Caring For Aging Parents: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now!
True Story for Your Consideration: I was a photographer and taught at UCLA, and then a successful television executive, but I barely survived the stress of being a caregiver to my challenging elderly father and sweet ailing mother, both with Alzheimer’s which went undiagnosed for over a year. But after fighting through an unsympathetic medical system and depleting my parents’ life savings and most of my own, with sheer determination I figured everything out medically and behaviorally. Passion to save others (especially from getting so frustrated they commit elder abuse) resulted in a best-selling book, launching a radio show to help caregivers, and becoming an international speaker on eldercare issues. This article will educate your readers on issues that so unnecessarily cost a year of my life—and then nearly my life itself when I was diagnosed with invasive Br. Cancer.
CARING FOR AGING PARENTS: If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now!
For eleven years I pleaded with my elderly father to allow a caregiver to help him with my ailing mother, but after 55 years of loving each other he adamantly insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired to help him sighed in exasperation, "Jacqueline, I just can't work with your father–his temper is impossible to handle. I don't think he’ll accept help until he's on his knees himself."
My father had always been 90% great, but boy-oh-boy that temper was a doozy. He’d never turned it on me before, but then again I'd never gone against his wishes either. When my mother nearly died from an infection caused by his inability to continue to care for her, I flew from southern California to San Francisco to try to save her life–having no idea that in the process it would nearly cost me my own.
EARLY SIGNS OF DEMENTIA?
I spent three months nursing my 82-pound mother back to relative health, while my father said he loved me one minute, but then he’d get furious over some trivial little thing, call me nasty names and throw me out of the house the next. I was shocked to see him get so upset, even running the washing machine could cause a tizzy, and there was no way to reason with him. It was so heart wrenching to have my once-adoring father turn so much against me.
I immediately took my father to his doctor and was flabbergasted that he could act so darling and sane when he needed to. I could not believe it when the doctor looked at me as if I was the crazy one. She didn’t even take me seriously when I reported that my father nearly electrocuted my mother, but luckily I walked in three seconds before he plugged in a power strip that was soaking in a tub of water–along with my mother’s feet! Much later I was furious to find out my father had instructed his doctor (and everyone) not to listen to me, because I was just a (bleep-bleep) liar and all I wanted was his money. (I wish he had some.)
Then things got serious. My father had never laid a hand on me my whole life, but one day nearly choked me to death for adding HBO to his television, even though he had eagerly consented to it just a few days before. Terrified, I dialed 911 and the police took him to the hospital for evaluation. I was so stunned when they released him right away, saying they couldn't find anything wrong with him. What is even more astonishing is that similar incidents occurred three more times.
CAREGIVER CATCH 22
I was trapped. I couldn't fly home and leave my mother alone with my father–she'd surely die from his inability to care for her. I couldn't get healthcare professionals to help–my father was always so normal in front of them. I couldn't get medication to calm him and even when I did–he refused to take it, threw it in my face or flushed it down the toilet. I couldn't get my father to accept a caregiver and even when I did–no one would put up with him very long. I couldn't place my mother in a nursing home–he'd just take her out. I couldn't put him in a home–he didn't qualify. They both refused Assisted Living and legally I couldn't force them. I beca