Dealing with the tragedy of old age

I have been trying to find an area of this form that deals with the tragic realities of caring for someone who is simply old. No dementia, no specific health problems, just the inevitable, gradual (though at times more rapid) slide into getting slower, weaker, in more pain, less able to do things, more confused, more helath complications, less mobile… and knowing that the only way this can end is in death or a care home (which, for my mother, would actually feel like the worse option).

I’m living with and caring for both my parents and it’s a huge emotional burden - as well as the joy and fulfilment of knowing you’re doing the right thing and seeing how much it helps them, there’s also so much sadness, frustration, guilt - and longing for release but knowing that that will come only when things have got much, much worse. I’m sure this can’t be good for my mental health - and I want to be mentally and emotionally prepared when the worst happens. Is anyone else in this position? It would be good to share these feelings with someone.

My parents and my in laws lived within 6 miles of our home, so we supported them a lot, whilst juggling their needs with those of our brain damaged son, and running our business.
Death is part of life, and there is nothing we can do to change that. It’s not just our parents getting old, but we carers too. Things we could manage when we were 30, are a bit more difficult at 4o, a bit more still at 50, as we ourselves slow down.
Our parents have no right to expect us to sacrifice our own “best years” for them, so they can pretend they don’t need help, when they do!
I’m now 68, widowed, slightly disabled, with very little stamina left.
You need to have some part of a life of your own so that when you are no longer a carer, there are still friends to support you. Look after your own health. Decide what you want to do, what you want someone else to do.
Make sure the house is as streamlined as possible. Dishwasher? Tumble dryer? Accessible bathroom?
Power of Attorney sorted? Will sorted?
Things will muddle along for a while, and then the “volcano” explodes. Something will happen, a fall, an illness, and that, in hindsight, becomes a life changing moment.
You don’t say how old your parents are? Are they both claiming Attendance Allowance?
Are you claiming Carers Allowance?
Do you know all about your parents finances, are all their papers together and up to date?

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent, it was different for all four of ours, for various reasons. The more prepared you are, the easiest it is to cope.

Thanks, Bowlingbun. They’re both 88. My Dad gets Attendance Allowance but my Mum is still active and relatively well (though she fell and broke her hip last month!). I do freelance consultancy work and do some voluntary work on a topic that I’m passionate about so I wouldn’t be eligible for Carers’ Allowance. You are so right about the importance of having a part of life of your own - I’m clinging to it for dear life, even though I sometimes wonder if its really feasible to carry on with both! I work from home (even when it’s not lockdown) and it can be hard to focus sometimes when there are medical crises going on… but we have agreed that between certain hours they won’t disturb me unless there’s an emergency.

We’re gradually making adaptations to the house to make it more streamlined as you say. I have sight of their finances and help them to keep on top of things. Dad has considered power of attorney but feels we don’t need it and that it would just be an unnecessary expense and hassle. I’m not sure I agree, but can’t force it on him.

So on the practical front I think we’re managing. It’s more the emotional side that I’m finding really hard. I know nothing can fully prepare you for the death of a parent - but as something we all go through, it would be good to share with others about the feelings - sadness, guilt, helplessness, resentment, and the constant feeling of impending doom…that go through your mind as you deal with their decline - and the volcanoes!

Tell dad that the POA scheme has now changed. You used to be able to do it and use it the same day, now it takes about three months so it is VITAL that he sorts it out asap so that if he got ill, you could support them both. The alternative, becoming their guardian after a life changing event, is very difficult, costly, and time consuming, as one of our members found to her cost after her husband developed dementia.

Bowlingbun, I don’t mind you mentioning my forum name, especially to do with power of attorney v court of protection! If I can convince just one person to sort power of attorney asap it’s worth it.
URMysunshine… I had to go down the court of protection route when my husband had strokes then dementia. I week he understood what I was talking about, the next his capacity took a dive. Court of protection is very intrusive, costly and an emotional rollercoaster. Every penny has to be accounted for, and records have to be sent to the guardians yearly. I became used to it, but always found myself feeling irritated. The way my hubby and myself worked out finances worked for us pre dementia. Am at the tail end of sorting power of attorney so my daughter’s will never have to go through what I did…Wonder if you could explain to your dad? I understand it’s not easy.

POA is something EVERYONE should sort out when they are young and fit, and you should make a Wii as soon as you acquire possessions. I made my first when I was 21, married,house owner about to leave for a 3 year working holiday in Australia. You can change it later, our first one made provision for children although we had none at the time.

Thanks to you both for the advice on POA. I’ll talk to both Mum and Dad… and start setting up my own to spare my daughter!

When my mum was I’ll, I had counselling, newly widowed, newly disabled, a son with learning difficulties, everything got on top of me. My counsellor is lovely, I don’t see her often, but I know whenever I want to “unload” or I’m feeling very stressed I can give her a call and make an appointment. You have some emotionally difficult years ahead, maybe invest in counselling. Do your parents own their home? Have over £46,000 I savings? (Yes/no). If so it would be a good idea to sit down with dad and talk things through about his finances and planning for the future.

Thanks, Bowlingbun. Just talked to Dad and he still isn’t convinced about POA though I’ve tried to explain why it’s so important. He has put all their bank and building society accounts into joint accounts with Mum and has given us - his daughters - the access details and he can’t see why this isn’t enough. I think he will give in in the end, but I’d like to be able to give him a logical answer so he feels happy with it rather than just being nagged into it by us!

On the emotional support topic, yes, I could work with a counsellor and have done before during difficult times, but I was also hoping that this forum would be a place where those of us who are going through similar experiences could share our feelings and support each other…

Joint accounts will help when one of them passes away, as the other one has immediate access. I as widowed when just 54, this really helped me, but it took almost 18 months before I could access my husband’s business account.

After my mum was widowed, she kept losing her Halifax passbook, in the end the manager had to visit her at her house, because she was completely housebound, even ambulance staff struggled! He persuaded mum to have a joint account with me. What I didn’t realise at the time was how useful this would be. She had about £24,000 in the account, but because it was a joint account with me, only half, £12,000 was taken into consideration when assessing mum’s ability to pay for the carers they arranged.

If your parents have over £46,000 between them, they will be expected to pay for any care, until they get below that level, so if they are hovering around this mark, bear what I have said in mind.

I’m happy to share most things on the forum, I was caring for my mum from about 1976 onwards, when I came home from Australia. Dad was alive, but working away a lot, after he retired he had prostate cancer. My husband’s parents had dementia, stroke, and heart problems. All living within a 6 mile radius, we used to nickname ourselves The Thunderbirds, ready to jump at a moments notice. Sadly, my husband died not long after his dad, from a massive stroke, which I’ll always believe was brought on because of the stress of caring. I had a serious problem that nearly killed me too!


Thanks, honey badger. We are talking through the POA again and am hoping that this time Dad will agree.