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jonsblond's avatar

What can I do to help my elderly father get through this emotional loss?

Asked by jonsblond (43772points) 1 week ago from iPhone

My 89 year old father had a series of falls last summer and fall that led us to the decision that he could no longer live alone in his home of thirty years. He has lived alone for ten years since my mother passed. During this time his eyesight also became worse. He has wet macular degeneration and he can hardly read. He had to give up driving at this point as well.

We moved him from Illinois to my hometown in Wisconsin at the end of January. He’s living in an independent senior apartment complex not far from me. He relies on me and my husband to read mail, write checks and be his eyes for everything, as well as driving him to appointments and get groceries.

My father is adjusting pretty well but he has moments of depression from missing his independence. He gets frustrated because he can’t read or drive.

Have any of you had this experience with a loved one? How did you help them cope?

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17 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

All I could do is listen and be present emotionally and physically. We went shopping, paid bills, went on drives. Anything to get her up and smiling.
It’s very difficult but also incredible moving, helping a parent in decline.
I always tell my friends to be strong and very present because it can go very fast. Treasure every second. Hugs.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Look up Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

jca2's avatar

Would he be willing to attend a senior program, even if just once a week? Your town may have transportation for seniors to the program, they may provide lunch or it might be bring your own lunch, but it will get him out and seeing people. They may have trips, too. They may also have a social worker at the program that will be able to hook him (and you, as his caretaker) up with more resources.

JLeslie's avatar

Your Q will be very helpful for me. My dad was just diagnosed with macular degeneration, he’s in his 80’s and your situation could be mine in years to come.

My dad is a voracious reader and the first thing I thought about was him losing his ability to read. I wonder if your dad would be interested in listening to books? Many are on audio now?

I think visiting as much as you can is helpful, sounds like you are doing that. Being patient and listening. Does the long term care have activities he can participate in that he isn’t taking advantage of?

Also, there might be zoom groups where he can interact with people and make online friends. The zooms have phone numbers, you don’t have to use a computer.

Have you contacted any organizations for blind people? Maybe they have some helpful suggestions.

smudges's avatar

I don’t have any advice other than the excellent ones above, but my heart goes out to you both. I just can’t imagine how difficult and painful it must be for him. <3

mazingerz88's avatar

^^Agree. Great ideas and suggestions above.

What caught my attention was the series of falls he had which I can only assume were minor falls where he was able to get up and there were no hospitalization required?

Wondering if his emotional state along with the unfortunate loss of eyesight might have something to do with the falls.

That would have to be addressed as well if that’s the case. Sometimes frustrations could lead to carelessness. And a really bad fall would make everyone’s daily life way more challenging.

It will be very costly but having a constant caregiver / companion might help in the long term.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Our situation was different, but I will tell it for whatever insight it might bring.

For what it’s worth, my mother died at age 90. Her last five years went thus:

2017 – The move out of the old family home
—Mom had dementia, we kids all lived out-of-state. It was evident it was not safe for her to live alone (in the family home where she had been living by herself for 15 years).

2017–2019 – Successful move to assisted living apartment
—We sold the house and moved Mom to assisted living
—She thrived. She ate with her friends in the restaurant-style dining room and participated in on-site classes in crafts, reading club, and exercise.

2020 – Severe depression
—Mom stopped leaving her apartment. She talked about dying. She asked one of the staff about methods of suicide.
—A social worker said “memory care” would be a better fit. I had never heard of it before that moment.

2020–2022 – Successful move to memory care
—We moved Mom to a memory care facility, with communal living. All meals are together. Doors were open so residents and staff could visit each other at will. They did laundry together, watched movies, played games, listened to music…It was like they were on a cruise together with staff taking care of all their needs and providing entertainment and diversions and company.

She died in the summer of 2022. She was in good spirits and fun to be with until the end. She went peacefully. She was tired and ready to go. It was expected and not a bad end to a long life. RIP MOM

recovered from suicidal depression at age 85 to live another few years in good spirits.

SnipSnip's avatar

Your time is the best thing you can give him. I believe that to be the answer to almost all questions of “how to help” elderly people. They want to feel like they are still part of the living, like they actually are. Another way is to let them do something for you sometimes. If he makes himself a sandwich, let him make one for you too. Parents never stop feeling like parents. My mother told me to “shush” a couple days ago. She’s 90. I shushed.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

I didn’t read everybody else’s responses, but first of all, kudos to you for doing what you’re doing for your father! Not all children care enough to look after their parents as they get older, and many just ship them off to a nursing home.

This is a tough one. My mom was absolutely furious when we told her she needed to give up her license. She had had two fender benders in the past 4 months and her car insurance was going to skyrocket. Her eyesight was getting worse and she also had the beginning stages of dementia so it was just something that had to happen. I also saw a further decline in her as she was able to read less and I do think that she probably was somewhat depressed as well. Although that might have been somewhat offset by her dementia. Sort of a mixed blessing, if you will.

Is there some sort of hobby that you can get him interested in where he doesn’t have to use his eyes a whole lot? I know that’s a tough question because we use our eyes for so much. And I know in our area, although we never used it because one of us was always able to take my mom where she needed to go, they had sort of a senior shuttle type thing where she could have gotten a ride when she needed one. I guess I can just say to be as encouraging as possible and see if you can find something for your father to be interested in as his capabilities decrease.

Lastly, what about a pet? Has he had pets in the past and do you think he would like one now? Pets are wonderful because they help get people’s focus off what they’re going through.

@SnipSnip I love that! For a while my mom was still able to cook not real complicated things and she would make dinner that we could both enjoy. And I think she liked being able to do that, so great idea!

longgone's avatar

If he likes animals at all, organize animal time. He might still be able to take care of an elderly dog or cat, with your help. Alternatively, maybe he can “pet sit” a dog who needs no care, but just gets lonely when his people leave the house for a few hours. Or maybe there’s a local volunteer organization you could talk to for facilitating animal time. Here, people visit the elderly with dogs, rabbits, and chickens.

If he doesn’t like animals, try to think of something else he can take care of. A plant? A (grand)child?

There’s an app called “Be My Eyes” that can connect people with poor eyesight with volunteers. That might help your dad feel more independent. Sometimes, it’s much harder to lean on family.

Lastly, ask his advice. Show him he’s still needed.

LadyMarissa's avatar

You’ve gotten some excellent advice above!!! Only thing I would point out is that you’re thinking he’s depressed from moving out of his old home into his new home. I can pretty much assure you that he became depressed not long after your mom passed & he’s been hiding it from you & dealing with it himself. Now with everything snowballing on him, & you’re more involved in his life, you are seeing it with your own eyes. There are just some days that the depression voices in his head are more relentless than others!!! Whatever you do, do NOT start taking away some of the things that he can still do away from him. It takes a keen eye to be able to see the difference & it’s way too easy to try & help him when he still can do it himself. So, let him try to do it himself & push him to ask for help when he really needs it. He will put off saying ” help please” for longer than he needs to but it will give him a sense of CONTROL in his life. You’d be surprised how much control well meaning people simply snatch away from others simply because they aren’t as good as they used to be!!! That will also help him to SEE where he is really having a problem & maybe understand better when you have to take the next step forward, LOVE him without smothering him. Yes, there’s a lot that he can no longer do…still there is a lot that he can still do so let him try it!!!

Check into an elderly home sitter. There are many elderly people who are willing to sit with someone who needs some assistance & are old enough to understand some of the challenges that comes with age. They give the patient somebody their own age to dump their feelings on. Almost ALL their real friends have passed on & they get lonely with no one who actually cares to talk to. You might be able to trust this person enough to learn when you really have a problem & when you’re overreacting.

seawulf575's avatar

When I was married the first time, we bought a house in the middle of nowhere. We were on a dead end dirt road and we were the only occupied house on the road. There was a house across the street but it was owned by an old couple that kept it to do their gardening. When I met them, they were in hip waders, shoveling muck out of the bottom of their pond to use as fertilizer on their garden. He was 92, she was a child bride of 87. She acted closer to her age though she was very active. He didn’t hit me as 92. I guessed him to be in his early 80’s at most.

When he was 94, he had a groundhog that was getting into his garden. He was pissed and decided to get that varmint. He got his shotgun and positioned himself in the bushes next to the creek and waited for it to show. His wife was, of course, afraid to go out because she was sure he’d think she was the groundhog and shoot her. Eventually, as the sun started to go down he thought he saw his opponent and took a shot. Unfortunately for him, he was right next to the creek and it was about a 6’ drop into the water. The kick of the shotgun caused him to step back and he fell. He didn’t break anything but he did hurt his hip and couldn’t get back up the bank. He called to his wife, but she was in the house that was probably 100 yds away. Eventually she got worried and went out to found him. He had been sitting in the water for about 2 hours. She found him, got him up and helped him to a place where the bank was at ground level. He got sent to the hospital. The doctors said he wasn’t truly hurt, just bruised. They said he was physically no more than most 75 years olds.

But from that point, he changed. He had an experience where he was no longer able to take care of himself doing something he didn’t see as basic behavior. He almost started acting like he was 94 years old and the end was near. He died 2 weeks shy of his 95th birthday.

I hate to say it but this might be what your father is going through. His life just did a complete change that spelled out loud and clear that he was old. Whether he sees any reason to keep living is up to him. You will not be able to tell him anything or treat him in any way that will make him see it. You can love him and be there for him but that is about it. Do NOT treat him with pity.

snowberry's avatar

If you have people (professionals or otherwise) coming into his home to help him, do go through the place, and remove everything of value that could be stolen. Be sure that meds are locked up, and that only people you trust are managing his medication.

chyna's avatar

@snowberry Good advice. One of the caregivers of my mom’s stole all of her pain meds.
People can be such idiots.

MrGrimm888's avatar

My father recently has suddenly started showing real bad signs of dementia.
My mother has started taking him to a neurologist.
It’s just as absolutely awful, as I predicted it would be for him.
Watching him, drag my mother with him, is like something I can’t articulate.
I hope, with ALL of my heart, that things will “work out, for the best.” Whatever the fuck THAT means…...

@jonsblond I can only offer you my support, as I am struggling mightily as well.
It sounds like at least you are capable of helping.
Not everyone can afford a nice place. I can barely afford to live, and I can’t really contribute much. But I do chores, fix things, plant things for my Mom, garden, etc and although that is woefully inadequate, it is all I have.

I think… There perhaps comes a time, when all we can do is try to be nice to someone.
My doctor always said “if things get really bad, I want people to give me lots of ice cream.”
“Even if I don’t know I’m alive, I know I will still enjoy eating ice cream.”
He passed away, during the Covid years. When I was in ICUs, and dealing with my own problems.

He was SUCH a great man. He was my doctor since I was a teenager. He always helped me as much as he could, to keep expenses down for me.
I hope, he got to eat lots of ice cream….

jonsblond's avatar

I spent the day with him taking him to doctors appointments and grocery shopping. I don’t have time to respond to everyone yet but please know I’ve read every response and I appreciate you all so much. I’ll respond Tuesday.

jonsblond's avatar

Thank you for the link @Tropical_Willie!

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