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.