Please help me not move in with my ailing parents
January 26, 2022 5:48 AM   Subscribe

My dad is in the hospital again and things don't look good, while my mother can hardly see. I'm an only child and I've been driving down to my (hated) hometown to help them a few days per week and doing as much for them as I can from home, but I have my own health issues and my parents simply need more than I can give. They haven't said it in so many words, but I feel like the pressure is mounting for me to move in with them to help. This can't happen.

While I love them they make me insane and I always leave their house so physically exhausted I literally need an entire day to recover. I've tried many times to talk to them about hiring help or looking into assisted living but they insist they don't need it and I'm being melodramatic. They're incredibly stubborn and paranoid about strangers in the house, and previous attempts to bring in carers/cleaners have ended in tears and longstanding grudges. They do have a trusted cleaner who comes in once a week but all the work she does is undone within a day or so. The house is a constant unsanitary mess full of moldy cups, etc.

I work from home and from my parents' perspective there's probably not much keeping me from moving in to be the 24/7 carer they badly need. My long-term partner has said she'd be willing to make the move with me if need be, but she understands how miserable it would make me and the house isn't really set up to take in two people. Our apartment couldn't accommodate my parents and I know they wouldn't want to make the move.

I'm the kind of disabled where I can do most of the things the normals do, but not as well, and the effort leaves me surly and sore all over. In other words it's the kind of non-obvious disability that fucks up my life but doesn't stop the world (my parents very much included) from expecting me to do All the Things. I have health issues that could kill me if I don't deal with them, I need surgery, tests, physical therapy, etc., but I'm just too busy dealing with my parents' urgent needs. I feel constant resentment toward my parents, and constant guilt about the resentment. I'm in therapy and on happy pills, and I shudder to think how I'd be doing otherwise!

Trying to talk this out like adults hasn't worked. I've repeatedly let my parents know I can't keep going like this, and nothing changes. I'm already at maximum stress, fighting urges to self-harm. If I'm forced to move in with my parents I think I'll have an actual nervous breakdown. I can't tell my parents that being around them drives me nuts but I'll need to tell them something when they inevitably start making noises about me living with them. What do I say that won't break their hearts? (I'm willing to lie, if need be.) How do I not end up living in their spare room and scrubbing moldy cups all day while I lose what's left of my marbles?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
If you need it, I am giving you permission to distance yourself. I have from my parents, and it has saved me.

Work by yourself or with a friend on coming up with a short response, and practice saying it out loud, for the inevitable question. It could be something like: "Mom and Dad, we have discussed this multiple times and you know my thoughts. You need to hire a career to be in your home or move into assisted living. I can help find that solution for you." Whatever you decide to say here, you draw that boundary where you need it and then repeat it firmly and often. You are NOT abandoning them, you are offering assistance in the capacity you can, which is within your power to define. You can't control how they react to it, or if they accept what you can offer. But you can draw that line for yourself.

As an aside, if your hated hometown is in a different state from where you work from home, there's your easy lie right there. (Honestly it might not even be a lie.) You can't just go pick up and keep your WFH job in a different state without permission from your employer. There are tax implications not only for you but also for the employer, for instance if you'd have to move to Virginia and you're the only employee in Virginia, the company will also have business and sales tax implications in Virginia now. Your work could easily require you to stay in state.
posted by phunniemee at 6:02 AM on January 26, 2022 [26 favorites]

You cannot be forced to move in with your parents. You are an adult, not a child. They have no control over you, and you are not in their clutches or under their power. Can you repeat that to yourself? Can you help yourself believe this? Because this is the truth. They have no power over you.

They are pressuring you, for sure. I'm not sure what form of pressure they're applying, because you don't say in your post: maybe they're begging and pleading, maybe they're threatening you with getting cut off from their will or disowning you, maybe they're yelling and screaming vile names at you, maybe they're just mentioning the possibility in an oblique hinty sort of way once in a while, maybe they're badmouthing you to the whole town and all your relatives....

But you are an adult. Your parents do not have any power over you. You have the power to say no and walk away from the conversation when they start to pressure you. (You can do it kindly or angrily, it's up to you. Whether you remain close to your parents or distance yourself from them, it's up to you. Whether cut them out of your life or drive over to help only once a week or keep driving over several times a week, it's up to you. You get to decide.)

I'm not saying that this is the end of the story and it will solve all of your problems. It's extremely emotionally taxing to begin to own your adult power, and to start believing that you are in control of your own destiny. You will be left feeling a LOT of emotions which you will then need to process and deal with, hopefully with the help of your partner, and preferably with the added support of a therapist. You're going to deal with guilt and grief and anger and feeling like a bad person and feeling like you have "won" and feeling ashamed for feeling like you won and on and on. There will be an emotional fallout for you after you decide that you are an adult with the power to say NO to moving in with your parents.

But dealing with your emotions is not the same as dealing with living with your parents. You are not going to be in existential danger of losing yourself when you deal with your personal emotional fallout after taking ownership of your adult power. (Quite the opposite, actually!) So this emotional fallout is much, much preferable to allowing yourself to be pressured into doing what your parents want.

No matter how scary or impossible it sounds to you right now, you do have the power to choose you own emotional fallout instead of choosing to obey your parents' will. You have all the power.
posted by MiraK at 6:07 AM on January 26, 2022 [40 favorites]

I am so sorry you are dealing with this. You can't be forced to move in with them, and you are not responsible for their health or their choices.

My mom had been willing to look into a care home for a long time, but her husband (early stage Alzheimers) simply refused. They were both 87 and still living on their own, also with a cleaner coming in. Then she fell down. Four times total, with a physical therapist coming in a couple times a week after the third time.

At the 4th time, she was in the hospital for a month (she got shingles and another infection while there - beginning of 2021 so full swing Covid though she somehow managed to avoid that - awful.). Her husband did not do well on his own. She couldn't go back home. She was moved to a rehab facility that was also a nursing home, and knew she would not be going home. He wasn't willing to live without her so moved in as well.

In our case, the inevitable eventually happened. It was horrible because they had done zero planning, because she didn't have to fall down so many times. We had to hire an elder care attorney and deal with their house and it was a mess. But none of this is particularly uncommon, unfortunately.

Your parents are adults, and they are adults making their own terrible decisions. If you can get the cleaner to come in more often, that would probably help a little. But you are not obligated to do work you are not able to do. Set limits and stick to them. Be clear in what help you are willing and able to give. You are not responsible if they hurt themselves, or choose to live in squalor. You are being a good child by offering so much help - many children do not. But you are not obligated to forego your own life in order to help this stage of theirs, especially when they refuse to help themselves.
posted by Glinn at 6:11 AM on January 26, 2022 [12 favorites]

I'm sorry you're in this position. It's really hard to remember this, but they cannot make you move in with them. It will only happen if you choose it.

If it's helpful to reinforce your instinct not to move in with them, the chances are that this would not be the best solution to their challenges. Being a 24/7 carer is literally a job you could not pay people to do because it is unsustainable. A team of people helping is better. Someone they will listen to (ie not their child) is better. Trained professionals is better.

My suggestion is that if asked you use the broken record technique. So you say, without explanation or excuse, that you moving in with them is not possible and if they need support, you are happy to help them hire someone or move into assisted living. No emotion, no upset, no arguing your point. You are not doing X, you will help them do Y. In reverse, I think you need to let go of the idea that they will come round to your way of thinking. They may always think that paid help is inferior to you giving up your life for them. You have to let them hold their own opinions that are different from yours, but you have all the cards here and they probably know that.

If they really didn't need out-of-family help, then they also wouldn't need you to move in. They just don't want out-of-family help. They are allowed to want what they want, but that doesn't mean they get to have it at your expense.
posted by plonkee at 6:12 AM on January 26, 2022 [31 favorites]

I think one key aspect of this situation is that you need to stop trying to change or control your parents' reaction when you say no.

Just like you're an adult, your parents are adults too. They're allowed to be horrified when you say no, they're allowed to remain unconvinced by your reasons and your pleading, they're allowed not to understand your decision and they're allowed to refuse to support your decision. Your parents are even allowed to react badly when you say no (and you are allowed to walk away and refuse to subject yourself to it).

In your post, you seem to be expecting your parents to finally agree with you and leave you alone, but they may never do that, and you can't force them to. They're adults. They get to choose how they react. Give them the freedom to disapprove of you and your decisions.
posted by MiraK at 6:19 AM on January 26, 2022 [32 favorites]

Oh I feel you - have been the and still am the caregiver for my 93 year old father and there was pressure to just keep him at home after we moved across the street until that because totally untenable.

Since your father is in the hospital I suggest you reach out to the hospital's social services for help - they should be able to help you determine that your parents need more support and find it including determining that living at home is no longer an option.

This is such an incredibly stressful life stage but you do not have to give up your own life nor should you contemplate being their only/main caregiver. Just organizing care and a move is incredibly exhausting - I've done it multiple times now and it's so hard.
posted by leslies at 6:21 AM on January 26, 2022 [10 favorites]

Either hire help for them or get referral from the hospital, and if this is in a big city, they often have "in home care" available subsidized or funded by the government.
posted by kschang at 6:43 AM on January 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

One approach that worked really well for me was framing home health care in a context of care and convenience. My mom wanted various things like a pedicure, and I told her that the home health care nurse could give her much better pedicures with medical treatment than having me do it. She needed bloodwork done, and I convinced her that the home health care nurse could come a draw her blood which was much more convenient for her since she was on oxygen and in a wheel chair, and getting her out of the house was really time consuming and exhausting, especially for her.

She had the same fear of strangers and reluctance to let a stranger care for her, but after a few regular visits by a trained professional, she got really attached to her caregivers and really benefitted from the routine and the familiar company.

All of these services are there for them, and I bet you could call a specialist to advise you on what services you could access to help you ease your responsibilities. Give an advisor in your area a call and ask them for a plan; they even have support resources for you, the caregiver. I bet they can help. Good luck and I hope this information is helpful.
posted by effluvia at 6:48 AM on January 26, 2022 [5 favorites]

This is a really rough transition to navigate and I'm sorry that family expectations (and ableist societal expectations in general) are making this so hard for you. For whatever it's worth: this stranger thinks that moving in with them sounds like it would not be the best solution for you or for them, and that you should not do it. Even if they are miserable and nasty and guilt-trippy about it.

Whatever their response is, your answer can be: No, you can't do it. You love them very much but you can't do it. You have your own responsibilities and your own health issues to address, and while you do that you will actually be less available to them rather than more, and what you can do right now is to focus on setting them up with appropriate services and caregivers. (Perhaps, if you/they are very lucky, there is a neighbor or friend they are close with who would be willing/able to do some of the lightweight stuff for money? My partner's grandmother was able to age in place for a long time partly because a neighbor's teenager was thrilled to get some money for coming over and doing some light cleaning, taking out the trash, etc. The grandmother knew and trusted the family, and so she was open to that in a way that she wasn't open to professional hired care.)

I wouldn't recommend this in all cases but if it happens to be a route that you think might work well with them in particular, you could try to approach it as a potentially temporary thing. You have your own health stuff so *for now* you need to bring in extra help while you get treatment, but down the road you might be able to come back to your current frequency of visits. It could perhaps be a road to getting a foot in the door with the hopes that they will come to see the value of professional help.

Since you say you're willing to lie, another alternative could be to talk to your partner about whether she's willing to be the scapegoat here or to use her job / her own family / whatever as the scapegoat. It's probably not the ideal option since you don't want to blow up your partner's relationship with your parents unnecessarily, but if the other option is you having a nervous breakdown - maybe it's worth considering. "We talked about it, and Partner's job won't let us move right now, so let's figure out what we can do instead since we can't come back to hometown", or whatever.
posted by Stacey at 7:07 AM on January 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Something that can make you feel better about doing something is researching actual options, so you're not talking about a vague assisted living scenario, for example, but Shady Pines 5 miles from their house which costs this much for a double and has a bingo night every Friday. What care agencies are people using and recommending in that town? Did any of their friends and acquaintances move into assisted living, and where exactly? What support is available, both organisational and financial?

And yes, the "move in and do everything yourself" scenario is impossible for a single person even when young and healthy, which is why people can't do it long-term without working themselves into a breakdown. Half the point of the research is to prove that to yourself, to shore up your defenses when your parents are literally asking you to set yourself on fire to keep them warm.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:18 AM on January 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

Can you get a literal note from your doctor? “I’m sorry, but that won’t be MEDICALLY possible”?

Would it help to be the one who initiates the conversation, to say, “Mom, Dad, I want you to be ok, but I can no longer come down 3x a week - see doctor’s note. [Trusted cleaner] would be able to come 3x per week, and the finances work out. Would you like me to arrange for that? I’d also be glad to help research home-care options”?

Talking both with a therapist who specializes in dealing with aging-parent issues and/or an elder-care focused attorney and/or financial planner and/or aging-in-place NGO counselor could help to develop a script/plan for talking with your folks, no matter what you decide. This sounds hard - it is my future. Sending you the strength of your own convictions.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:25 AM on January 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

My late husband was dead set against going to an inpatient hospice facility, and I remember talking (probably tearfully) to one of the nurses on his care team about how I wanted to make sure that didn't happen but also I wasn't sure I was going to be able to take care of him at home, and she said something like, "Look, no one *wants* to go to the hospice house. No one *likes* it. But it's there because some people need it." Your parents don't have to be excited about getting in-home help or moving to assisted living. They can hold a grudge about it. They can even feel heartbroken about it - of course they are going to mourn the loss of their independence and their control over their own home, and yeah maybe they're going to misdirect some of that anger and fear at you. But that doesn't mean it's not the right and necessary thing to do, for all of you.

In my husband's and my case he was able to stay at home until he died. It was incredibly hard, and I was in very good health and had a good support system and it was my own home and this period only lasted a couple of months. Being the sole caregiver for someone 24/7 (two someones) is not a long-term sustainable plan. This is not a one-person job. It's something some people are able to do in a crisis situation, but it's not a realistic plan for the future.

Even though your parents haven't brought up the idea of you moving in with them directly, I think you should go ahead and get it out in the open and say, "Mom, Dad, I get the feeling you want/expect me to move in with you, and I need to let you know that that's never going to happen. It's impossible."

Here's a list of plausible reasons why it's impossible:
- Even though you work from home, your work requires you to be in your current location.
- Your job has strict requirements about privacy/data security that you would be unable to satisfy in your parents' home.
- Your job has strict rules about providing child or elder care during work hours.
- You need to live close to your own healthcare providers because you require regular treatment for your conditions.
- You are undergoing a treatment that means you can't visit as often.
- Your partner would be unable to move (for any of the above reasons) and you can't live without your partner.

And I agree that having an alternate plan (or a couple of alternate plans - you can have a nurse visit parents' home once a week and a carer three times a week; here's an elder housing facility near your own home that would mean you could visit them more often) is a good idea. Just don't expect them to happily agree to them.

My own mother is still in pretty good health but if I try to talk to her about what her plans are for her own long-term care she'll say things like, "Just take me out back and shoot me," so yay, that's probably going to go great.
posted by mskyle at 7:36 AM on January 26, 2022 [19 favorites]

If I'm forced to move in with my parents I think I'll have an actual nervous breakdown

100% believe you, and do not do it, please.

Their unwillingness to entertain other solutions is a part of a dysfunction. It is totally fine to not solve problems for people when they aren't willing to work on solutions.

Here are my suggestions:

- you can have ONE more conversation with them where you make it clear you are not moving in with them (or closer.) My suggestion for framing this is to acknowledge everything you've said, warmly. (Be ready that they may have a bad reaction.)

"Mum, dad, I need to talk to you seriously about something. Please let me finish and then I can listen to you. I've gotten the feeling from you that you are hoping I will move back in with you to help take care of you. I want to let you know that I love you so much, and I've thought on this a lot, because I want you to be okay. But I cannot do that. My health and life just won't allow it. I feel like you need to know and that's why I am making it crystal clear. I will not be moving to your home. In fact, my health and well-being has been suffering already and I have to cut back on visits. I want to make sure you're okay given that I am not moving back, and I feel like we need to plan together for how to make sure you have all the help you need here, in town."

You might need to let this conversation pass for a couple of weeks before they will be willing to work on other solutions.

You might want to write them an email to which everyone can refer as well. ("Hi mom and dad. Just wanted to be sure we're all on the same page after our conversation. There is unfortunately no way I can move in with you or move closer. I love you tons and appreciate you.")

- after that, just focus on what you CAN are ARE willing to do. For example, "I can come down one Friday and two Saturdays a month. Those days will be (dates this month). On Friday I'll be able to do about 3 hours of physical help and one of shopping, then I'll have to leave. Could you make a list for the store and also a list of what you'd like me to help with? Otherwise I'll just [x thing.]"

Practical suggestions for things you've listed

Call the hospital social worker as soon as possible to see if they can advocate for a move to assisted living/long-term care for your dad on discharge. In my experience, once one spouse makes the move the other one often sees that it's not a bad place and then moves. Also in my experience, the hospital social workers are overloaded but so great at these things. They may have solutions you had no idea about.

Look into support services for seniors - meals on wheels, senior support workers, etc. Meals on wheels can be a good entry because they can just deliver, but often they do come in and have a chat and when I was volunteering, we had a whole way to raise concerns and do referrals.

In the meantime:
- can the cleaner they trust come more often?
- what can be delivered or managed via delivery (laundry service, lawn service, meal delivery, pet stiter)
- take some tours of seniors communities

I'm suggesting the practical help because sometimes people have built up in their minds what "help" looks like and then when they start making use of services it's actually...nice. If you all can afford it, trying out a "live like rich people live for a few months" might give them the sort of change in their thinking they need.

If none of that helps, you still don't have an obligation to solve what they will not solve. There are real crises, and then there are manufactured ones. Refusing to get help that is available is a manufactured crisis.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2022 [23 favorites]

My parents’ elder years have been filled with problems that they could have predicted and largely pre-empted.

Instead, they chose to be in denial about many issues; they chose to ignore increasing health problems; they chose to not fix their mental health; they chose to not downsize when they had energy to do so; they chose to be paranoid of help; they chose not create a close community. All of these are choices that they made, day after day.

This isn’t true of everyone - not everyone’s circumstance is born of choices - some people get huge strokes of systemic harm or random bad luck.

But in my parents’ case, yes, there were a few accidents of fate and bad luck moments and hard patches and systemic oppression.... still, in their particular case, they had time and means to address their most pressing problems, I begged and pleaded, offered help or advice, others did too... but they chose not to.

They chose their life.
That means they chose their problems, too.

Now that age has advanced, those problems have compounded.... but that doesn’t mean it’s my job to sweep in and solve literally 30 years of their chosen problems. Nor could I.

They chose this. In slow motion, but it was a choice.

It is not your job to rescue someone at all, let alone from something they chose for themselves. Cleaning someone’s hoard isn’t solving their problem anyway.

Make the choices in your own life that keep you healthy! You have that right. All the best to you!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:02 AM on January 26, 2022 [16 favorites]

In a similar parental-health situation, I moved home, work from home, and now can't realistically leave due to both my parents' situation and my own financial situation. What started as a 1 year arrangement to get all 3 of us back on our feet is now in its 4th year with no end in sight. I urge you not to move in with your parents.

Their quality of life is only very slightly improved by my presence, and in all this time I've barely accomplished any of the tasks I planned to do for them here. My physical and mental health have declined, and I was in good physical health when I moved in. They LOVE having me here and have a much rosier perspective of how much me being here helps.

Don't move home. It won't fix it. Send the hired help, if your parents cry and are angry, let them go to voicemail and call back in a few hours or days. Setting and maintaining a firm boundary is hard, but going home in this circumstance will be much harder to get out of and won't be worth it.
posted by assenav at 8:32 AM on January 26, 2022 [16 favorites]

Don't move in with your parents. I will say, people often talk about assisted living like it's an easy obvious thing your parents can do, but you don't mention if this is something they can afford. Assisted living is super expensive and often by the time you have moved your loved one into assisted living, their health has declined to where they might only get a couple good years out of it before having to go into skilled nursing care.

Since your dad is currently in the hospital, the best thing you can do right now is get in touch with a social worker there. It's a lot easier to learn about services available when they are in the hospital, there are people there who will help you at least get more of a grasp on services available. Their reluctance to accept in-home help is an issue, but the social worker might be able to help you impress on them that their choice is either in-home help, or a nursing home. It simply isn't safe for them to be completely on their own anymore.
posted by cakelite at 8:36 AM on January 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

I just want to also quickly point out that even if you were to uproot your life and move your partner and yourself in to help your parents (which I do NOT recommend), they will eventually need more help than you can provide. Caregiving is completely undervalued in this society and people do not understand what an all-consuming job it is. Even if you moved in, you'd eventually need to hire outside help to keep them at home. No matter what you decide, bringing them around to the outside help idea is essential.
posted by cakelite at 8:39 AM on January 26, 2022 [12 favorites]

I was you, although I have siblings, I'm the youngest daughter, and unmarried. Of course they were going to buy a house with me!

I had to say it so many times, "No, I'm not going to do that." It would have been a nightmare.

As it was, I ended up being their primary caregiver in a lot of ways, even after they moved into assisted living. It was a hard five years.

But it's still better than it would have been if I had had to live with them. I could go home to my quiet house with my dog and my books and food that I liked.

Hold fast: you can't help anyone if you yourself are in trouble. And do what you can without risking your own health.
posted by suelac at 9:00 AM on January 26, 2022 [9 favorites]

Would your partner be willing take some of the "blame" for not being able to move down? Could you partly pin it on their job?

If you're willing to move into the white lie territory, and if she doesn't have a super close relationship with them, that could be helpful.
posted by mercredi at 9:22 AM on January 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

In terms of getting actual help into their house, consider hiring someone to be there WITH the cleaner, introducing them as a trusted friend of said cleaner, and gradually transitioning from cleaner plus helper twice a week to cleaner, helper, cleaner, helper, or more often as needed. The sooner you start building a relationship with someone the easier it will be….
posted by bq at 9:48 AM on January 26, 2022 [6 favorites]

I just want to share some of the big picture of this: elder care and end-of-life care and responsibilities are a mess in the US. We put so much of this on family members, especially adult women, and and so much of it ends up falling on adult daughters (and also sons, if that applies here). This is often pretty bad for the caregivers, who often end up sacrificing some income and career opportunities at the time of our highest income earning potential. This often leads to greater poverty for those same caregivers when they age. The whole system sucks.

I saw my mom give up a lot to move in with her mom (she's still stuck now, at 79, in her hometown, literally in the house where she grew up, a house of much misery for her when she was young). I've seen this play out with other friends.

Part of this is that some aging folks haven't prepared for this, even when they have resources. Some of this is that our country sucks at this and is glad to sacrifice women instead of actually building a better infrastructure for aging (and for care of kids too!).

It's not your job to take care of your parents, especially not at the expense of your mental and physical health. Do they have resources? It's time for them to use them. I don't have a lot of concrete suggestions but wanted to pass along some virtual support to say I'm sorry you are dealing with this, and it's not your job to fix all these wrongs and give up your whole life for them.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2022 [18 favorites]

Just adding to the chorus, do not move in, listen to the voice that tells you to keep your boundaries. Something I wanted to share that was helpful to me when I was dealing with the fall out from Covid and my PIL's multiple health issues (they live 20 minutes away and my wife is definitely not moving in with them) was reading this forum: (recommending this with caveats, you may want to stay away from other parts of the site but this particular one has helped me re-define my own boundaries and be OK with the fact that I am not re-enacting a Hallmark movie). Oh, and it's UK-based so YMMV
posted by coffee_monster at 9:56 AM on January 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

What do I say that won't break their hearts? (I'm willing to lie, if need be.)

There are no magic words, unfortunately, that will make them understand. The problem with a lie is that they may try to present solutions to whatever the lie is ("I can't move out of state because of work" "But there are plenty of jobs here"; "I can't pick Dad up if he falls" "He has a cane now so he won't fall anymore"). It's OK to tell them something that will upset them. You are not and can not be responsible for their happiness, but do them the favor of being direct and honest so that they have a full understanding of where things stand, rather than a convenient lie that introduces a problem that could potentially be solved.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:28 AM on January 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you're in this position. It's really hard to remember this, but they cannot make you move in with them. It will only happen if you choose it.

This is good to remember and say to yourself. I am sorry you are in this position. I have been in this position. I did not move home. My adult also unmarried sister also did not move home but it was more agonizing for her. Both of my parents have since passed. And, while I'm sure this is not true for everyone in this situation, I am okay with my decision even though my parents' end-of-life times might have been easier/better/different if I had uprooted and moved in with them.

What do I say that won't break their hearts? (I'm willing to lie, if need be.) How do I not end up living in their spare room and scrubbing moldy cups all day while I lose what's left of my marbles?

What my sister said--she lived closest to my mother and my mother was actively lobbying to have her move in--is that she'd move in if my mom was receiving hospice care but otherwise she wouldn't. She wouldn't play Cinderella to my mom (and I was the same with my father) basically having to do a ton of work because of their bad decisions and outlooks. Because, look some of the issues your folks are having are just flat out mental health ones in addition to physical heath. And you can, without judgment, decide that their lack of mental health care/treatment (as you have been trying to take care of yours) is not something you can compensate for, it's not fair to you and it's not appropriate for them to try to make you. You may also have to make your peace with the fact that your folks' house is going to be more shambly than you think is okay. And if they won't allow other people in the house, that's going to be on them until something changes. Spend some of your parent-care time talking to local-to-your-folks elder care phone calls (and yes hospital social worker) to see what is available for them. Become the "loving broken record" as plonkee suggests and restate "Mom, Dad, I love you but you are asking for more than I can give. Here are options...." where one of the options is NOT you moving down there.

So if you're up for lying there are "blame the partner" options and there are kind of manipulative options like just extending the time between visits until you're going down, say, once a month instead of once a week or whatever you're doing now. Again, they can't MAKE you do anything, so some of this is an argument that you're going to have to have with yourself, not them.
posted by jessamyn at 10:44 AM on January 26, 2022 [6 favorites]

Look into Medicare provided home assistance. It may cover more than you think.
posted by roaring beast at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2022

I've been driving down to my (hated) hometown to help them a few days per week and doing as much for them as I can from hom

I've tried many times to talk to them about hiring help or looking into assisted living but they insist they don't need it and I'm being melodramatic.

They do have a trusted cleaner who comes in once a week but all the work she does is undone within a day or so. The house is a constant unsanitary mess full of moldy cups, etc.

I think now would be a good time for you to become too sick to visit them for, oh, say, two months. See whether their delusion persists. After this break, consider having health enough for maybe one visit per week. Or fortnight. Don't try to clean things up - do a little but not everything. Don't tell them, show them that you're not available as a backup plan. Have your partner field calls and back you up on this.

Since your parents haven't outright asked you to move in, this is a discussion you need to have with your own sense of guilt. You need to convince yourself, not them.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:04 PM on January 26, 2022 [8 favorites]

Could your father be so adamant about staying in his home because he has realistic fears that his wife, who you say can hardly see, would not be able to manage without in-home assistance (yours, mostly, since it sounds like his health is precarious)? Maybe the unsaid thing is his fear for her based on his poor health.

A friend's very elderly father just died. He had taken care of his demented wife for several years alone, refusing help, until he was affected by bladder cancer and just physically could not care for her. He finally, at that point, allowed a daytime caregiver, but his sons alternated sleeping every single night at their home to care for their mother, and then father, because the father refused to have a night time caregiver and refused to move her. The family had ample financial resources, but he was immovable on that point. It was all about caring for his wife and not being separated from her. For more than a year one or the other had been sleeping at their parents' house and caring for their mother, who was awake, demanding, and increasingly physically combative throughout the night. Both sons have full-time demanding jobs, one a doctor, one in finance, and neither could manage to persuade his father to accept more help! This really drained them and the unrelenting demands strained both sons's marriages. Since their father died, the sons have found their mother placement in an appropriate memory care facility, and wished again they had been able to do this a year earlier.

The sons loved their father but resented his demanding inflexibility, and it was probably not the best solution for their demented mother, either. It just seemed like an awful nightmare they could not get themselves out of while it was happening.

I know this wasn't your exact question, but if your parents can articulate their fears, maybe you can work together to figure out an approach that would work for you and for them. I am also an only child who feared having my parents dependent on me at the end of their lives. It is a special anguish.
posted by citygirl at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

I am the only child of divorced parents and my father went through a series of issues that kept landing him in rehab and then back to his 3-story condo where he lived on his own, and then he finally had a stroke. I had begged my father for years to get serious about his aging plans, but he always hand-waved me off. This whole endeavor weighed so much on me and screwed me up so badly that after one of his rehab discharges, it was the one time in my life in which I briefly experienced suicidal ideation.

After his stroke, I put down my foot and made it clear that if he was going to insist on going home to his condo, he would have to call and arrange a taxi to do so. The only place I would take him upon discharge was a permanent move to assisted living. He caved, but it was ugly for a while.

Here's the kicker: prior to retirement my Dad worked in aging services and was a nursing home administrator. He saw lots of anguished daughters who went through exactly what he put me through. So if even my Dad went kicking and screaming into the inevitable, just know how absolutely common this is for everyone.

I do not have a "happy ending" type story where my Dad moved into AL and then became like the stereotypical guy with a bunch of girlfriends or suddenly going to lots of the programming. He's been there for a few years and still incessantly complains about the loud ladies next to his table and the people who bumped him with their scooter. But my Dad also has a surly personality and he'd be cranky wherever he is. At least in AL he is eating more, keeping on his weight, and I sleep better at night knowing there are nurses nearby to keep an eye on him. His AL is also five minutes from my house, and I visit him every Sunday. I think the consistency of visits helps, but the distance helps even more.

--Assisted living is expensive. When my friends complain about childcare, I am tempted to let them know that my Dad's assisted living costs easily 2-3x what they're paying. We had to sell my Dad's condo to prove we had the assets to pay for AL for a few years, because AL is generally private pay.
--Do not go to a for-profit AL, PERIOD. AL is already expensive and short-staffed, but for-profit places terrify me because I can't imagine what corners they're cutting, especially during a pandemic. My dad rehabbed at a for-profit AL once and ONLY once, that's how bad it was. Also know that the health outcomes for unionized eldercare facilities are much better than non-union, but I'm not sure if there's a way to proactively find out in advance which places are union or not.
--Get all your paperwork together, now. Get POA and become a signer on all financial accounts. You will need these documents more than you ever realize. Most places have been happy with copies, but when I had to sell my Dad's condo, the title agency needed the original documentation with the actual raised seal.
-Cleaning out a house full of shit that's not yours SUCKS. I tried my best to clean it out with friends for a few weeks, and then I caved and got an estate company to come in. They sold the few items that'd make money, and brought in a dumpster for the rest.
-Your parents will be pissed but if they move together, they'll have each other. That will help a lot.
-Even if they go to AL, family still plays a hugely important role in being the "eyes and ears" because the expectation in AL is that people can still perform most activities of daily living. We sometimes catch my Dad slipping on his meds, call him out on it, and let him know that if he keeps slipping medication management will have to be taken over by the nursing staff.
-Finally: aging is a really hard process for people - both the person going through it and their caretakers. My dad is older than most of my peers, so I have also experienced the isolation of being the first person in my millennial friend group to deal with eldercare. Google "parent child role reversal." Feeling like my Dad is acting like a toddler while also recognizing that he is still an adult with agency (even to make terrible decisions I disagree with) is hard. The loss of independence and autonomy for the elderly is profound as they age, and especially when they go into an eldercare facility. That is not meant to guilt you - you should not set yourself on fire to keep others warm. But if you value your relationship with your parents, cultivating compassion for how hard it is for them, however fleeting it might be, will serve you well when you start getting consumed with anger. I wish someone had warned me how many uncharitable thoughts I would have towards my dad and how normal that is. I have lost my shit so much with my Dad over the last few years, but I keep showing up every week to visit anyway. You'll have to find your own balance. Sending you my best wishes. It's a hard road.
posted by mostly vowels at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2022 [14 favorites]

One thing that may be helpful for you to know is that it wouldn't be "not doing enough" if you don't live with them and cater to their needs 24/7. I don't mean that in some psychological personal boundary way. I mean that even if you don't live with them, and live far away, there will still be PLENTY for you to manage and oversee. It won't be like you're doing nothing for your parents. Your parents will come to a point where they can no longer refuse help. But the thing with help, either in the home or at a facility, is that there isn't likely to be one person who solves and manages everything on your parents' behalf. For example, if they have home health aides coming in, you will have to coordinate schedules, hours, payments, etc. A lot is probably going to fall on you. I'm not saying this to drive up your anxiety about the situation. I'm just letting you know that there's still a lot of help you can provide for your parents that's more than "drop Mom and Pop off at the nursing home" and "sacrifice my career and relationship by being a solo caregiver." (It's honestly not even possible for one single person to be a 24hr caregiver to an adult who requires a 24hr caregiver. Caregivers need time off, too! And there would be literally no way to work full-time.)

I agree with the other commenters that you should make it clear to your parents that it's not an option for you to move in and be a caregiver. You don't have to be mean about it, just tell them clearly.

It's possible that things may have to get much worse before your parents will accept help. My mother was dying of cancer but insisted that she could take care of herself. There had to be a few calls from concerned neighbors to the police, and eventually Adult Protective Services, for my mom to accept professional. Once that happened it was a lot easier for my mom to concede that maybe regular caregivers would be better than police visits. Hopefully it doesn't have to get that bad for your parents. Do their doctors and nurses know that you are not there to provide direct care on a daily basis? You can call the medical providers to tell them.
posted by stowaway at 5:13 PM on January 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Professional hospital discharge coordinator here. You mention that your father is in the hospital right now—is part of the pressure you’re feeling stemming from the possibility that he or your mother might tell the hospital “oh it’s fine if he gets discharged right back home, our child will help?” If that is the case you have more power than you think, especially if you are their power of attorney. Find out who your father’s RN case manager or social worker is—either or both of these people could be involved in discharge planning, depending on the hospital. The key words you want to tell them if the discharge plan relies heavily on you being continually available are “this is not a safe discharge.”

Hospitals are under an enormous amount of pressure now to get people out the door as soon as they are minimally stable. They may push back and ask you to take on more, but explicitly saying that you are unable and the discharge is otherwise unsafe will likely buy some time.

If you’re okay with breaking anonymity to memail me I may be able to provide some location-specific resources or at least give you better keywords and types of programs to look at.
posted by I am a Sock, I am an Island at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2022 [13 favorites]

You do this by not moving in with them. You are not responsible for their choices, up to and including "live badly, alone, at home," and you will not shelter them from harm by moving in and having a nervous breakdown. People who have been rendered nonfunctional are not effective caretakers.

Call APS if you feel like not intervening is irresponsible. APS isn't a magic bullet--they don't have much authority at all, and if they go to the house and say "we had a call from someone who is concerned about you," and your parents say some version of we're fine/go away, they will do that. But they may be able to work with you to get support for them and for you, and to explore the idea of conservatorship if that's where this is heading (i.e. getting the legal right to make decisions for people have lost the capacity to do so in their own interests.)

(I am an APS worker. One thing we run up against is that adults get to make decisions that others, including their family, think are bad ones, up to the point where they are endangering themselves--and, in practice, sometimes beyond that point. It is hard to watch, but I do not think it is a problem that is solved by ruining your own life.)
posted by less-of-course at 8:18 PM on January 26, 2022 [5 favorites]

The key words you want to tell them if the discharge plan relies heavily on you being continually available are “this is not a safe discharge."

Let me light this comment up with sparklers and lasers. I am a little reluctant to say it because between hospital discharge and APS, there is a lot of mutual "stop dumping stuff on my doorstep" feeling. But reading this, I am inclined to say: the time when your father is in the hospital is a time of opportunity. There will be no other time when he is as well positioned to get help.
posted by less-of-course at 8:21 PM on January 26, 2022 [8 favorites]

Don’t even wait for them to ask you. Just tell them now.
posted by bendy at 8:54 PM on January 26, 2022

You’ve received a lot of great advice in this thread. I just wanted to add, your therapist is a great resource for working out strategies to set boundaries with your parents. Practicing some ways to say no to them will likely make you feel more confident doing it in real time.
posted by bluloo at 8:56 PM on January 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Just a note of support - I have moved in to my parents' house to manage their care in decline. They are loving and kind people who I (almost always) like spending time with, and it is so difficult and exhausting anyway. Given what you say, I think it would quickly destroy you to attempt this out of some sense of duty.
posted by thelonius at 4:05 AM on January 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Something not mentioned -- sometimes parents outlive their children. Sometimes children have physical or mental disabilities that require them to have full-time or part-time assistance.
You are not doing your parents or yourself any favors by becoming their sole advocate. They need a practical solution that does not depend on one person's health or expertise.
Encourage them to set up an advocacy group, in part to ensure that your future health and circumstances are not an issue.
posted by TrishaU at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2022

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