Sunday, May 19, 2013

Growing old and dealing with aging parents

My 56th birthday is next week and good friends are taking me out to see the Triple A Redbirds play at AutoZone Park, arguably the best baseball stadium in the minor leagues.  I know it will be a good time.  But growing older has me thinking more and more about my mortality.

My 83 year old dad does a "Meals On Wheels' run every Thursday in a town near him home in suburban Scranton.  Many of these people really need this service, but a few of his "Customers" are just lazy welfare people supposedly recovering from some sort of addiction, or a bad marriage, or has a herd of kids.  Still most appreciate dad and let me know it when I helped him with his route this past week.

I know, I know, you want me to get to my point.  Patience grasshopper.  There is more.

My youngest nephew, Ben, graduated from Shippensberg University with a perfect 4.0 GPA over 4 years and was top of his class.  I'm so proud of him.

That is not necessarily off topic, but let me continue.  The day before we had drive from my parents home in a Scranton suburb (which is much nicer than Scranton), there was a huge wreck on I-81 at a major interchange in Harrisburg and all traffic got diverted to another route.  Driving through there was awful.  It only took a little under 2 hours to get to Harrisburg, but took almost almost 4 hours to get around the mess.  Dad insisted on driving, although I implored him to let me drive.  Neither of us see well.  I'm blind in one eye, from an old accident and dad just has old age issues with vision. Well we survived the mess.  Got to out motel in Carlisle, met one of my nephews and brother for dinner at my parents favorite crappy chain restaurant Cracker Barrel.  I personally hate these places and think they have lousy food and service, but mom and dad like it.

It poured all night, and my brother called me up early Saturday morning to tell me that the graduation was moved indoors to the field house and the M-Z's were going to be at 3PM.  Dad's idea of driving home on Saturday were shattered.

We all had a nice time, Ben got his degree and his honors, and we all had a nice dinner in a very good restaurant.

Here's where it gets serious.  From what I observed, Dad has early Alzheimers onset.  When not engaging with people, he hums, and hums loudly.  He hummed at the graduation, hums at church in the middle of prayers and the sermon.  Mom is no help.  She just shrugs it off, but every person from my grandmother's side of the family who lived into their 80's had dementia.  I may very well fall in that category someday.  Dad certainly is in early stages, though very aware of everything once you speak to him.

My problem here is how do I get my mom to understand or at least acknowledge that there is a problem?  And he really should not be driving anymore.

I know that the day is coming and soon I'm afraid where I'm going to have to put my parents in assisted living, and they will hate me for it.  Being the good son sometimes means doing things that may get you cut out of the will.


  1. My parents both died before they needed assisted living. They were in rehab facilities off and on for awhile, but my dad still had his own place. My father-in-law needed assisted living, and my husband and his brother got him there by making me do it. Let him get mad at the daughter-in-law instead of his son. Kept both boys in the will. And he loved me too much to stay mad forever. But the driving issue is different. My father tried to drive himself to the hospital while he was having a heart attack because he didn't want to divert the only ambulance in town away from someone who really needed it, and my father-in-law drove himself to WalMart and got lost in the store. In neither case did they harm anyone else, but certainly my dad could have. Our local hospital provides a service (for a fee) that tests elderly drivers or people who have been injured to see if their physical and cognitive skills are up to driving. If you pass, they give you a written evaluation that you can shove in your child's face (or use if you get in an accident and the person you hit claims you shouldn't have been driving). If you fail, a professional person not related to you, tells you to get off the road. I'd check and see if some place in your area does the same thing. Then I'd bargain with your dad. Go and pass the test, and I'll get off your case. Fail, and I get the car keys.

  2. Or , you could talk to your Dads and tell him your concerns , and the next visit on an unrelated health matter the Doc can bring it up, and test him . The Md in some states determines whether someone can continue to drive . , in some states it is the DMV , that requires retesting .

  3. Thanks for your comments. They are appreciated. I'm not a great writer, and just use this as a source to sound off. Dealing with aging parents is not an easy job, but those of us who care about them all have similar frustrations

  4. I'm a "cranky old engineer", too, and I enjoyed reading your blog today. The "cranky old lawyer" at the Crawdad Hole sent us over. I'm looking forward to dropping by again. We'd love to see you there, too. I usually post as "elliesmom", but wordpress was being cranky when I tried to use it here.