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Caring for (elderly) parents - how do you do it?

Phoenix

Ideal_Rock
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Following my last thread about my dad, I'd just like to ask you wonderful PS'ers how you care for your parents (particularly if they're elderly). Do you and your siblings all take turn? How do you make less caring members (if any) of the family step up to the plate and do their duty? Do you organise some kind of rota/ roster or schedule of tasks and timing and responsible persons? Do you call regular family meetings? And last but not least, what do you do if your parent(s) is facing some potential emergency or serious health issue?

I currently live away from my dad (he's in London, UK and I'm in Singapore). I try to go back and visit at least once a year. I talk to my dad at least once a week and talk to my siblings regularly (though some more than others). My dad doesn't tell me anything on the 'phone despite my asking him often (as I guess he "doesn't want to worry me" - his words); except when I get here, I find out that he's been having some potentially serious health issue(s). Noone seems to have helped him go to the hospital or helped in any other way. He's been having these symptoms (including pain) and has just been putting up with them in silence, or so it seems. I'm guessing that's partly because he doesn't tell them - he lives with one of my brothers, who seems rather clueless unfortunately. I'm concerned but aside from taking him to the hospital whilst I'm here (and when I fly back, which I plan to do more often), I'm not sure what I can say to or expect from other members of the family, particularly because I'm the youngest daughter (second youngest) child and our culture usually dictates that I don't tell my older brothers and sisters what to do. Nonetheless, this is not the "usual" course of events and I may very well have to speak up and take some real actions if I have to.

I'm also aware that since I live overseas, they might think that I'm not so entitled to tell them what to do.

Anyhow, any advice or input you can give me would be greatly appreciated - either relating to my situation or just general advice or ideas relating to your own family and what you do.
 

TooPatient

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My step-father's parents are both older and in poor health. They own their home (about 5 minutes from my mother's parents) and are very proud/stubborn/independent people.


Currently:

My step-father cuts their grass, takes out the trash
My mother takes D shopping for her groceries and helps with food prep
One of the brothers pays for a house cleaning lady to come in a couple of times a week
The two sisters take them to dr appointments
Various kids/grandkids help around the yard, clean the house, bring food, etc

Most days they have at least one family member stop by to see how they are and help where needed.


What the family is working towards is having a family member (maybe a different each week) over at the start of each week to "help" D with her food prep so that during the week she just has to pull a pan out of the refrigerator and put it in the oven. We're also hoping to get an assortment of soups and other stuff frozen in meal sized portions so she can pull that out whenever she wants too.
It is really tricky balancing the care & help they need with the independence they enjoy. I'm quite certain that if either went into a home or they had people waiting on them all day every day, they'd just shut down and give up on life.
 

minmin001

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my fiance's parents are currently in good health. (very proud and independent people as well) his grandmother however put her DH in the nursing home that's 2min away from their house when he was in poor health and now she is in there herself after he passed away. (But I know that's consider really bad in Asian culture)
 

swingirl

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My MIL is 96 and most of her children are in their 60's and 70's, with their own set of health issues. Her children visit her often and are there for company and support but no one can really take on the physical chores. She lives on her own and wants to stay that way. The only thing to do was to hire a woman who comes over several times a week, does laundry, keeps the place tidy, is present while my MIL bathes and does some errands and shopping.

It's a perfect situation. No one feels obligated to do physical labor or take time off work to run an errand. No guilt for anyone. My MIL is well taken care of and when her family comes over it's strictly to visit, go out to lunch, see a play or go to a doctor's appointment. Not everyone is cut out for care giving.
 

luv2sparkle

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I have found Phoenix, that it does often fall to one child in the family. I took care (along with my husband) of my mother until
she died. I am the youngest of 4, and my siblings are 20+ years older than me. I had 4 young children at the time. My siblings
did very little. They all had children my age. Only one brother lived within 100 miles. My brother wanted my mom to live close to
him but it would have made it even harder for me, and my mom specifically asked that he not have the power of attorney and not
be allowed to make decisions. He was very vocal in criticizing me after the fact though. I would have liked whatever help they
could have given me, but it really fell to me.

My husbands parents will soon need care. When his parents were sick at the beginning of the year we were making the 5 hour drive
to see them every week and were the only one. He has a brother that lives closer to them that we do by about 2 hours. It will come
down to us I am sure.

From my experience I would say, I would contact your siblings and say that you are concerned and offer to do whatever they need.
You are limited by your distance, but knowing that you are willing to do what you can is always a good thing. Maybe you could offer to
be there if they need you, but you would like to keep informed about what is going on with your dad. I would have been very happy
with that and would have been willing to keep my siblings updated. I don't know if cultural differences would keep you from doing
that, but it sounds as if that is all you can really do.
 

charbie

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Im not sure what services are offered in the UK, but I know here in the States many counties have services available to the elderly at discounted rates. I work in a nursing home/rehab center and we very often refer families to homemaker services that can be discounted due to age or income.
 

Pandora II

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charbie|1306802969|2934108 said:
Im not sure what services are offered in the UK, but I know here in the States many counties have services available to the elderly at discounted rates. I work in a nursing home/rehab center and we very often refer families to homemaker services that can be discounted due to age or income.
In the UK it is the case that if you have no money some things are available for free, if you have lots of money you can just pay privately and if you are in the middle you are hit hard.

My grandmother is 94 and still lives at home. My father and my uncle are her only children. My uncle lives about an hour away but he and his wife are often away, plus until November last year they were caring for their youngest daughter who had terminal cancer. My parents live 4 hours away, my father is in his 70's and my mother has Multiple Sclerosis.

Following a fall and 3 months in hospital, my grandmother now has a live-in carer who does everything for her. It is by far the best solution.

I am one of four children, as is my husband. None of us live near any of our parents and some live in Australia or the US. Our parents have all made arrangements so that none of us need to look after them in their dotage.

To be perfectly honest Phoenix, having read your other thread as well, there is really no point in trying to get your siblings to do more than they currently are. Guilt-tripping doesn't normally work. Since you don't seem to have any issues financially and you obviously feel badly about your father, perhaps you could put something in place to help him out - private healthcare or similar - that would make you feel better.

I know if one of my siblings who lived in another country tried to tell us all how we should or shouldn't do things they would be told where to go...
 

makemepretty

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You can't really volunteer anyone to help. You can only offer help yourself.

I helped my mom get on some much needed medication. It took over a decade-closer to two- of my life and I had no extra income and small children. I could not even begin to explain the things I had to do for her, the appointments, the worry...it was exhausting. She was not elderly, just not able to mentally take care of things.

Once I had her on the right medication, I had to let my siblings know that I was done. No more money, no more time, no more driving her to appointments. Since then, it seems that I've been labeled uncaring. I can not even begin to explain to them what I went through. They do not understand why I'm not willing to continue. My mom is now 58 and continues to "make" problems that she can not handle and wants others to take care of.

I can only offer the advice of do what you feel is best but realize, you CAN'T make others help you do it. Plus, when/if you stop, it will never be considered enough so make peace with your decisions.
 

Phoenix

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Thank you very much for your input and for sharing, TooPatient, minmin001, VRBeauty, swingirl, luv2sparkle, charbie, Pandora and Makemepretty.

And thank you also to those who posted on my other (related) thread on the same subject but to whom I've not responded yet, minmin and VRBeauty again and also to April20.

I'll try to respond to each one of you individually. I really appreciate your taking your time to write in.
 

iugurl

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I don't know this from MY experience, but I watched my parents deal with my mother's father and mother for many years. It is very hard. It is especially hard when there is only one or two people to do all of the work, either because there is no one else or because of distance. It is so easy to judge the situation from afar, but it is SO different when you are the one doing all of the work. (I am not saying you are judging, I may use "you" but I mean it in the general sense.)

Besides sitting down (or perhaps skype/phone/something) and having a few calm, non-judgmental conversations there is nothing you can do to force anyone to do anything. If your family truly refuses to assist, you may have to hire assistance, if you are able, or possibly temporarily move there, like you mentioned. However, I wouldn't jump to that conclusion. In the other post, you mentioned a granddaughter not being excited or having reluctance in her voice. I can't imagine anyone jumping up with excitement over such a task. I think as long as everyone is involved and not (at least to your father) outright complaining, then it is OK.

I think you need to be very, very careful. If my sister/brother gave me a hard time about helping someone when they don't help at all (even if they can't due to distance), I would not appreciate it. If they did it in a way that was not complaining, bossing, judging etc. then I would be fine. But it is a thin line, and a conversation that is so tough like this one, can easily become heated.

This is a tough place to be in. I feel for you.
 

Haven

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IUgirl makes some very good points.

I played a role in caring for my maternal grandmother in her old age. She had two children, my mother and my uncle. My uncle lived very close to her for her entire life, while my mother chose to move out of the city where she lived and 30 miles away into the suburbs. I know 30 miles away doesn't sound like a lot, but for the small, everyday things that an elderly parent needs, it might as well be thousands of miles away. I stepped in to help, but my uncle did most of the caring for my grandmother by far, and it definitely resulted in some ill feelings from him towards my mother when she tried to step in and have a say in how things were going in my grandmother's life.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it is a *very* difficult situation for everyone involved, and I think you are in an especially difficult situation, Phoenix, since you are mostly physically absent from your father's life. I recommend you approach your siblings very carefully, because they are the ones who are providing the real care for your father. The case may be that they could do a better job than what they are currently doing, but I think you should only criticize if you are ready to be the one to implement a higher level of care for your father. Otherwise, it will just seem like you're criticizing without offering to do anything about it, and I fear that might drive a wedge between you and your siblings.

DH's father is in his seventies and he has had some major health problems over the last several years, most recently a kidney transplant and a heart attack followed by heart surgery. DH has an older brother, but DH and I are the ones who have been helping and caring for my FIL. We all live within 20 minutes of each other, so it isn't a matter of distance, just a matter of my BIL being unwilling to participate as much as I believe he should. It would be nice to take turns caring for my FIL, but the reality is that all of the care falls to the willing sibling.
 

ksinger

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Haven|1307512481|2940535 said:
IUgirl makes some very good points.

I played a role in caring for my maternal grandmother in her old age. She had two children, my mother and my uncle. My uncle lived very close to her for her entire life, while my mother chose to move out of the city where she lived and 30 miles away into the suburbs. I know 30 miles away doesn't sound like a lot, but for the small, everyday things that an elderly parent needs, it might as well be thousands of miles away. I stepped in to help, but my uncle did most of the caring for my grandmother by far, and it definitely resulted in some ill feelings from him towards my mother when she tried to step in and have a say in how things were going in my grandmother's life.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that it is a *very* difficult situation for everyone involved, and I think you are in an especially difficult situation, Phoenix, since you are mostly physically absent from your father's life. I recommend you approach your siblings very carefully, because they are the ones who are providing the real care for your father. The case may be that they could do a better job than what they are currently doing, but I think you should only criticize if you are ready to be the one to implement a higher level of care for your father. Otherwise, it will just seem like you're criticizing without offering to do anything about it, and I fear that might drive a wedge between you and your siblings.

DH's father is in his seventies and he has had some major health problems over the last several years, most recently a kidney transplant and a heart attack followed by heart surgery. DH has an older brother, but DH and I are the ones who have been helping and caring for my FIL. We all live within 20 minutes of each other, so it isn't a matter of distance, just a matter of my BIL being unwilling to participate as much as I believe he should. It would be nice to take turns caring for my FIL, but the reality is that all of the care falls to the willing sibling.
Yes to this post. As the only caretaker of my mother in her final years, I took very unkindly to any criticism, even if only implied. I got very upset one time when her siblings (all from out of state and in town to help get her moved) started in on doctors and how maybe we should try this or that (mostly alternative treatments not proven and not covered by insurance) and I just LOST it. I was like, "I'm doing the best I can to navigate this medical maze, and to make sure her money isn't wasted on false hope. It's easy for you guys to blast in for 2 weeks, but I'm here day in day out making the decisions, so SHUT UP!" (My mother had ALS) I love my aunts and uncle, but for that situation, they needed to be jerked up a bit. So I understand that sentiment very well.

I lived very close to my mother so I didn't have large distance to contend with but even then, the stress level was grinding and every day was slow-motion grieving, and honestly, was likely a big contributing factor to my developing major symptoms of fibromyalgia. That aside, it does sound like your siblings are in denial that your father is old now and in ill health, a situation not helped by the fact that HE isn't talking either. Rather than criticize, you probably need to speak frankly to them about your concerns for his health and how it is clear to you at least, that he is hiding his ailments. Maybe they are unaware and need someone to help open their eyes a bit. The decline of parents is something many people don't want to face up to, so you might expect some protests that you are wrong, but at least you will have planted a seed. As Haven said though, you must be ready to step up and do the work if the rest of the family will not, if it bothers you that much. It's harsh but there it is.

Caring for elderly parents can really expose rifts in families, believe me.
 

natascha

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Like those before me have already said, you can not make anyone do something they do not want to do. That said, if it is more of a case of your siblings simply not realizing what is going on, then things could change.

My grandfather was left in a situation where he needed care. Unfortunately we lived in an other country and his doctors said that it was not possible for him to move to us. He had heart problems and moving to a very hot country would not be good for him.

The other side of the family was just not interested in helping, they did live 5 hours by car but they would usually not even give him a phone call to see how he was.

He did not want to move into an assisted home so we ended up getting him home help that would come in every day to clean, bring him cooked food, do a weekly shopping, take him to his appointments and help him bath and such. That took care of the more practical matters.

My mother would call him every day, to talk about how he felt, how everything was going with us, chat about the tv programs he was watching, etc. We would also visit at least a couple of times per year.

It is very hard to deal with family members getting sick and needing help. You need to find out the realities of your fathers situation and how your family wants to handle it. If they are not willing to ensure that he gets the help he needs, not only practical but also emotional, you will need to organize someone else to come in and handle the day to day matters. The most important thing here is your father.

If I understand it correctly, your father does not want to tell the family how he actually feels. I can't really give any advise of how to handle that but I will say this. Please ensure that he tells someone what is really going on and that he goes to the doctors. My grandfather was feeling ill for several months but he down played it and even his doctor thought it was just normal nausea from his medication. It was his liver, and when we finally realized what was happening it was to late to fix, he died a couple of weeks later.
 

Phoenix

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TooPatient|1306775053|2933775 said:
My step-father's parents are both older and in poor health. They own their home (about 5 minutes from my mother's parents) and are very proud/stubborn/independent people.


Currently:

My step-father cuts their grass, takes out the trash
My mother takes D shopping for her groceries and helps with food prep
One of the brothers pays for a house cleaning lady to come in a couple of times a week
The two sisters take them to dr appointments
Various kids/grandkids help around the yard, clean the house, bring food, etc

Most days they have at least one family member stop by to see how they are and help where needed.


What the family is working towards is having a family member (maybe a different each week) over at the start of each week to "help" D with her food prep so that during the week she just has to pull a pan out of the refrigerator and put it in the oven. We're also hoping to get an assortment of soups and other stuff frozen in meal sized portions so she can pull that out whenever she wants too.
It is really tricky balancing the care & help they need with the independence they enjoy. I'm quite certain that if either went into a home or they had people waiting on them all day every day, they'd just shut down and give up on life.
Thank you, TooPatient, for sharing. I'm glad that your mother and her siblings as well as various grandkids are able to help with your step-father's parents. I think that a roster like what you guys have is ideal (or at least as ideal as it can possibly be). It's great that everyone is able to chip in and that most days, at least one family member steps by to check on them. I totally understand the grandparents' needs for independence. They want to feel that they're not totally helpless, and yet having someone to check in on them and help them out give them that option of being independent and yet they're not totally alone and/ or not looked after.

This is more or less the arrangement that DH's family has for his mother ( though his mother actually lives with one of the sisters and her husband and child). I think it's really great.
 

Italiahaircolor

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My family (mom, dad, sister, myself and my husband) are currently taking care of my elderly grandmother. She has Alzheimer's disease. It's an exhausting practice. We all have our roles to play, and we divide it up as much as we can.

My mother, however, is her primary caregiver, despite the fact that she had 3 other siblings. The siblings will come around with their hands out, but outside of that, they are entirely worthless. It's an endless disappointment, because my mother refuses to put my grandmother into a home/assisted living/care facility because my aunt needs the money on the other end.

So, how we do it...

My husband and I worry the finances and the estate. We do the heavy lifting getting things thinned out and ready to go. We logistically handle things so that it's not one more thing for my mom to handle.

My sister provides care for grandmother when my mom needs a break. It's very hard on my sister. My grandmother has started wandering and takes a lot of physical frustration out on my sister.

My mom and dad have my grandmother in home. They feed her, take her out, meet her needs.

Is it fair? Not by a mile. I am incredibly resentful of the siblings, I want them to do more. I am watching this really, in many ways, kill my mom. She is constantly stressed, exhausted. My mother and I haven't gone out together alone in 3 years. The little things are passing by and ... it's just way to much to get into.
 

Phoenix

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minmin001|1306781074|2933833 said:
my fiance's parents are currently in good health. (very proud and independent people as well) his grandmother however put her DH in the nursing home that's 2min away from their house when he was in poor health and now she is in there herself after he passed away. (But I know that's consider really bad in Asian culture)
Thank you, minmin, for sharing. Glad to hear your FI's parents are in good health. I'm sure yr FI's grandmother had her own reasons.
 

Phoenix

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Phoenix

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swingirl|1306798823|2934040 said:
My MIL is 96 and most of her children are in their 60's and 70's, with their own set of health issues. Her children visit her often and are there for company and support but no one can really take on the physical chores. She lives on her own and wants to stay that way. The only thing to do was to hire a woman who comes over several times a week, does laundry, keeps the place tidy, is present while my MIL bathes and does some errands and shopping.

It's a perfect situation. No one feels obligated to do physical labor or take time off work to run an errand. No guilt for anyone. My MIL is well taken care of and when her family comes over it's strictly to visit, go out to lunch, see a play or go to a doctor's appointment. Not everyone is cut out for care giving.
Thank you for sharing, swingirl.

I think that getting someone to come in once in a while (am thinking at least once a week or once every two weeks) to clean is a brilliant idea. Just to clarify, one of my sisters does come over once very two weeks to bring groceries for my dad. From what I could gather whilst I was there, whilst this is fantastic and I am grateful to my sis, these are the basic necessities, like rice, meat, fish and veggies. It's already a lot of money but more importantly a lot of time and effort on her part. When I was there, I bought some other stuff, like more fruit and a wider variety of fruit and veggies, cookies, exotic teas, luxury items like lobster, caviar and smoked salmon etc. He was soooo happy (i know his tatste I guess) and told me that it'd been some long years since he'd had such items. He also enjoyed the fact that I cooked for him and commented that my food was so much tastier than the stuff he usually cooks for himself, poor thing! :((

So I mentioned last night that perhaps I could order online with Waitrose and have them deliver the foods (stuff other than what my sis buys for him) and perhaps have yet another person/ company deliver Vietnamese cooked/ ready to eat food. He poo-poo'ed both ideas. I think it's because he doesn't want to bother us and wants to stay independent. I'm just going to go ahead with the online delivery first and see how he reacts. I've got to at least try. It's obvious to me that one of the reasons he's so frail is because he doesn't eat enough/ is not getting enough of the required nutrients, because his own cooking is "not very tasty".

Then, I will get someone to come clean the place for him. Perhaps a massive spring cleaning to start with (the place is quite filthy - though I did try and clean some, but it's really beyond me, it needs professional cleaning), to be followed by periodic cleaning. I'm sure the state of the place is contributing to his poor health.

No that's right, not everyone is cut out for caring, and no point in me trying to cajolt them into doing it. Either you wanna do it or you don't.
 

Phoenix

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luv2sparkle|1306802026|2934093 said:
I have found Phoenix, that it does often fall to one child in the family. I took care (along with my husband) of my mother until she died. I am the youngest of 4, and my siblings are 20+ years older than me. I had 4 young children at the time. My siblings did very little. They all had children my age. Only one brother lived within 100 miles. My brother wanted my mom to live close to him but it would have made it even harder for me, and my mom specifically asked that he not have the power of attorney and not be allowed to make decisions. He was very vocal in criticizing me after the fact though. I would have liked whatever help they could have given me, but it really fell to me.

My husbands parents will soon need care. When his parents were sick at the beginning of the year we were making the 5 hour drive
to see them every week and were the only one. He has a brother that lives closer to them that we do by about 2 hours. It will come
down to us I am sure.

From my experience I would say, I would contact your siblings and say that you are concerned and offer to do whatever they need.
You are limited by your distance, but knowing that you are willing to do what you can is always a good thing. Maybe you could offer to
be there if they need you, but you would like to keep informed about what is going on with your dad. I would have been very happy
with that and would have been willing to keep my siblings updated. I don't know if cultural differences would keep you from doing
that, but it sounds as if that is all you can really do.
Thank you, luv2sparkle. It was sooo good of you and yr husband to take of your mother. It's awful of yr brother to criticise you, especially not when it was you that took care of your mother. I'm sorry to hear that.

It's so good also that your husband's parents will be taken care of by yourself and yr husband. I'm sure they appreciate that. Gosh, a 5-hr drive to see them every week when they were ill. Isn't that strange that the other children don't seem to bother?!

I've been trying to talk to my siblings but am VERY careful in what I say. As mentioned before and as others have also said, I'm the youngest daughter, and one of the 3 children that live away and therefore don't want to be accused of being bossy/ being on my high horse, whatever.... It appears though not much is going to change! :nono: It'll essentially be down to my sister (the one that comes by with the groceries) and myself, it seems. I don't even want to mention some of the other stuff... :sick:
 

Phoenix

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charbie|1306802969|2934108 said:
Im not sure what services are offered in the UK, but I know here in the States many counties have services available to the elderly at discounted rates. I work in a nursing home/rehab center and we very often refer families to homemaker services that can be discounted due to age or income.
Thank you, charbie. That's a really great idea. I will look into it and ask around also.
 

KimberlyH

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My husband cared for, either entirely or in part, all of his elderly family members (parents, two aunts and an uncle). His mom helped him care for his father, aunts and uncles, until she needed him to take over care for his aunt and his mom as she was too ill to do so. He hired help (caregivers etc.) when necessary and did the rest of the care himself (household management, doctors appointments, etc.). His mom and Uncle ended their lives in nursing homes as their needs were to great for him to meet.

My husband has a step and half sibling, but neither of them chose to be involved. There's nothing that could be done to change that so he just let it be.
 

Phoenix

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Thank you very much, everyone, for your kind input and recommendations and for sharing.

My dad's health checks have come back. He doesn't have any problem with his heart or hips (which I was very worried about). He seems to have sciatica and is awaiting for an MRI to have it confirmed. I've also been looking for a physio-therapist for him to have some of his symptoms relieved. As for groceries, he keeps refusing but my nephew and I are looking to order some stuff for him online (other than the staples that he already receives). The other thing is the cleaniness of the place and I've suggested that he gets someone in to do a spring-cleaning; and thus far he has refused. I obviously can't force him but hope that he'll change his mind as the dirtinness/ messiness of the place cannot be helping his health.

Most of my siblings are not going to change; and I can't tell them what to do. I get that. But at least as I mentioned one of my sisters is bringing him groceries on a regular basis. And I will continue to keep in touch with him on a regular basis and may fly back more often to be with him.

Thank you again, PS'ers.
 

TooPatient

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I'm glad to hear his heart and hips are okay. Hopefully some therapy will make him feel better.

I wonder if you can get people in to clean his house without actually "paying for someone" to clean his house. He sounds very independant and proud and I'm sure he doesn't want to be a burden. You might try taking a less direct approach so that he is willing to accept it --- maybe something like you won a raffle at your kids' school and the prize is a year of house keeping service.
(my 76 year old grandfather doesn't want us to buy him stuff for around the house and even if we bring him a gift he wants to pay us back for it... my solution has been to "upgrade" at home so that really he's doing us a favor by taking this so it isn't just laying around picking up dust :)) )
 
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    A Classic Solitaire
    August Birthstones: Peridot And Sardonyx
    August Birthstones: Peridot And Sardonyx
    The Original: Princess Raiyah Of Jordan
    The Original: Princess Raiyah Of Jordan

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