Elderly isolated dad may not be coping - what should I do?
January 10, 2012 3:25 PM Subscribe
Elderly father, living alone a long way away, may not be coping. I am trying to investigate & get him help if he needs it - please tell me if I am leaving something out or overstepping the mark.
posted by andraste to human relations (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My father is 80 and lives on his own about a 3-hour plane flight away from me (this is Australia; I'm in Melbourne, he is in regional Queensland). He has no family or close friends in the vicinity. He doesn't make much effort to see people. He suffers from health problems including a bad knee, prostate problems, hearing problems, diabetes and depression, and he's on several medications. He also smokes.
He's always been really independent but lately I've been worried. He's missed appointments and not rescheduled, and he consistently doesn't know what day it is. When he needs to remember something he's always written it down on a scrap of paper which I think then gets lost among other scraps.
His TV broke before Christmas and he hasn't arranged for it to be fixed yet. I thought at first he was just being vague with dates because he wasn't getting that outside stimulation. A few things have been happening that have made me wonder if this isn't the beginning of something more, though. For instance:
- Last week I got him to make a doctor's appointment; I called him last night since his appointment is today, and he'd forgotten he had an appointment. Once I reminded him, though, he remembered it wasn't with his regular doctor, and he knew which doctor it was with.
- He told me that he thinks he'll have to get a ribbon tied on the car aerial because it takes him a long time now to remember where he parked the car.
- His sleeping patterns seem to be all up and down. He's often just woken up from a nap when I call, whether it's 11 AM or 6 PM.
- He talks about things he has to do, but never does them (for instance, he can never find a pen that works but he won't throw out the ones that don't work).
- I've noticed that he's slurring his words a bit, especially when he's first woken up.
He's admitted he may be having memory problems, although he insists that he's all right and he seems to be eating, paying his bills, etc. He always knows who I am, who he is & where he is on the phone.
My partner and I are flying up there in a couple of weeks to see how he's going and judge for ourselves how he's going, what the house is looking like, what he might need, etc. I'm trying to get my brother involved as well, but he is fairly resistant to the idea that Dad might need help.
So my specific questions are:
- What should I be looking out for in the house? We'll be fixing the TV and seeing if he needs help with maintenance. I'll check his smoke alarm and locks and look out for the cleanliness of the house. Are there any red flags which might give me clues about whether he's coping or not?
- If his problem is only/mainly with dates and personal organisation, what kind of things could I get him that would help him with this? I've thought of getting him a single large notepad to avoid the scraps of paper. I also thought I'd get him one of those medication dispensers with compartments for each day (if he's losing track of dates, he may not be taking his medication right). Are there other things I should be looking for?
- If his problem is greater than this, he will probably need to move. I would prefer it if he was closer to me and my brother where we could visit him every few weeks, and also if he were in a retirement community where there were other people around. He was quite amenable to being closer to us when I mentioned the idea. He will almost certainly need help to sell his current house and move. Should I get power of attorney so I can help with it?
- I've asked him to give my phone number to his doctor; should I call his doctor? Is that acceptable? I know there are huge privacy issues but I'm worried he will not talk to the doctor about his memory problem and that therefore he won't get referred to the services he needs, and he'll never ask for help on his own - he's too proud.
- Is there anything else I am not thinking of that I should be doing? I am completely new to this.
He's always been self-reliant and I do not want to take away his dignity or autonomy; but he has a history of not seeking help so I want to make sure he gets it if he needs it.