General Question

wundayatta's avatar

How did your family handle the last years of a parent?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) November 8th, 2011

In this question, Cazzie tells a story of some serious bad feelings that arose between siblings as they tried to care for her mother. In my wife’s family, something similar happened.

My question is open to all, but I am particularly interested in hearing from people who had experiences where good family relations were preserved. In particular, those families whose members live far apart geographically.

How did you manage to keep things civil? How did you organize your parent’s care? How many siblings or grands were involved? How was the work distributed? What issues did you face? How did you resolve them?

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13 Answers

snowberry's avatar

Because I am an only child, I do not qualify to answer this question regarding family members living far apart. But we still had our issues. I knew the law looks hard at someone who has both financial and medical power of attorney. For that reason I begged not to be made to have to handle both. I took care of the medical part, and my son in law took care of the financial part. The problem came in because Dad didn’t like how we were helping him, even though the use of funds was legitimate. It finally got so bad that he accused ME of stealing from him, and so I told him he had to move to an assisted living center because I couldn’t take care of him anymore. Abuse of the elderly is big business for attorneys, and I knew someone would be more than happy to take him on and lift both of us of our cash.

It made me really sad because I intended to take care of my father until his last breath.

janbb's avatar

My parents lived near me in a continuing care place; my Dad was in the nursing home wing for the last four years of his life. My mother and I have always had “issues.” My brother had offered to have them both move near him but I didn’t think it was feasible while my Dad was so sick. When he died and my mother was awful to me, I raised the issue again and my brother, a year later, did move her out to a serie of homes near him – across the country from me. She has raised havoc there but is now relatively calm in a good place. While my sibs and I are not particularly close, we don’t have different ideas about her care or what interventions should or shouldn’t take place.

cazzie's avatar

I have 4 sisters and 4 brothers. We’re not all going to get along. We were most certainly not going to agree on who did their share or enough, or who treated Dad like a child and disrespected him and who wasn’t there to find him near death on the floor of his retirement unit or who took away his car keys and locked him out of his own house and garage when the doctor said it was perfectly OK for him to drive or who cheered when they heard he went in his tool shed and managed to take the door off his garage to get to his own car so he could drive himself to his monthly hair cut.

Honestly…. now that it’s all over and I had my first time back with my ‘family’ since the death and funeral of both my parents, I am set on not spending my precious vacation time having to suffer the slings and arrows. (yeah, that’s me, taking a Hamlet quote and considering my birth circumstance an ‘outrageous fortune’. I opt to take arms against my sea of troubles and end them, rather than suffer them)

Judi's avatar

When Mom was diagnosed, My sisters and I made a pact that we would Shepherd her through the process with no regrets. We intentionally listened to the regrets of others about their parents passing and made a conscious decision to not repeat them. We respected moms wishes. All of us (even mom) are managers, so we decided that SHE would be the manager of her death. We all had jobs.
The oldest was in charge of medications. When we asked mom why, she just said, “because she’s the oldest.”
My next older sister was in charge of reading cards and mail to her. She was the one that lived local and knew all my mom’s friends.Mom loved that she was getting so many cards. She said, “This is so neat! It’s like reading all your sympathy cards before you die!”
I was in charge of getting her to the bathroom and all the physical transporting and care. I had been a nurses aid in High School and I knew how to transfer and turn her without hurting myself.
We spent a lot of time during those 3 months listening to and recording stories. We all have an appreciation of history, and knew that with mom’s death, a piece of history would be lost.
We also rubbed her feet with frankincense and coconut oil. Not only does it mask the smell of death, which can be unsettling, it calms everyone in the room and reminded us all that what we were doing was a sacred privilege.
Even though my sisters and I don’t agree on a lot. We have had our issues, and we were not near as close as we had once been, we ALL took the responsibility to accompany mom on that final leg of her journey very seriously.
As mom left this earth, we were singing her into heaven, singing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
We all felt so privileged to have been there.

cazzie's avatar

@Judi…. tears….. that was beautiful.

the sister that I am closest to in age, who is a nurse and administered the morphine… she read Winnie the Pooh to Mom. That was the book she used to teach the two of us to read. She leaned over mom at the end and told her that her sisters were waiting for her and that she should let go and be with them.

Ron_C's avatar

My brothers are scattered across the country. I was the last to visit dad. He was in the hospital for a couple days but the doctor didn’t consider it a real problem. He actually made an appointment for Dad for a couple months down the road.

I went shopping for a new bed and called on the way back to see if Dad wanted to go to lunch. He didn’t answer so I assumed he was taking a nap. When I got to his house he was sitting in his easy chair holding the remote and the news was on. I tried to wake him but couldn’t. I called 9–11 and broke down when the EMS arrived.

There is no easy way to handle this stuff, you just have to concentrate on the job at hand. I made phone calls to my brothers and wife. The whole family gathered for a funeral during two consecutive 3 foot snowfalls. I was actually glad for the distraction of the snowfall.

We are a boisterous family and have many minor arguments but we all came together because no matter what we love dad.

janbb's avatar

@Ron_C I remember when you were going through that.

Ron_C's avatar

@janbb yes, and I should probably have mentioned how many of you helped me get through that time. I can’t describe how much you all helped. Love you all!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When my Grandfather had sudden strokes and heart attacks requiring multi bypass surgery, my mother and I came together, she in Southern California and me in Northern California. We previously hadn’t been close aside from some holiday meetups a few times a year but with my Grandfather in need, we met in central CA every 3 days to switch off staying with and taking care of him. There were times she would break down emotionally and I would take over, we put aside any rivalries in order to do by Grandfather the best we could. I think that sad part of our live rekindled our communication and involvement with each other.

YARNLADY's avatar

My parents went rather quickly, so there was no issue.

My Father-In-Law was eligible for Veterans benefits, so he had in-home care and a Van to take him to the Veteran’s Hospital for the frequent doctor appointments. When he developed a heart murmur and chose not to have surgery, we contacted a Hospice service, and they provided the help needed until he passed on.

My Mother-In-Law has chosen to move into an assisted living apartment, a year and half after Dad passed away.

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rojo's avatar

We are dealing with that now (see post on hoarding earlier).
The big thing is to start talking as a family, and preferably while both parents are still around. Have a guideline you can refer to because when the end comes, no matter how expected it is, it is traumatic for the survivors and everyone operates in a state of shock.
There are certain things you can do now.
1. Get all important papers together and know where they are kept. (hopefully in a safe place)
2. Both parents need a separate will, preferably signed and notarized, indicating their wishes as to the disposition of their worldly possessions. You need to have the original somewhere where it is readily available and everyone needs to know where it is.
3. You need to have a medical durable power of attorney for both, set up to kick in if/when they are incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves.
4. Someone needs power of attorney. Again, these can be set up with restrictions or triggers.
5. Someone needs to be on each and every bank account, checking, savings and retirement. You also need to be able to deal with their accountant, cpa or whomever.
6. Do they have stocks, bonds, mutual funds? Who will handle access them in the event of an emergency or death?
7. Are there life insurance policies? Who with (names and numbers)?
8. You need to have a list showing each doctor they are seeing with phone numbers, addresses and preferably an office contact.
9. You need to know each and every medication they are taking, where they get them (Pharmacy with phone number, doctor who prescribed them etc.
10. How do your parents feel about assisted living facilities? Do they have a preference (Y or N) or can or will they visit some together to see what it is all about.
11. You need to know the wishes of each parent in the case of hospitalization. Where do they want to go? How aggressive do you want to pursue treatment? What about a “do not resuscitate” order?
12. In the event of death, what are the parents wishes? Cremation or burial? Which funeral home? Church service or private? Do they have a plot or where would they like to buy buried?
13.This is difficult for all, possibly the most difficult because it really brings home our mortality) but in the long run, it is easier for the surviving spouse and children. Have each parent physically choose a casket or urn. At the very least specify how much they want spent on one.

Basically, get everything you can in writing, get copies of all important papers, have multiple copies available to all family members and get as much input from your parents as you possibly can. If you are following their wishes, there will be less conflict between the siblings.

On a personal level, my sister lives in town and takes care of moms needs. My brother and I defer to her judgment for the day to day care. Because she is in town, she has access to the checking accounts and power of attorney but calls both of us before any major activity to get our input. Each of us have medical power of attorney in case something happens during a visit. I handle most of the paperwork items unless it can be done locally by my sister. We also decided to continue using my folks local tax consultant for the upcoming income tax next year because he is familiar with the family and has been doing it for years. We stay in contact frequently and act as a sounding board or shoulder to cry on when necessary. I have fielded up to six calls a day from my sister but she bears the brunt of the problems associated with the care. Mom still lives in her own home and my sister, BIL and nieces visit daily, sometimes all, sometimes only one. We visit when we can and call Mom at least once a week. We have not had any major problems between the three of us
Personally, I feel guilty that I cannot do more, as does my brother, but families are far ranging these days we are 12 and 14 hours away; which is why we felt like we needed everything I outlined above on paper. I wish we had done it before dad passed away last February. My sister had a very traumatic 14 hours before my brother and I got there to help out. But we have it now.

Aster's avatar

I did everything. Daily visits, paying his bills, doing his paperwork, bringing groceries for their tiny refrigerator, buying new clothes, flowers for birthdays, wrapped Christmas gifts and the minute my mother passed away my father treated me worse than dirt . The head of nursing convinced him I had spent all his money and he took me to court after having me investigated. In neither scenario was he right and he lost. His lawyer got zero. I hope she burns. I continued to visit him anyway but only once a week.

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