New Member - Caring for Elderly Father [88]

Hello - I am new to the forum, but not new to caring. But of late I have needed to reach out for help myself.

My dad is 88. He was widowed 17 years ago.

My mum literally did everything in their relationship. This became apparent in the immediate, medium, and long term.

My dad is literally unable to to make a decision - I have to be heavily involved in helping him. When he does make decision, he then regrets not making another decision.

Based on my amateur sleuth first-hand observations, reading and research, my dad exhibits the following personality traits:

 Feeling anxiety or irritability almost constantly
 Poor emotional stability
 Feelings of self-doubt
 Experiencing moodiness, sadness, or depression
 Easily stressed or upset; unable to handle stress at all
 Dramatic changes in feelings
 Lack of resilience or difficulty bouncing back after adversity
 Chronic worrying about a variety of things
 Constantly seeking multiple assurances about innocuous issues
 Tendency to interpret neutral situations as threatening
 Often viewing minor problems as overwhelming – for example seeking multiple assurances that it’s OK to take a tablet with warm water or lemonade - which is ludicrous.
 Expressing frustration or anger about everyday occurrences
 Feelings of fear or guilt over minor things
 Inability to make ANY decision[s]

Lately he’s been diagnosed with bowel cancer that has been shrunk to the point where it is operable, but the stress of making a decision to operate or not; sent him spiralling into a severe depression where he said he was contemplating suicide.

In addition - he’s not a nice person he is:
o Mean-spirited.
o Bitter.
o Fearful
o Cynical.
o Pessimistic.
o Spiteful.
o Hateful.
o Joyless.

I’m now getting completely exhausted and would love to see if other members have similar issues and also if they have any suggestions to resolve the situation.

To confirm I have got him to a GP and he’s being treated for depression, I’ve also reached out to o0ther support groups UK Age [Silverline], Samaritans, Mind, Life Rooms and Macmillan’s. At the moment I’m trying to wean him off coming to my house 2-3 times a day, to mope.

Many thanks


Welcome to the forum.
Do you live with dad, or has dad moved in with you?

Has anyone told you that you do NOT have to care for dad, at all?

My dad lives a short distance from me, about a 5 minute walk.

My red-line boundary is that he will never be able to live in my house nor am I ever going to move in with him.

No - I’ve never been told that [about caring] or had a conversation about that?

Is that significant?

For 88, apart from a replacement knee, his physical capacity and capability to care for himself is good - washing dressing, cooking, cleaning, laundry and some shopping. It’s his chronic emotional neediness that’s causing problems.

Probably a daft reply but would he accept help? For example, a Telephone Befriender to offload to? If you have been in contact with Silverline and Age UK then I guess you have explored these options? I guess counselling is also something he would not accept?

I have to say he sounds very much like my 83 year old husband. But I agree with BB, you do not HAVE to care for him and your first duty of care is to YOURSELF. I agree that you will probably feel the need to support him but you have every right to impose boundries. Would you benefit from a Carer Befriender to discuss coping and boundries with - so many have been Carers themselves. Would you consider counselling? You have all my sympathy and I am so glad you do not live with him. These old men can be thoroughly draining day in day out…

Philip, at the age 0f 88 there is little hope of him ever changing.

I was widowed at the age of 54, 16 years ago, life will never be the same again, but I’ve made a new life for myself. Even after all this time, I still wish for my old life though.

After my mum was widowed, she kept ringing me almost every day. I was busy working from home, writing a magazine my income depended on. She didn’t like me writing about old lorries, and seemed to think it was “helpful” to give me a rest from them, not realising that every long conversation meant me working late into the night, especially when she had not only broken my train of thought, but raised my blood pressure too!

I had to put my answerphone on permanently. It was the only way I could get her to leave me alone.
I was so desperate that I had counselling, how I wish I’d had it years earlier. The counsellor told me to stop feeling guilty about things I couldn’t do for mum, but to feel proud of what I was doing.

I would suggest that you made yourself less available, and set a time every day when you would either visit or ring dad.
Set a time for leaving too. Some older people enjoy having someone in to do cleaning, food prep etc. but it sounds like dad doesn’t really need domestic help. Would he enjoy a day at a sports match, coach trip, or similar?

Thank you - I really appreciate your wise and kind words, and practical suggestions.

With regard to Silverline, I gave him the number several days ago and he hasn’t rung yet. I asked him to ring whilst I was there the other night and he managed to change the subject and prevaricate - so I left. I’ll try again later and stand over him until he rings.

That’s an interesting suggestion about a Care Befriender - where can I get more information on that?

Re my dad and counselling…IMHO I think he’s still stuck in the ‘Depression’ stage of grief, and has yet to move into ‘Acceptance’ - that may be a route in to counselling, to try to get him to move on.

It may come as no surprise that I too am being treated for depression and am on the waiting list for counselling.

Many thanks again.

Keep your red line and ensure you have clear boundaries for all things.

I appreciate you might already know of or have done POA etc but if you haven’t got paperwork sorted, do it while he has capacity.
Especially Power of Attorney - so you can act/make decisions in his best interests if he loses capacity, if he wants that, otherwise it is the authorities who take over and act in his interests.
That was the best advice I was ever given to do POA.

My mother has all her paperwork done now, POAs, DNAR, will, funeral service and end of life plan, all the upsetting conversations are done, we can just have fun now. But my mother is of a completely different character and has progressive heart and lung disease.

Has he always had both sets of traits or is it since your mum died and/or being diagnosed with cancer?
Did he ever grieve or have counselling or come to terms with the loss?
He has got possible grief issues, loss of confidence, loneliness, lost person without his wife, anger issues over the cancer and alsorts of things going on. Is he kind of lost and looking for validation? I have no idea, just thinking aloud looking from the outside and not at all qualified to say.
My mother is 90 and physically very frail but mentally strong and sharp. However at around your fathers age they do tend to get a bit in need of someone around and concerned about being on their own, losing track of time eg 10 or 20 mins can seem like an hour or three, my mother had that with my father who was 20 years older and now I am seeing it with her.
At this age some odd quirks start to arise.

Does he have any hobbies or interests? Is there a Man Shed kind of thing going on local to him?
Are there any charity sitting services where someone can spend an afternoon with him once a week - you might find a few if you are lucky. Could he do and would he be interested in making an airfix kit up or something like that? Does he need to feel useful doing something? Is he feeling like a spare part?
He certainly needs something to occupy him.

Are you in contact with a McMillan Nurse? speak with them about your fathers depression and issues and his grief, you might get help there or information on help elsewhere, it is worth speaking with them.
They might also know of local activities, charities, befrienders etc.

Have you discussed your fathers uncertaincy about the operation with a McMillan nurse?
At your fathers age, the body is weaker, they can feel pain more and there could be a reluctance for him to go through it, or is it the recovery bothering him - who will help him?

It could be that as he was growing up, his generation were of the era that you went to hospital and left in a wooden box and he is of the age now that many of his friends and peers are leaving hospital in a wooden box.
Looking at it from his perspective it is a big operation, he will have been told the risks and of course he is concerned. Have they scared the daylights out of him? is he ok with it but unsure if his body is up to it? or is he put off by the recovery? Can a McMillan nurse discuss with him.

Is he a proud man? is he private? maybe that’s why he’s not phoning Silverline or his depression.
Can you put it on speakerphone and phone together or arrange a time for a befriender call when you are there and do it together on speaker phone a few times and see if he wants to continue with it?
There could be fear of the unknown, dislike of strangers or the stoic proud man issues of his generation that’s a big barrier to break through or the almost impenetrable depression.

You have done your analysis of what the issues are, the trick is to combat them, to work with them, for them or around them to help him, you didn’t mention stubborn mule but good luck if that is in the mix! Sometimes reassurance or coaxing helps or actually doing it with them.

One occasion there was a struggle with my mother, I tried everything I could think of and was at a dead end, then I put myself in her shoes and tried to see it from her perspective, from a frail, vulnerable, weak old lady, that was the pivotal point and I always take that approach now.

We are not given any training, they do not come with an instruction book, they can be stubborn or just need reassuring or coaxing along with you there to get them into the swing of it. They know their own mind and can dig their heels in and you have to step back and reappraise and leave them some thinking time. There are some things you have to concede or try again weeks or months later.

This could be a starting point for finding local events for your father if he would go to things.

Hi Philip

Core traits amplified, oh you have your work cut out for you.

Asking him to help with your garden would be great, makes him feel useful, gives him a purpose and he’s being a father again and the gardening is therapeutic. Does your father have a garden too?
It’s a bit late for vegetable plug plants but if there are any leeks around still you could have some for his garden and your garden if there’s a little area that can be given to them so there’s something for winter harvesting. Probably too late for peas and beans now.

How can I help you? the reverse psychology - choose the question very carefully.
How can we get you to xyz? that gives a joint initiative as well as putting a responsibility onto him.

The rejection - don’t give him chance to reject, get a jigsaw puzzle, get the airfix kits and sit down to do them with him at his home so he can see them and have a go at them.

Change averse - maybe he’s scared of change, of moving on, of losing this grief - what has he got without it? maybe it is the last part of his wife he has got left? afraid to lose that connection? fearing being disloyal to her? how about a pot of tea and some photographs to reminisce? tell him she’s still in your hearts and alive in your memories.

Baby steps.

Be careful about the garden with the hot weather coming, don’t let him do it in the blazing heat.
Work together in the garden to begin with, take advice from him to make him feel more useful.
If he likes gardening how about getting him a gardening magazine or a subscription and asking him for some ideas for your garden for next year? His mind can be occupied thinking about your garden - could be just a corner or a flower bed and changing a section of his garden.

Don’t do the fish tank now, if he needs an operation and recovery, he won’t be able to care for them and that could be an excuse against surgery, but it could be an incentive after recovery to get a small tank.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling you can “fix” dad in any way.
Trying to find something for him to do is probably pointless too.
It took counselling to make me realise that all mum wanted was me, at her place.
The endless jobs she invented were just to get me there. The faster I did he josthe faster they were invented!
Try to gradually control dad’s expectations. If you don’t want to go every day, don’t.
You don’t have to justify the reason by saying what you are going to do instead. As a child parents could stop you if they didn’t approve. Not as an adult.
Counselling made me realise that I was always being a good little girl by never saying No to mum. It was OK as an adult.

Thank you for a very compassionate and practical reply. We do now have a named MacMillan Nurse - I’ve spoken to her and she’s asked my dad to call her. I’ll do it with him and put the conversation on speakerphone. I’ll also do the same with Silverline.

Thank you again for a very considered, compassionate and practical response - some very good ideas in there, for me to try.

My dad keeps trying ever more creative [but lame] reasons to justify showing up at my front door - from ‘here’s that 50p I owe you’ or - ‘here’s that carrier bag you lent me’ and then invariably stays for over an hour. I think he’s the same as your mum was - he just wanted to be with me. I’ve actually got some talking therapy lined up, which should be illuminating.

I hope you get some successes.