Need Advice About my Dad

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Hi all,

My mother died suddenly of a heart attack 4 days before Christmas, and since then things with my Dad have gone from bad to worse. He is 74, has some mobility issues, diabetes, and has had a general lack of motivation throughout my life. Now that Mum has gone it has become apparent just how unevenly work around the house was split!
I am 33, and after struggling very badly throughout my 20's, I have finally gotten myself a decent career, and have some prospects - unfortunately, all of this is in London, and my father is in the Midlands.
He has been pretty ill over the last few days, bedbound, shivering, confused, and I really don't think he has been looking after himself properly at all. Sounds like he has been eating nothing but cakes, sweets, out of date chicken and soured milk. What are my options here? He won't reach out to anybody for help - including family and neighbours, but if I move back to care for him, it will be the end of any chance I might have of owning my own home one day. At my wits end, desperate for advice, and every day feeling like I just want everything to be over.
Just restrict yourself to one week leave to visit and try to put something in place for him, ask for a weeks special leave if you can?

Has he got a good pension income that he can afford to pay for help?
My job doesn't really allow for leave - however, I will be between projects in a months time, at which point I intend on going back for a few months to try and get him back on his feet a bit. He doesn't have a good pension - Mums death has meant a significant drop in his household income, whilst a raise in the amount of money he has to pay out on council tax. As a recent graduate with £56000 of student debt, I live in the back of a transit van to make ends meet, so I'm not exactly able to help financially either. He seems like he will only be going downhill from here, and I spend my days caught between guilt and anger. My mental health has already suffered terribly, and the fact that he refuses to help himself in any way - instead choosing to put it all on me - is pushing me closer and closer towards a breakdown.
Should I be getting a carer in for him? Is that how it works? Who pays for it? Is it means tested? Is it all private these days? Where do I even start?
Start with his GP practice and his current shivering symptoms.

Grief can be a terrible thing for him, many men of his age find it difficult to manage
Meals on wheels may be a good idea?
Hi, and welcome - sadly, this is all too common.

Ideally, from your dad's point of view, what he would (very probably) like is for you to move in with him and basically 'take over' from what his wife was doing for him - ie, looking after him, treating him, I suspect, like a hotel guest, so providing meals, shopping, laundry etc etc etc etc.

This, clearly, is what you must not do.

So, what IS to do?

First, don't be unduly alarmed by your father's current state. Remember, he's in bereavement (as, of course, are you) ,and six months is no time at all in respect of losing someone we love. So there is a degree of 'shock/grief/trauma' for him to contend with. In a way, it sounds like he's 'withdrawing' from a world that has become a very unhappy place for him.....

I know he's current refusing any help or 'reaching out' but again, this is partly accounted for by his emotional withdrawl as above, and also partly by denial of need (ALL too common in the elderly, sigh) and also by possibly 'hoping' that it will make YOU 'come home' and take over from your mum. (None of this is 'conscious, or deliberate' but is probably causing his current behaviour/state, whether he realises it or not.)

The whole issue of 'accepting outside help' whether it is from neighbours, or professional care workers etc etc, is desperately common on this forum! Of course our elderly parents don't want 'strangers' coming in to look after them. THey don't want to think they need care, and they don't want 'non-family' providing it.

BUT, it has to be done, and that's that. (More on this)

Second, what is his financial situation? This will determine what happens. Is he in rented accommodation, does he have a private pension as well as his state pension, does he have savings?

As you probably know, at the moment, if someone has assets (property or savings) worth more than £23,500 they are required to pay for ALL their own care.

BUT, they should also be eligible for Attendence Allowance (not princely, but every little helps!).

MEDICAL care, eg, the mobility/diabetes?, should be via the NHS, but it can be a battle to get hold of it (eg, having an occupational therapist to recommend mobility aids like grab rails, adapted showers and so on).

'Bought in care' whether we are talking cleaners (to clean the house instead of your mum!) or care-workers' (to help him shower, prepare food, help him to bed, etc etc), must be self-funded if over that threshold.

Thirdly, make a list of what he CAN do, physically (not what he 'wants' to do!). So, CAN he still drive, get to the shops, have a bath unaided, prepare his own food. Can he still manage his own finances (more on this!)

That will set your baseline.

Then, it really does become a question of whether it is going to be possible for your dad to continue living at home 'with support' (from professionals, eg, cleaners, care workers, visits maybe from district nurses etc), or if the time has come when he needs to go into some form of supported living, whether that is something like a warden-provided flat, or a full residential home. Again, finances will play a major part here!

I dont' think this wil lbe a 'quick fix' - this is going to be a task that will probably take a good few months to achieve, unless there is a sudden crisis (eg, he falls and breaks a leg), which may trigger an 'instant response'.

However, the main thing to cling to is this - under NO circumstances do you 'move in' with him, or move him in with you, to 'substitute' yourself for your mum. I know that can sound harsh, but it really is 'your life or his' and it has to be yours.....

BUT, that is not to say you 'cut him out' of your life at all - it's to make his care needs manageable by you, and sufficiently 'acceptable' to him. He may have many years of life yet, and hopefully, this time next year, his grief will be less, and his pain will have faded. He will have turned into a 'widower' in a better sense, always remembering his wife, but moving on into his own 'widowed' phase of his life.

Finally, don't think of yourself as his 'carer' - think of yourself as his 'care manager' - you are there to assess his needs, organise the care needed, oversee it, but not actively provide it on anything other than an occasional basis (eg, when you go and stay for a weekend or whatever). Your main role now is to provide companionship and affection and love, in a way that allows you to continue forging ahead with your own life, but ensuring tyour dad is well looked after on a daily basis....just not by you!

It can be done - it won't be ideal, nothing is, alas, but it will be a compromise that gives both of you something that is sustainable.

There's a wealth of experience and advice on this forum, for those of us who have the T-shirt on elder care, and know their way around the benefits system/SS/NHS etc. plus there is the team of experts at Carers UK itself too.

Kind regards at a challenging, time, Jenny
Why has his council tax gone up? He should get 25% discount as sole occupier. Was it that your mum's income was sharing the cost previously, ie, was paying 50%
Hi Timestein
Slightly tongue in cheek, but based on much experience, if you can encourage Dad to get out and start mentioning he is a widower it won't be very long before he's snapped up by another woman....
Are there any family friends/neighbours who are now single who could be candidates? if you start mentioning he's looking, they will come.
A recent neighbour became a widower and ended up fighting 4 ladies off, choosing one within the year. Another neighbour still fends them of at 92, one of his 'girlfriends' is so keen she even pays for him to accompany her on holiday!!!
Most men who decide they don't want to be on their own find someone else within a year
Ironically most women don't even start looking until at least 2 years after a break up or bereavement

Of course , you ending up with a stepmother, or step partner, brings its own ups and downs

Just an idea ;)
Hi again -

You mentioned you were desperately trying to save costs by living in the back of a van!

If that is so, maybe then considering whether to 'co-habit' with your dad is actualliy NOT a bad idea after all? However, if all your work is based in London, what would be the opportunities for moving your father closer to where you have to work, so that it makes practical sense for you to live together?

Does he own where he lives, or rent it?

I appreciate that housing costs in reach of London (and commuting costs if you are further out)(where is the van parked by the way? On a mate's forecourt?) are considerably higher than in the Midlands, but it still might be worth considering.

For your dad, for a start he might 'welcome' moving away from old memories etc, not to mention having you with him (but see below for an ESSENTIAL point about that!), as well as making financial sense for you.

However, the essential condition would be that you merely 'co-habit' - you do NOT look after him 'full time'. If you wanted to cook dinner in the evenings (assuming your project work gets you home in time for dinner!!!!), fine, but not actually the 'looking after'. You MUST keep up with your career - that is absolutely essential. The grim truth is that YOUR life will last (one obviously hopes) a lot, lot longer than your dad - yet at the same time your dad could live another quarter of a you CANNOT interrupt/give up your own life for him. That is NOT what any parent would ever want for their child, and if your dad can't see it that way any longer, because of his bereavement/depression/old age then you must 'think it for him' if you see what I mean.

Taking a break between projects is a good idea, but preferably only for a month, not longer, while you set up your dad's care. It won't be perfect, even if he stays where he is, but it will simply have to 'do'.

The hardest part will probably be 'resisting' your dad's 'emotional appeal' to you, whether spoken or unspoken, and keeping that safe 'cordon sanitaire' around your own life.

Sadly, the elderly can become very 'thoughtless' about others, and in a way whilst it's understandable that your dad wants you 'home' to 'replace' his wife - I mean in the sense of there being someone else in the house, for loneliness post-widowing is very grievous (I know!), and the bereaved often want 'somebody, anybody!' to 'fill the house' - that is what you must NOT do....unless, as I say, it's at all possible for your dad to move closer to you so you can co-habit while you work full time.

By the way, what Mrs A wrote is very true you know - widowers do get 'snapped up' as there are LEGIONS of 'spinsters, divorcees and widows' out there (I'm one of them!) 'desperate' for a 'new man in their life' (well, that isn't me, but it could be, if you see what I mean!).....and yes, statistically, men do usually remarry far more frequently - and, of course, far more easily, as there are more women in want of a man in this world at that age than the other way round! - and also because they are (usually!) (especialy that generation) more 'helpless' than women are. They just want someone to cook dinner etc etc et. (Don't mean to be rude, but it can boil down to that!)

What I would say, though, IF that is likely, then DO make sure your father's property/savings/assets are protected. There was a horrendous tale a while back here on the forum of an adult daughter horrified that a 'designing female' had got their greedy claws into their father-with-dementia, had carted him off to another doctor who, amazingly, informed the dad that he 'didn't have dementia after all'....and so got back the POA from the adult daughter, and moved away, to be royally fleeced of everything by the designing female. Sadly, it happens. (Happened to the dad of a friend of my brother's - a goldigger the same age as his daughter married him and just siphoned off ALL his money....)

(These are worst case scenarios by the way, obviously!)

Overall, and I know this can sound a bit ruthless, your prime priority now has to be YOU. YOU have all your life ahead, your dad's is into its final phase, he's lost his wife, he's ailing.....yes, it's desperately sad, but you have been through a lot, and now your life is finally coming together. Please don't let your father's decline derail that. He wouldn't want it, you know - not the 'real dad inside'.....

Kindest wishes at troubled times, but hoping you can 'fight your way into a clearing' , Jenny
PS - Just to say, these 'transition periods' where we've 'inherited' a parent in need of care of some kind, can be incredibliy stressful and difficult. BUT, once we've got them 'settled and sorted' (up to a point, ie, as much as can be, given the declining nature of their health with age and increasing infirmity), the stress levels go down again.

I was near to a breakdown in the six months or so after I 'inherited' my MIL with incipient dementia - she was 'impossible' to 'sort and settle' (mainly because she wanted to move in with me, and weeks of that at a time made me want to scream my head off in fear and terror that it would last for ten years or more and I was like I was being buried alive), BUT, after I'd 'bitten the bullet' and realised that the only possibility was to move her into residential care, which I did, and then had to organise the clearing and packing up of her flat (400 miles away), get it sold, all the furniture moved elsewhere and then sorted, and then sorting out all her finances to pay for the care home etd etc etc....after all of that, I'm now, blissfully, in a kind of 'steady state' whereby I just 'pay the bills for her' and visit her, and that, really, is that. The next 'big thing' will be when she dies, and then there is the funeral, executing the will, sorting out the residual money (there will be just about none left!), and 'disposing' of any material goods left over, either keeping them, passing them on to my son, or putting them on Ebay/charity shops etc etc. Sad, but there it is, and then a line will be drawn underneath her finally, poor soul.

So, grim and stressful though the next month or two or so will be, once it's 'sorted and settled' (in whatever way it takes - don't expect your dad to be 'happy' by the way, because a 'happy solution' is no longer possible, but just a 'doable' one), you will find your life considerably 'easier'.

Hopefully you can get to a stage where you can be 'at ease' with your dad, and enjoy a father-son relationship that is beneficial to you both emotionally.

KR as ever, J