 90 as his wife’s mental health declined, was staggering. My father, like many husbands and Dads, hid the severity of Mom’s dementia for several years. Finally, the kids realized he was being hit, scratched, screamed at by a person who looked like his bride but no longer was. We stepped in.

This is not an unusual scenario. Mom and Dad had lived all over the world, They were respected members of their community, church and neighbors. None of the children lived in Houston, Texas – the city Mom and Dad called home so they built a life there without us. I would fly in about once a month to check in on them and my brother would visit about once a quarter. We both realized Mom was “slipping” and at first ignored it. (My bad). Then we began by hiring an aide to give Dad a break two or three times a week for 3 to 4 hours each time. We thought the situation had stabilized.

The kids threw Dad a 90th birthday party and family members arrived from throughout the USA — it was a great 2 day event and Mom was on top of her game. As different family members said goodbye, Mom asked who was taking her home — as she stood in the middle of her living room. That is when it hit me — she honestly had no idea who she was, where she was and why she was there.

My brother and I sprang into action. First we had to face Dad and tell him they were moving. He had a choice, Atlanta, GA (brother) or Miami, FL. (yours truly). He chose his son. Now, we had to go find an assisted living center convenient for my brother and his wife. No easy task. They move in and it becomes apparent that mother is in no way cognizant. She needs 24 hour care — this means Mom and Dad will live apart. Need I go into the gut wrenching sadness of placing them in separate places — not just for them but also for their children.

Meanwhile, back in Houston, I am flying in weekly from Miami, going through a home that was lived in for over thirty years and deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to throw away. The house also had to be placed on the market. Another gut wrenching experience . . . looking at clothes your parents wore to fetes, church, weddings . . . reviewing photos of Dad as a young sailor in WWII, Mom and Dad leaving the church on their wedding day . . .tears form as I write this.

Bottom line – it is HORRIBLE! Yet, in many ways the ‘gut-wrenching’ feeling was cathartic – we know Mom and Dad raised terrific kids, each with their own strengths. None of us live close to each other but when needed we rally together to become an indefensible scrum. Mom and Dad are now as good as they can be but it’s only because we did not allow ANYONE to abuse them. I don’t believe people don’t WANT to abuse seniors but the process allows it and many take advantage.

Finally, my brother took my father into his home while we were dealing with Mother’s many escape attempts and bad nursing homes. Today, Dad is in an assisted living center (his idea) where many WWII vets live and mother in the best possible nursing home environment for her situation.

Aging is not an easy path and one fraught with crevices and scammers. Those pitfalls are what the ensuing columns will be about. I beg you to ask as many questions as possible — my expertise is finding the money you’re owed, an analysis of what is needed for an easy transition, holding hands and holding on the phone for 45 minutes to an hour to get the answers needed. Let me know your concern — none is too trivial. I hope many of my columns will be answers to your questions.