Monday, March 27, 2006

Decisions Regarding an Aging Parent

My father sent me a letter from a woman who said that she was interested in buying his house. He told her that the house was not for sale, but that could change in the near future, as he is getting on in years. He went on to say that it wasn't clear whether I would be returning to the Midwest or not. If I wasn't coming back, he said that he wouldn't be able to keep up with the house for another decade. I found this letter disconcerting. Currently, I am single with no children. Nobody is affected by my actions but myself. Now, I find myself in a position where someone else will be dependent on the decisions that I make. As an only child, with an aging parent, I find myself facing choices that I really don't fully comprehend. I know that I want my father to spend the rest of his life in a dignified manner, but I'm not sure how this goal is best achieved. Here are some of the factors that I need to consider.

I know that most nursing homes consist of a retirement community that is continually staffed by on-site medical professionals. Through structured activities, this community provides a social outlet for its residents, while ensuring that their medical needs are continually met. But aren't we talking about a matter of semantics here? I believe that there are more affordable options available that can also accomplish the same objectives. For instance, a lengthy prison sentence seems like a reasonable alternative. Modern correctional facilities provide nutritious meals, in-house medical care, and exercise facilities. Not to mention, the constant companionship and occasional field trips to local highway median strips will give Dad about all the excitement that he can handle.

Of course, this strategy raises a whole new set of issues. Clearly, any impending prison time must be federal time, in order to forego any troublesome possibility of parole. Sure, it wouldn't be hard to get him 15 years in a state lockup, but in a mere 7.5 years, I'd be back to worrying about whether he thinks he's back at Woodstock or if he's been crapping on the neighbor's lawn again. I believe that would definitely put a damper on the enjoyment that I anticipate from planning to spend my inheritance. Currently, Dad loves to garden. What I'm thinking is that I need to make a substitution with respect to this year's crop selection. I'll bet that an 1/8th of an acre of high grade marijuana would be in both of our best interests.

However, I also want to consider options that allow him to stay in his own home. The problem with this solution is that in-home care providers are prohibitively expensive. Depending on the level of attention required, costs can accumulate as high as hundreds of dollars a day. I believe that remarriage might be a preferable option. I envision a conversation with my future mom that goes like this:

Nikkee: "What's this?"
TFG: "It's a liability waiver from the doctor's office. You know how they worry about lawsuits these days"
Nikkee: "Oh. What does pre-nuptial mean?"
TFG: "It's one of those complicated medical terms. What it means is enormous implants."
Nikkee: "Goody. Does tubal ligation mean the same thing?"
TFG: "It sure does. Your pretty sharp with all this legal stuff."
Nikkee: "Wow! All the others girls at the massage parlor say the same thing."

As you can see, I have much to contemplate. Even at this early junction, my father and I are learning that retirement isn't all that it's purported to be. I just hope that the challenges of finding a dignified solution don't overshadow dad's
appreciation of his Golden Years. Thus, I hope to do everything in my power to prevent him from worrying about issues like his health care management and financial stability. This should provide him the time necessary to worry about more pressing matters, like impromptu prostate examinations:


At 9:24 AM, Blogger Cham said...

Prison seems to look better and better as a retirement option. Entrance to this plan gets easier and easier with the new 3 strikes and you are out rules. I'd look into the popular programs over at the Hagerstown Correction Facility where they have a gardening and livestock program. Dad would surely like it there, I might join him in a few years if I develop any serious medical issues or if our utility rates continue through the roof.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger AnonymousCoworker said...

I tell my parents that if they don't behave I'll be forced to toilet-paper them to their bed before upending a 40 pound bag of kibble over them.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger jennetic said...

There are "continuum of care" communities that might be an option. It would mean that your dad would go into a true "retirement" community- usually a condo or a cottage apartment, and would receive no care and have no interference.

If he needed it later on, he could "bump up" in homes/apts with increasing levels of care- someone in the community coming in to check in on him, or if needed, an assisted living facility. That sounds like it's rather far off, if it ever even comes to that, for your dad, though.

My mom is an administrator for one of these communities in PA- it's really a nice option, because the care is there, if ever needed, but if it's not needed it is totally independent living. Here's a link to give you an idea:
(Your dad would probably want something like the first option at the top of the list.)

Mom fully plans on moving into the retirement community independent living, hopefully to stay. The homes are really nice, there is a pool, a gym, excellent dining (I mean it! I've been there!). It's like living in a condo, in that someone else takes care of the upkeep, and generally all homes have only one floor.

There are options out there for retired people, and a lot of them are better than you think. It's not just Home or Nursing Home anymore.

It sucks that you have to start thinking about all this, but it sounds like your dad is in good health, so it might be helpful to know that there are options available, so that he doesn't need to make any decisions now.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger tfg said...

Cham-I'm sure that my father will appreciate that I went with the prison option over the dog kennel idea.

ACW-I may try this.

Jennetic-Thanks for all of the info.

At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wait until you have to change his diapers.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Antonio said...

Funny stuff. You set me up for some touching tale of caring about your father, then completely blind-sided me with the prison suggestion!

At 9:32 AM, Blogger doggerelblogger said...

You could also consider sending your father on a "dream vacation" to the Canadian Arctic. All he'll have to do is sell his house to finance it. All you have to do is find a handy ice floe to set him adrift on, give him a satellite phone and tell him to call you when he gets to Santa's place.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

where were you when i did my masters thesis on only children with aging parents!!!! gah!!! it was so hard to recruit people to interview! granted i was a starving student and coulnd't actually like - pay - people for thier time. haha.

there's more of us out there that feel the same way! hang in there!



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