My 75 year old father will be moving in with us.
April 18, 2014 10:44 AM   Subscribe

What are the logistics of having a parent in so-so to mediocre health move in? He is currently in St. Louis, MO and my wife and I currently live in Johnson City, TN.

My father currently lives in a one-bed, 3rd floor apartment in St. Louis. He no longer drives. After several family conversations, we all (myself, my 3 older brothers who live in St. Louis, and dad) agree that the current situation isn't feasible anymore. He needs to live on the ground floor due to a bad back, and since he suffers from dizzy spells, he needs to live with someone. As independent and bull-headed as he can be, my dad agrees. Since I am in the best economic condition of all my siblings, he will be coming here. Although my wife works full-time, I only work 25 hours a week so I can spend pretty much every morning chilling with him and helping him run his errands. Also, our home can accommodate ground floor living.

We, as a family, just came to this conclusion today. The logistics of physically getting my dad moved here with his things are already figured out. I need your help to figure out the rest. Here are some of the logistical questions I have:

1. Do we need to get a physical copy of his medical records to bring here with him?
2. How easy is it to make sure the SS Admin knows about the move?
3. How do I help him make new friends in the area?

I know I'm not covering everything. My brothers are going to be helping and probably coming up with more logistical things we will need to deal with. For those of you in this situation, or know of people in this situation, what specific pieces of advice do you have? What are some potential issues I should know about?
posted by Groundhog Week to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My husband and I have done this with my in-laws. We just moved them out and into assisted living last week.

You should definitely move his insurance. We found that the Medicare insurance coverage they had in San Diego was not at all the same as Los Angeles (actually, we found better coverage up here).

As far as friends go; you, your wife and your father will all do a lot better if he is not sitting in a chair watching TV all day. Find out about senior transportation in your area, senior recreation and other groups. What are his hobbies? Make sure he has access to those, outside of the house. If he can't get out, you will all start resenting the situation. Also, make sure he has activities/chores in the house. Feeling like you are not bringing anything into the house, even when it's a matter of "No dad, you don't have to set the table, we'll do that!" brings on feelings of uselessness, depression, etc. My FIL has Alzheimer's. We had him rematting art in the house that didn't matter if it broke and sorting things because it didn't matter how long it took or if it ever got done. It made him feel useful. Your dad sounds a lot more able, so it will be that much more important that he feel like a working part of the family.

Good luck and feel free to memail me if you have any follow up questions.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:57 AM on April 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can't address the other questions, but there's probably no hard and fast need for paper copies of his medical records. When he establishes with a new doc that stuff typically gets faxed from one doctor's office to another.
posted by killdevil at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2014

Things to think about:

1. He's likely to lose stuff as he shuts down the old apartment (my dad dumped a lot of paperwork he should have kept). So make sure you get tax forms, investment forms/files, contact information for old friends/correspondents, family photos, prize books and other possessions.

2. You will need: contact information for all of his physicians & his dentist, so you can get them to send his files over to new health providers. Hard and electronic copies of his Advanced Care Directive and Medical Power of Attorney; if he doesn't have one, get him to do this right away. It's vital if he needs to go to the hospital for anything.

3. Does he have a car? Does he drive? Who will sell the car? Does he plan to drive? If not, he will need a non-driving state ID. If he does, is that safe for him? Will he be likely to get lost or get into accidents? Do you have room for his car?

4. Go through his clothes and get rid of stuff that's old/stained/unnecessary. Don't dump anything he's really attached to, though--moving is stressful and having familiar things around will help him a lot.

5. Does he have any pets? Make sure you get all their medical records, veterinary contact information, and a hard copy of the current license and rabies certificate. Can you get their preferred food where you live?

6. What are you doing with all his old furniture? There is a company called Caring Transitions (it's a franchised chain) that will assist families in closing down elders' homes, downsizing, organizing, and selling off anything they no longer want to keep. The people we worked with moved my parents from their old condo into assisted living in one day, set up all the furniture, hung photos on the walls, and put all their clothes in closets and bureaus for them. It was marvelous, and a great relief.

Sophie1 is absolutely correct about activities. When my mother passed last year, one reason we didn't move Dad into my house or my sister's is that there's nothing to do during the day where we live, not without having him be shuttled or driving himself. Which, as he's 86 and somewhat impaired cognitively, we wanted to avoid. So instead he's in assisted living in his own apartment, with plenty of activities every day (which he mostly doesn't join in, but at least he has the option), people to eat three meals a day with, and someone to check on him and manage his medications for him.

My point being: keeping busy is so key. Do you have a home gym? Does he have any hobbies? How can you provide that kind of stimulation for him, even though you're only there part time?

And ... well, I don't want to be a downer, but as much as I love my dad, he's sometimes pretty boring to spend time with. He doesn't have as much energy as he used to, and he's never been particularly chatty. It's not the Hallmark card image of spending time with the elderly, you know? Just something to keep in mind: your emotional reactions are likely to involve a fair amount of discontent at the disruption of your household, at the very least. And your dad is not the same guy you grew up with, in all likelihood.

All that said, good on you for taking this on: I hope it goes smoothly for as long as possible, and you and your family get a lot of comfort out of it.
posted by suelac at 11:28 AM on April 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

No experience personally about caring for an elderly parent so I can't offer much advice, but here are a couple links that may be helpful...

#2: How to change your address for Social Security.

#3: When my grandfather passed away, I remember my grandmother going to the local Senior Center and making friends. Here's a link to the one in Johnson City.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 11:55 AM on April 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

While there is good advice above addressing the questions that you've asked, I want to address a couple of questions that you haven't asked.

First, what is your exit strategy?

You need to have a plan in place for the possibility that a few or several years from now your father will need more than just occasional supervision. In fact, he may come to a point where he needs 24-hour supervision. How will you as a family accomplish that? Will you or your wife quit your job to become a fulltime caretaker? Will you hire a home healthcare worker? Will your father be amenable to moving to an assisted living facility? If he were agreeable to that, would he be able to afford it?

These are concerns that you should address now (well, after he moves in and gets settled), before they become urgent and therefore emotional.

Second, while you will currently be providing a low level of supervision, what will you do if you want to go on vacation? Will one of your family members fly out to stay with your father while you are gone?

Third, if you are going to be responsible for your father's welfare, then you need buy-in from all family members that you are making the decisions, and that you are handling the money. Depending on the dynamics of your family, you may want to make very sure that you are not governing your father's welfare by committee. Some people get so weird about the idea that their parents' money is their own money, and they get pissed when someone else spends it - regardless of the fact that it may be for a legitimate medical or legal expense.

These are all questions that my family failed to ask beforehand, and have had to go through emotional drama because of. Having a good plan in place beforehand will cut down on so much of that.

Before you move your father, you might also seek out one or two local caregivers support groups (usually held through your local hospital or possibly a church), they will help you think things through, and can give practical advice with regard to medical, insurance, and social security advice.
posted by vignettist at 12:09 PM on April 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

4) This is a great time to get his health information current with current or new doctor. I know many people with parents the same age found out that they were being over medicated (esp.. with blood pressure medicines - too much or too old school versions) which led to dizziness / forgetfulness.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:40 PM on April 18, 2014

There seems to be a very busy Senior Centre in your city. It would be beneficial for him to have a focus outside your home so I'd go talk to them in advance about how to help him get involved.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:04 PM on April 18, 2014

1) I would actually say yes to the hard copy of his medical records - and then make a few copies. First, you can make sure you have all the information (especially if he has multiple providers) to avoid mix-ups with medication and treatment plans. Second, it make take a while to set up new medical care (or it may take a few tries to find doctors he likes and who will give him the care he needs) and it will be easier to just hand over copies of his records rather than repeatedly signing releases and coordinating the transfer of records long distance.

3) One of the best ways someone ever offered to help me was "What can I do to make this easier for you?" What does he like to do? My dad isn't social at all so he wouldn't enjoy going out to the senior centers and socializing. (He's 87 and would still say those are for old people :-) Include him in figuring out how to help him. In his position, I'd really be feeling the loss of my independence. Anything that will help him retain as much of that as possible can only help his morale.

I'm in allied health and, as vignettist says, caregiving is hard. Make sure you and your wife are taking care of yourselves and your marriage. It sounds like you have a pretty good relationship with your siblings and your dad. The best thing you all can do to preserve that is to be honest about your needs. If anyone needs help, s/he must ask for it.

Good luck.
posted by Beti at 3:34 PM on April 18, 2014

Another viewpoint on his medical records - collecting them from his various providers now is a very good idea, while you can do it without pressure, so that you can be ready when the need is pressing. Scan them and keep them as electronic files. Put them on a flash drive and offer them when needed.

I am echoing beti here, but in a different way.
posted by yclipse at 7:51 PM on April 18, 2014

Sorry if you already have this covered but have you done safety upgrades yet? Shower bars/chairs, a bed rail, rollator/walker if the dizziness is really causing him problems can make his life much safer. It makes life so much easier if you have this kind of stuff in place before he moves in, instead of needing to panic shop when something goes wrong.
posted by stray thoughts at 7:56 PM on April 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

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