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    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 9th Oct 17, 8:49 AM
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    trailingspouse
    How do you know when 'it's time' - elderly parents
    • #1
    • 9th Oct 17, 8:49 AM
    How do you know when 'it's time' - elderly parents 9th Oct 17 at 8:49 AM
    My parents are in their 80s, and generally fit and well. But the cracks are beginning to show - father is forgetting things on a regular basis, mother's conversational record is a bit stuck, we get the same stories over and over.

    Dad was in hospital yesterday, with chest pains (turned out to be nothing serious). They did a chest X-ray, then about an hour later a nurse asked if he'd had his X-ray and he said 'no'. They diagnosed a very minor chest infection, and gave him antibiotics - he was told 'one three times a day' but later that evening he was convinced it was one a day.

    They'd told me they have their flu jabs today (Monday), and (very sensibly) were wondering if Dad would be OK to have his in view of the chest infection - but I happened to see the flu invite letters, and the appointment was Saturday (two days ago), so they've missed it.

    But in general, they cope well - they eat healthily, Dad still drives, they get dressed up and go out for meals, they have opinions on world events, they can walk up the stairs without difficulty, the house is clean (well, to be honest, not as clean as it used to be, but still not bad), the garden is well kept.

    So at what point do you step in and start to give extra help? It seems the choice is to either wait until there is some sort of crisis which proves that they're not coping, or risk offending them by stepping in too soon (before they think they need it).

    I live about 2 hours' drive away, so I can be there reasonably quickly if I need to be, but I can't pop over every 5 minutes. I could however organise things so that I could go over, say, once a week - but I don't think they'd like the idea that I was 'checking up' on them.

    Any thoughts greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by trailingspouse; 09-10-2017 at 9:12 AM.
Page 2
    • Primrose
    • By Primrose 9th Oct 17, 9:01 PM
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    Primrose
    D you parents use a computer? Are they on email?
    If so, would they be able to cope with using Skype? Even if they can't use a computer, getting them and iPad of some kind with Skype on it might help you and them to feel you are less remote.
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 9th Oct 17, 9:44 PM
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    trailingspouse
    The PoA is only financial - will look into setting up a Health one.

    Yes, Dad still drives - he has chosen to no longer drive in the dark, and he pretty much only drives to places he is familiar with. But I do worry that the time when he shouldn't be driving is fast approaching, and that will make a huge difference to their quality of life. Mum has never driven, so probably wouldn't notice if he was making mistakes.

    He has always been good with the financial side of things (he was a bank manager before he retired), and they are comfortably off. They have been in their house for 40+ years - it's a manageable size and I think it would probably be best for them to stay there as long as possible.

    They have a laptop - we bought it for them a couple of Christmas's ago. It's extremely underused...

    I like the idea of getting a calendar - Christmas is coming!! Mum seems to be more 'on the ball' than Dad, and is beginning to realise that she can no longer just rely on him to organise everything (they've always had a pretty traditional relationship).

    Lots of things to think about.
    • barbiedoll
    • By barbiedoll 9th Oct 17, 11:23 PM
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    barbiedoll
    We always get a large calendar from Moonpig each year for our mum, we use family photos (which she loves) and my sister fills in all the family/friend birthdays before she gives it to her. My mum, thankfully, doesn't have any memory problems (apart from going through all of our names before she gets to the right one!) my sister is just helpful like that.

    Do your parents have a mobile phone? Most GP's and hospitals have a text reminder system set up. You can always ask for you phone number to be used, you can then ring mum or dad to remind them if that works better.

    Do you have any siblings? If so, don't take this all on yourself, delegate if you can!
    "I may be many things but not being indiscreet isn't one of them"
    • troubleinparadise
    • By troubleinparadise 10th Oct 17, 5:36 AM
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    troubleinparadise
    This is solid advice (been there!)
    Are they financially secure? is the house manageable?

    around this stage we took the opportunity to downsize my parents home to something more manageable than the big family home they no longer needed. This also released a lot of capital so they could enjoy life bit more, pay for a cleaner & tradesmen for things they could no longer do. It was also an opportunity to move nearer family which was handy later on.
    Originally posted by sillygoose
    That only works if they are in agreement. You canít make someone with capacity do something just because you think they should, however pragmatic it may seem to you. I have seen that done, and it creates terrible unhappiness all round.
    • sillygoose
    • By sillygoose 10th Oct 17, 8:24 AM
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    sillygoose
    That only works if they are in agreement. You canít make someone with capacity do something just because you think they should, however pragmatic it may seem to you. I have seen that done, and it creates terrible unhappiness all round.
    Originally posted by troubleinparadise
    Of course, in the 'we' I meant my parents and the 'children' in agreement. They were very much up for it.

    Its best to at least discuss it sooner rather than later, the older we get often the less we like change but the more we need some.
    • Primrose
    • By Primrose 10th Oct 17, 8:59 AM
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    Primrose
    Do encourage them to keep going with domestic admin and organisation as long as possible. They need to feel in control and having the need to retain their cognitive powers is obviously good for them too
    I put together a memory notebook for my parents to keep beside the phone as I lived two hours away. Any queries/ needs they had Would be written down in that so when I ohone every day they could just refer to the memory book.

    This worked well u TIL my dad,s dementia started getting worse and he would tear out the relevant page, put it “in a safe place” and not remember where he had put it! It,s odd things like this which make you realise that however well you tryand plan, the unexpected will often crop up to ambush your well laid preparations.

    Are they are the stage where installing one of those Call Button systems for alerting somebody they need help would be a useful backup. .
    • Savvy_Sue
    • By Savvy_Sue 11th Oct 17, 1:54 AM
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    Savvy_Sue
    Should he still be driving? I'm not having a go, I'm curious if they are allowed.
    Originally posted by cjdavies
    It's allowed until someone says 'no' or until DVLA call for an assessment. Whenever FIL was in hospital I used to make sure that someone checked he was OK to keep driving - and I was glad to hear that the OP's dad no longer drives at night or to unfamiliar places!

    On one occasion, when I was doing the discreet checkup over FIL's driving, a nurse explained that often people with mild dementia would be fine, until confronted with something different. Roadworks, a diversion, being directed to the wrong side of the carriageway - absolutely thrown. And that's when accidents happen.

    Like the OP, MIL never drove, and latterly FIL never drove without MIL beside him, but there were still some tense moments.

    I put together a memory notebook for my parents to keep beside the phone as I lived two hours away. Any queries/ needs they had Would be written down in that so when I ohone every day they could just refer to the memory book.

    This worked well u TIL my dad,s dementia started getting worse and he would tear out the relevant page, put it ďin a safe placeĒ and not remember where he had put it! It,s odd things like this which make you realise that however well you tryand plan, the unexpected will often crop up to ambush your well laid preparations.
    Originally posted by Primrose
    This. MIL cannot really leave FIL for long, because even if she leaves a note explaining where she has gone, and what time she will be back, and where his lunch is if she's out for a meal, he will forget that there is a note, and not find it. Or if he finds it and reads it, he does not retain the information, so she returns and he has been very worried about her, nearly phoning the police.

    Unfortunately, MIL has rejected all the strategies we employed with my parents to keep them independent. A gardener and a cleaner - no, she can manage the cleaning, and although FIL can no longer do anything in his beloved garden my BIL has had to take it over. Someone coming in to give her a break, so that she can go out without worrying - no, she does not think FIL would want other people in the house, he would want to know what they were doing there and where she was. Social activities, memory cafes - no, that kind of thing has never appealed to FIL. And so on.

    One thing, if you have siblings, I tried to make sure that whenever any of us visited we let the others know what we'd found, what we'd done, whether there was anything they wanted done, what suggestions I'd made. Even though not all of us were in a position to visit regularly, it seemed sensible.
    Still knitting!
    Completed: 1 adult cardigan, 3 baby jumpers, 2 shawls, 3 pairs baby bootees,
    1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 1 seaman's hat ...
    Current projects: 1 shawl, another seaman's hat
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 11th Oct 17, 8:57 AM
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    trailingspouse
    Some great thoughts.

    'Fiercely independent' is a good description. Also 'set in their ways' (Dad more than Mum)...

    I'm the only child (my own kids are adults, but a) live much further away and b) I don't want to burden them - their turn will come!)

    One thing they have allowed us to help with is DIY around the house - Dad was never interested (would rather work overtime and pay someone else), but my OH is pretty handy. Whenever we're there we ask if there are any small jobs needing done (and, luckily, we happen to have the toolbox in the boot of the car...).

    They don't do anything that involves other people - no clubs, groups, anything like that. They go out quite a lot - walking (not the distances they used to do, but still out in the fresh air), lunch (they have a small number of places that they like to eat and no interest in trying somewhere new), cups of tea. They get the bus into the city regularly. This is OK at the moment, but when one of them is left alone they're going to really struggle, I think.

    So - on my 'to do' list -
    - set up Health and Welfare POA
    - visit more often
    - suggest options if they look like they need help
    - help them to continue to do what they already do, rather than trying to take over
    - buy them a calendar for Christmas
    - would like them both to have their hearing tested (some serious resistance to this...)

    We're off on holiday tomorrow, so I'll buy them something nice as a souvenir and that can be my excuse for my first visit...
    • IAmWales
    • By IAmWales 11th Oct 17, 10:50 AM
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    IAmWales
    - set up Health and Welfare POA
    Talk about whether they would like this to happen. I'm sure that's what you meant, but it needs to be their decision.

    - would like them both to have their hearing tested (some serious resistance to this...)
    If they don't want it, I wouldn't even raise the issue. There's being helpful and there's being pushy, and if you push too much then they'll resent it. Many older people are more than happy to live with poor hearing, especially if both are as bad, it just means they have the tv that much louder!

    - visit more often
    This, a hundred times! There's no doubting that you care very much but visiting only every few months is not on. So much can happen in that time, as you've already found, if you were there far *far* more often any issues can be addressed as they occur, not after the event.

    Wishing your parents well xx
    • Savvy_Sue
    • By Savvy_Sue 11th Oct 17, 9:16 PM
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    Savvy_Sue
    - would like them both to have their hearing tested (some serious resistance to this...)
    Originally posted by trailingspouse
    It may or may not help, but you can do a quick hearing test either online or over the phone. https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearing-health/check-your-hearing/

    The results are crude, but at least it means you can either say "not a problem" or " there is a problem, and we could try to sort it out".

    Although you may never make any headway with this: I don't know why hearing aids won't be countenanced when people are often quite happy to wear glasses!
    Still knitting!
    Completed: 1 adult cardigan, 3 baby jumpers, 2 shawls, 3 pairs baby bootees,
    1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 1 seaman's hat ...
    Current projects: 1 shawl, another seaman's hat
    • Fireflyaway
    • By Fireflyaway 12th Oct 17, 3:08 PM
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    Fireflyaway
    I'd say keep in regular contact and visit regularly and you should naturally pick up on changes. Having worked with older people, a very common thing was for them was to not want to ' cause hassle' or ' be a burden' etc. Elderly folk would often state how their son / daughter is busy at work and lives far away etc so they would avoid mentioning when they needed help. With that in mind, I'd just reiterate how its really important they tell you if they need help as it will give you peace of mind. Its true that independence is really important. My plan is to implement small changes for my parents as and when they need it. Rather than wait till there are multiple or serious issues. So I might take them to M+S to get a weeks supply of ready meals they can cook whenever they choose rather than having to wait for a meal delivery. Get a cleaner to do just the heavy / hard housework rather than all of it etc. The main thing is their safety. If they start to wonder off / leave the oven on, that's different. I suppose the main thing is to not force help on them but be guided by what they need / want in a way that's acceptable to them.
    • jackyann
    • By jackyann 12th Oct 17, 6:54 PM
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    jackyann
    Bit late to the party, but I wanted to pitch in, as 17 years ago, this was me and my parents. I decided that I would cut my hours, and go up once a week.
    They had already decided to get a cleaner, and to sort out the garden, so I was left with the 'soft stuff'. But I found it so much easier to make suggestions when I knew what was going on. It was easy to look at the calendar whilst sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. I would find ways around checking, making it sound like chit-chat 'Did you say it was so-and-so's daughter that you see when you go for x appointment? Is that next week?'
    They liked to take me out to lunch - and they could afford to, so I let them, and would say 'we're going by *supermarket* do you want to pop in for anything?'
    Later I arranged with my employer to have flexible hours so I could attend important appointments. It didn't stop the dementia, but it did mean I was there, aware of what was happening, and helping as much as I could. I look back on that day a week with some fondness.

    If you can, do it, but begin carefully, so you can drop out if you really can't manage it. I said 'oh, they're changing my job, and I've got the chance to have a few months at reduced hours, so I thought I'd pop up a bit more'.
    • dawyldthing
    • By dawyldthing 12th Oct 17, 7:19 PM
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    dawyldthing
    Be careful with the microwave - get a digital one ideally as my nan had 1 taken off her from the fire brigade as it said 3 minutes for the butter pudding but was in for 30.

    Other thing is I'd possibly try and organise the appointments for a specific day once a fortnight so you can support them and follow stuff up - it can be overwealming at times
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    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 21st Oct 17, 10:35 AM
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    trailingspouse
    Back from holiday - many thanks for all the suggestions.

    I'm hoping to get down to see them some time this week, probably Thursday. I need to make my visits more of a routine, normal thing - at 2 hours away, this is the closest I've ever lived to them since I was 19, so visits (either of them to me or me to them) have always been an 'event'. This needs to change!

    They don't have a microwave, so no worries on that score. They're really very old-fashioned - even for 80 somethings!! No freezer either! And I think a previous poster was right when they suggested all I can do is help them to continue doing what they've always done, rather than trying to get them to do something new.
    • Tabbytabitha
    • By Tabbytabitha 21st Oct 17, 2:38 PM
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    Tabbytabitha
    Thanks for the thoughts so far.

    We already have a POA in place.

    I ring them once a week, and see them every couple of months - and yes, I'm going to start making sure I see them more often. Start with once a month and build up from there. I don't want them to think that I don't think they can cope - but I do think they just need a bit more help now.

    He hasn't been assessed for Alzheimers, and I would like him to be. I suspect there's a bit of denial going on. I may have to ring their doctor's and have a chat.
    Originally posted by trailingspouse
    Is there a reason you have such little contact with them and visit so rarely? Are there issues within the family?
    • Savvy_Sue
    • By Savvy_Sue 21st Oct 17, 2:53 PM
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    Savvy_Sue
    Is there a reason you have such little contact with them and visit so rarely? Are there issues within the family?
    Originally posted by Tabbytabitha
    sounds with the range of normal to me: MIL phones me every Sunday evening, and we may see them a couple of times a year. If I spoke to them more often, there'd be nothing to say ... the weekly call consists mostly of reports of visits to various health professionals, and snippets of news from other friends and relations I barely know.

    I encourage the boys (their grandchildren) to visit them whenever they're nearby, but again that's only a couple of times a year.

    When my own parents were alive, contact was usually by email as Mum couldn't use the phone and Dad hated using it. It was only as they became less capable that contact and visits became planned / regular.

    Contact with my siblings is rarely by phone, and getting together requires a certain amount of planning and notice with some of them more willing to show up than others.
    Still knitting!
    Completed: 1 adult cardigan, 3 baby jumpers, 2 shawls, 3 pairs baby bootees,
    1 Wise Man Knitivity figure + 1 sheep, 2 pairs socks, 1 seaman's hat ...
    Current projects: 1 shawl, another seaman's hat
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 21st Oct 17, 3:22 PM
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    trailingspouse
    I moved 300 miles away when I was 19, then spent 3 years travelling (in the days before easy worldwide communication), then moved to somewhere about 700 miles away (flight or ferry the only options). Have also spent time living abroad. I guess I became very independent very quickly.

    We deliberately moved to be closer to them a few years ago, so for us seeing each other 5-6 times a year is an improvement!
    • Tabbytabitha
    • By Tabbytabitha 23rd Oct 17, 3:31 PM
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    Tabbytabitha
    I think only seeing elderly parents one every couple of months when you're only a couple of hour's drive away is quite odd, even if that's for a whole weekend. It's about how often you might see them if you lived abroad, not just down the road.

    Only twice a year would indicate a strong dislike on somebody's part unless there are unusual circumstances involved.
    Last edited by Tabbytabitha; 23-10-2017 at 3:35 PM.
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 23rd Oct 17, 4:34 PM
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    trailingspouse
    Erm - Tabbytabitha. 'Quite odd' - no, it's perfectly normal for us. It would seem quite odd if we were living in each other's pockets. Like I say, 5-6 times a year is an improvement on how it has been in the past - I'm sorry if that's not good enough for you. This whole thread has been about how I can increase the number of times I visit without them thinking I'm checking up on them.

    So, anyway - I'm going down to see them on Thursday. I bought them a couple of nice souvenirs from our holiday, which is a good excuse for going down.
    • gingercordial
    • By gingercordial 23rd Oct 17, 5:11 PM
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    gingercordial
    I think only seeing elderly parents one every couple of months when you're only a couple of hour's drive away is quite odd, even if that's for a whole weekend. It's about how often you might see them if you lived abroad, not just down the road.

    Only twice a year would indicate a strong dislike on somebody's part unless there are unusual circumstances involved.
    Originally posted by Tabbytabitha
    I don't think it's odd. I moved away to London many years ago from my home town which is about 3 hours away by car or train. It isn't "just down the road" when it takes the whole weekend. At the moment I go to visit for the weekend maybe 4 or 5 times a year and can usually persuade them to come here once. My husband's parents live in the other direction so we can't combine visits and between them on average we are visiting one set or the other monthly. Perhaps that's not "enough" for some but my husband works shifts which include some weekends and we do need some to ourselves.

    My parents are in their late 60s so not yet as old as OP's but I can see the same thing becoming an issue in time. I cannot envisage ever moving back to my home town as both of our careers are London-based and also with the in-laws being the other way it would only mean even further to travel to one set or the other; at least we're in the hub here.

    If it gets to that stage and I have to spend every weekend on a six hour return train trip, of course I will just have to get on with it, but visiting every couple of months now certainly does not indicate I don't love them!
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