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The Stress of Managing Aging Parents

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Two years ago I lost my mother-in-law to liver cancer. From diagnosis to her passing we had less than 8 weeks to prepare for her death. It has been a very trying two years as my husband and I have spent countless hours teaching my father-in-law to carry on without her. My in-laws had a very traditional marriage.She took care of everything in the home--laundry, cooking, bills, appointments, you name it, she did it. But her passing forced us all to change. My father-in-law had to learn to do what she had done for him for well over 65 years.

This past Easter my father-in-law fell at home and fractured his greater tuberosity-the bone at the top of your arm. The break was so severe that if I had done the same thing it would have required surgery. However, because my father-in-law takes Coumadin (often referred to as a blood thinner) and his age (90), complications from surgery far outweighed the time it will take to allow the bone to heal naturally on its own.

Let me tell you, this has taken us on a fast a furious ride. He was admitted to the hospital for a few nights before being transferred to a rehab facility late last week. The social worker we have been working with told us because of this injury and a history of two previous falls, he should not live alone. We now have to take the next step into moving him into an assisted living facility. And we are learning so much.

I must say we never quite prepare ourselves for this time. Not only do we find ourselves having to look for a place he can afford, but we have to pack up 90 years of his life and dwindle it down to the few things he will be able to take with him. It has been an emotional roller-coaster for all of us. My husband is an only child so all decisions must be made by him. In some ways that can be a blessing as we do not have to argue over what is best with his Dad. But in other ways, it can be a very stressful time as ALL decisions must be made by him alone, all while maintaining a full-time job.

The stress of caring for our parents can be insurmountable at times. Not only do we have to make decisions quickly and many times the choices we have are very limited. We have to act fast and yet, without knowing how quickly he is going to heal will determine where he will move on from here. As with every other stressful event in our lives, it is the unknown, the uncertainty that can make life tough.  

Not only are we dealing with the physical stress of packing and moving him from a home he has lived in for almost six years now, but the emotional stress can be even more so. Having to surf through thousands of papers that my in-laws insisted keeping is draining to say the least. My in-laws kept every paper known to man going back as far as the 1940's.

We discovered so much as we began purging. We discovered baby books my mother-in-law kept from two babies she had lost shortly after birth-- one we knew of, but one who came as a great surprise. And to know that we will never know from her why she never told my husband is tough. We located my father-in-law's birth certificate with a different name than the one he goes by today. And of course coming across years and years of family photos can take a toll on any one.

We spend so much of our lives accumulating stuff that seems so important at the time, only to find ourselves having to dwindle our possession to what will fit in a 385 square foot room. I told my husband this has really caused me to re-think the 'stuff' in my own life. While we never expect or plan on our parents or another family member to get sick, turning to others who can help us out can lift a huge burden off our shoulders.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you some of my tips on how to maintain healthy habits while coping with the loss of a loved one or managing the care of an elderly parent. Until then I am back to packing and sifting through 65 years of memories my in-laws shared as a married couple.

Have you had to move a parent into assisted living? Do you have any lessons you can share with those of us who are just starting the process?  

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Comments

BILLTHOMSON 9/9/2020
A lot of great advice and the reality of life Report
REDROBIN47 8/7/2020
I had to put my mother in a long term nursing home after she fell several times while living alone and finally had a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. I lived in another state but was able to stay with my brother and be with my mother every day for almost a year until she passed away. It was like putting my life on hold. My brother helped me go through all of her things and that was a big help. We gave much of it away to other seniors in the apartment building she lived in. Report
GINA180847 8/7/2020
I am on the verge of putting my husband into long term care(assisted living) as I am too ill to continue to care for him. Heartbreaking but no choice. He won't be there long as he is near the end. Report
RACHAEL2020 8/7/2020
I totally understand. Report
MJ7DM33 8/7/2020
Good read! TY Report
MARITIMER3 8/7/2020
As an only child who was completely responsible for my mother after my father's death, I understand. My husband and I married 18 years ago, so between us we have 4 grown-up children and 3 grandchildren. MY "things" are in good order, with many things labelled as to who should get them. DH, on the other hand, is a collector of many, many things... stamps, coins, model cars, a model railway layout with literally thousands of cars, buildings, scenery, people, etc., travel brochures, newspaper clippings, motorcycle and vintage car magazines, clippings, models... I think you get the picture. I have been after him for years to at least go through everything and organize, with only minimal success. Much as I love him, I hope he dies before I do so that I can clean things out instead of our kids having to do it. People do not realize the burden they put on their partners and children by not taking proper care of their THINGS! Report
NEPTUNE1939 8/7/2020
ty Report
HANOVERLADY 8/7/2020
So difficult. After my father died it was very obvious that my stepmother couldn't live alone. My stepbrother moved her into a lovely assisted living facility. Every phone call all she talks about is how she wants to move back to her house and how much she misses my father. He died 14 months ago. It makes me very sad. Especially since we cannot visit her due to coronavirus and, even when those restrictions are lifted, I won't be able to visit often because she is in another state. Report
MSMOSTIMPROVED 7/14/2020
Best wishes to you and your husband as you begin. Report
BONIFIANT 7/10/2020
My parents had paid for my nurses training and always assumed that when the time came, I would take care of them. I did care for both my mother-in-law and father-in-law but they were much older and I was younger when I did. My father died very quickly and my mom was left alone. I took care of her for many years. She often begged me never to put her "in one of those homes." She was a small woman but it got to the point that I could no longer lift her, I had to find a small group home for her. Her first comment was, "Your daddy would never had let you do this to me." She finally decided that she was sick and as soon as she was well, she could come home again. For the next two years I went to sit with her every day. It is an extremely hard choice for a daughter to make. Report
NORTHIRISHGIRL 4/7/2020
It is a gift to our children to declutter before we reach that time in our own lives I believe. I struggle with that need... Report
LIZZIE138 2/29/2020
I will soon be facing this same situation with my older, never married sister. Chronic illness & several hospital/ rehab stays are moving decision making time closer & closer. I am the only remaining sibling & moving in with us is not an option for complicated reasons. I feel like it’s a lose/lose situation. Report
KHALIA2 12/31/2019
I sure do miss my mom and dad! Report
KHALIA2 12/9/2019
Thank you! Report
DGRIFFITH51 11/20/2019
My parents are 94 and 95, they are slowly giving things away. The only problem is that mom forgets she gave something away then says "someone must have stolen it." This is a challenge to remind her what has happened to that item. I just am glad to still be able to spend time with them! Report
KHALIA2 11/17/2019
Great Article! Thanks for sharing! Report
1CRAZYDOG 10/23/2019
There just are no words that adequately describe the emotional and physical toll that caregiving takes. The idea isn't that I regret I did it .. . . not @ all. I am very glad I did! But it is just draining! Report
GMACAMI 10/16/2019
interesting article and comments Report
Great article! Report
RAPUNZEL53
Great. Report
Very good article. Report
I went thru this with my MIL...It is very, very hard to get through. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Report
We are going through this with MIL right now. Stressful doesn't even begin to cover it. Report
Very good article. It's the second time around for our family. First with my mother, now with his. It's certainly a hard road to travel with lots of decisions to make. I think the most loving thing we can do for our children is to start purging our belongings so they dont have the same problems. My prayers are with you. Report
KHALIA2
Praying for your father-in-law's speedy recovery! Report
Going through a lot of the same things with my mom since my stepdad passed away a year and a half ago. I have a brother but he disappeared about 5 years ago. It is very stressful being the only person a parent can turn to. I was lucky - she wanted to go to an assisted living facility and voluntarily stopped driving as soon as she got there. Report
Very good article Report
Also an only child, I had to move my mom into assisted care last February. Thankfully for me, she had a health issue the year before and was in rehab a month, allowing me to purge a good bit from her 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment. As with many her age, she lived through the Depression and kept everything. She still saves every plastic carry-out container. Her collections of stemware and pieces of serving ware are useless to me, but I hate to let them go for pennies. What a conundrum! Report
As both my parents declined a sister and I took turns staying with them as necessary until they chose to move from the independent part of the care facility to the main building. Fortunately my mother was able to come back to the home to help sort the important things but many areas she left to 'the girls' to deal with. I was happy to help with anything they needed. Sometimes it was frustrating as neither one ever learned to manage money but everything worked out at the end. Report
My Mom had a stroke 2 years ago and then had a terrible fall a couple of weeks ago. My Dad is her caregiver. I think your also grieving even though they still live. I know I am. I miss her writing me letters for no reason, sending me an address I needed, making my favorite meal when I visited, her laugh, and so much more. I miss her so much but she's still here but not like she wss. Report
Food for thought, as my parents are getting older. Report
We learned a lot after losing both of my husband’s parents and now helping my mom after my dad passed last year. This is made even harder since I am the only sibling out of 6 that live close enough to help her everyday. Report
KHALIA2
I really miss my mom and dad. They passed back in the 60's. Report
Heart rendering story. I am blessed with a very healthy 91 year old mom. For the last few years she has asked if there are specific things that my brother or I want. If she isn’t ready to part with them she puts one of our names on it and keeps it. If she is ready to part with it she gives it to us then. Several times a year I spend a little time going through closets and drawers purging what isn’t needed. Hopefully this will make the final transition easier for all of us. Report
I have had to deal with this 2 times. My own parent's realized in their early 90's this was a good choice for them and were involved in all the decisions that made our job so much easier. My husband's mom we just moved into supported living and she is very angry with us. The emotional drain on the person making the decision is so hard. As long as you know you made the decision for the right reasons you will get through it. Report
After dealing with my grandmother's hoarding, the rest of us are inspired to simplify. As I remind husband, do we want our daughters to have to deal with all this? Report
I can attest to how difficult it is to care for aging parents. One of the biggest problems we've had is finding things. My father's organization wasn't good and my stepmother hid things in the oddest places. Report
A lot of good advice here. Report
I took care of my Mum for 14 years after my father died. We had to move her into a private Assisted Living after 12years, luckily she died before she ran out of money. I don’t know what people do if they don’t have loads of savings. Report
Paring down is difficukt but absolutely essential. I am constantly doing as much as I can so my sons won’t have too much to deal with. My husband is doing his own shredding etc, and after several businesses and two marriages, there is plenty. As fior the situation the blogger is in, there is plenty of company. Who among us is ready ? I’ll do my best but it will be difficult nonetheless. My mom died early, never knew my biys, and my father was a classic case - well until his late 80s and declining til 97. Lots of bumps along the way and in our case, some help. It’s out there...hard to find , but good to prepare. Report
XREPHA
I pray for you all. Been there done that with my in-laws. We didn't realize how stressful it was until they were gone. But it was a blessing to care for them. Report
good advice Report
Yup, been there, done that.
First with my mother, then with my FIL.
We spent most of five years caring for them, making life decisions, finding safe places for them to live....while working full time and raising our family.
And, you are right...going through their lifetime accumulations of STUFF was exhausting.
And, we too, decided not to burden our children in that way and have downsized and cleared out so much of our nearly 50 years together.
Report
Good ideas Report
Thank you Report
Thank you Report
My dad is almost 90 and now lives with us. He falls occasionally and it worries me. We finally convinced him to get onebof those emergency bracelets. Hes in excellent health that i know of. But i find it hard sometimes to have him here...to watch him age before my eyes. Report
I have and am going through similar issues. I haven't read all the comments, but one of the very first things to do is make sure his estate plan is up to date including power of attorney (health and finance) documents. If you don't have this, see an elder care attorney right away. They can be helpful even in giving a few suggestions for assisted living placement and the financing of it. Report
important, great post - look forward to reading more and learning from others on how to handle difficult circumstances with aging parents Report
Dealing with the death of a parent and a remaining elderly parent is a huge stressor. Report
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