Divorce & Disease
September 4, 2012 4:28 PM   Subscribe

My mother has decided she wants to leave my Parkinson's stricken father. I need some guidance from folks with similar experience about next steps.

My mom has been the only one working for awhile. She cares for my father extensively - including ordering his medication, cooking for him, etc. I highly doubt my father's ability to care for himself on his own as his illness has gotten progressively worse over the last 12 months (not to mention that he has become very accustomed to my mother taking care of him).

Outside of "your father and I are going to start the paperwork to get a divorce" I haven't truly sat and talked to them about this yet. I am still trying to sort out my own emotions from this news and I'm in desperate need of some perspective from anyone who has gone through something like this.

FWIW, mom is 57, dad is 62, I'm 31. Thanks, MeFi.
posted by AloneOssifer to Human Relations (9 answers total)
On preview, I should mention they've been married 30 years and I have two brothers that are as concerned as myself.
posted by AloneOssifer at 4:30 PM on September 4, 2012

I would suggest counseling but really begin now to find a support group for Parkinson's in the community to learn what home help is available. If your mother thinks leaving your father is the only way to deal with this crisis, then clearly they are not getting enough support.
posted by parmanparman at 4:43 PM on September 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Could this be going on to protect their assets?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:48 PM on September 4, 2012

There may also be an economic issue that your parents don't want to discuss. If your father is single and too sick to work he may be eligible for aid that he's not eligible for now. Are they in the US? I've heard of couples here having to do this to insure that the healthy spouse will still have some resources left for retirement.

Do you and your brothers live near them?
posted by mareli at 4:49 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My father's chronic illness nearly bankrupted the two of them; the only reason my mother still has a house and some savings is that he died at the opportune moment. The laws that govern finances and assets and the governmental aid that can be received are elaborate and, at times, quite unfair. There were many times that my siblings and I wished there were some way to avoid my father's illness financially dragging my mother down with him.

Your mother does indeed likely need more support than she's getting. At the same time, this might be a decision they're making solely for legal reasons, and they still love each other/don't intend to change living arrangements. If I were you, I would (in the short term) assume this is strictly a legal maneuver to protect them and get as much aid as possible, for two reasons: one, it might be true, and two, it'll help you get through this time of not knowing the full story, until you can get the full story.

At the end of the day, just remember that your mother is under a lot of pressure to take care of him, and regardless of what's going on with their marriage, you can do some good (for them both, and for you mentally) by reaching out to see if you can help.
posted by davejay at 5:01 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Agree with above that there may be a financial component to this decision, but maybe not.

Something worth remembering is that Parkinson's is a neurologic disease that can also have a psychiatric component. He may have changes in behavior or mood that are driving your mother away or are making it seem like he is a different person and no longer the man she married. Also, the drugs can have psychiatric side effects.

You might gently inquire if your dad has had any mood or personality changes that have influenced this decision. If so, his Neurologist may be able to help with this, both medically and in terms of identifying more support for them.

This is a very difficult situation, and I feel for your family. Good luck.
posted by artdesk at 8:58 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out a caregiver support group for your mom and possibly you and your sibs. No matter how much you love somebody, being their caretaker changes a relationship and adds a ton of stress. Talking to those who have been or are in your situation can help a lot. Plus, they may have some ideas of things that might help the family cope.
posted by gilsonal at 10:14 PM on September 4, 2012

This is indeed a sad thing for someone so young to face. It's impossible for anyone on Metafilter to make judgments as to what your parents are doing. But it's important for you to know why your mother is leaving him, among other things because this will give you a clue as to how she wishes to be treated when her turn comes. But surely the most important thing is what is going to happen to your father? Is she making arrangements to see that he's cared for, and will you and your siblings be happy with those arrangements (is he close enough to visit in case of illness, will you be informed if something happens to him, etc.). Parkinson's doesn't necessarily mean full-time delusion: indeed, if he's capable of co-operating on a divorce process, he presently sounds intermittent at best. Don't let him be dumped. This is hard, but be brave and it will pass.
posted by alonsoquijano at 11:51 PM on September 4, 2012

My mom had Parkinson's disease -- she and my dad lived together in an assisted living facility (they had a studio apt but took all meals in a dining hall). After my dad had a triple bypass, it became quickly apparent that for some time, he had not really been able to take care of her. She had problems toileting by her self, bathing, etc... She was frail and so was he.

My brother found her a place in a board and care facility for seniors -- she didn't need skilled nursing care, she just needed someone to help with the activities of daily living. It was tough on both her and my father, but really, she needed to be someplace safe.

If this is the case with your father, helping him get into a facility where he can be cared for appropriately is probably the best thing to do.

I am so sorry you are facing this -- it is really hard to see your parents age and decline.
posted by elmay at 6:51 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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