Both my mom, 80, and my dad, 85, decided this would be a good year to stop seeing their doctors and stop taking their blood pressure medicines.
My dad, who had a pacemaker implanted in his chest six months ago, says he gives up on doctors.
His plan is to die soon. He seems to look forward to it like a child anticipating Christmas.
He’s in almost constant pain these days but lost all faith in doctors long ago.
Mom doesn’t want to go to the doctor because she doesn’t want to be found out.
She’s worried her escalating dementia, or whatever it is that is causing her to become increasingly forgetful and confused, will be diagnosed, and she’ll be sent to the loony bin.
I gave up months ago trying to talk to them directly, adult to adult, about the health and safety concerns I have for them. Each attempt was met with growling and “mind your own business” and other unpleasantness.
For whatever reasons, they are more comfortable taking directions from my brother, so I’ve let him handle mediations with them. Only now they aren’t listening even to him.
My brother and I have finally come to a crossroads, officially giving up hope they will ever pick up a phone and make the doctor appointments themselves.
We've come to realize, if we don't make the appointments for them, they will never go.
My brother called their doctor and will be taking them next week.
What’s helped us most recently is a third-party elder care assessment service, provided by United Healthcare Services, called EverCare. I’m very lucky and grateful that this service is paid for through my work, but anyone can hire an elder care service like this, and I believe it’s a valuable investment.
They came to my parents’ house a few weeks ago, asked lots of questions about their health, aches, pains, concerns, mobility issues, what meds they were and weren’t taking and so on.
From that came a report: recommendations on improvements that would need to be made to the house if they want to continue living there; suggestions for safety (“don’t walk around the house in socks” was one); they also researched and recommended assisted living facilities for us.
It’s sad to see your aging parents start acting like children, making dangerous and irresponsible decisions. But equally challenging is how to intervene in a way that respects their dignity.
If they truly do prefer to stay in the home they love until they die, who are we to say they can’t?
To me, the line is drawn when they start putting themselves and others at risk.
My mom is still driving. She’s never had an accident and her dementia is not yet so fully progressed that it’s impacted her ability to drive. Yet that could change in a week, a month, a year, who knows? When is the right time to tell her she can’t drive anymore?
And that’s just one of the tricky questions my brother and I will have to grapple with in coming months.
I visited my parents last weekend.
As we said our goodbyes, my dad turned into Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. “Why’d ya waste all that gas coming all the way up here for? What are you? Rich or something?”
My parents live in Arnold, about three hours from San Ramon, in the mountains, where snow is still falling in June, as if to underscore the upside down-ness I’ve been feeling lately.
I held dad’s hand; felt his fingers, big like sausages, wrap around mine and squeeze me tight.
I looked straight into his watery, grey-blue eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe because I love you, Dad?” I told him.
“I love you, too,” he said, his voice breaking. “I love you to pieces.”