Life transitions, the elderly version

Life continues to offer up life challenges and transitions in sobriety. I find great solace and comfort in knowing that although this past year has been extremely challenging on a variety of fronts, drinking and drugs are not adding to my already full plate of life transitions. It is a huge relief to be sober and clear while life and the world continues to spin around me. I am grateful beyond words for that. And I thank TS and you, dear community for helping me sustain my sobriety.

Life transitions…I am to most an elder person…but I am still the child to my 87 year old Mom and 89 year old Dad. :people_hugging: We have reached that point within our family where we are working with my parents to find an independent living situation with assisted option either near myself and my husband + our eldest daughter and grandson (who moved near us a year ago…another big transition)…or near my oldest brother and his family + other family who live in New England. Would be a bit simpler, but my folks are snowbirds and own a seasonal trailer up north and a full time place they close up in summer in Florida. So both will need selling and serious vesting of stuff. My Dad is very connected to his stuff and that is a particular challenge (I envision a storage unit for the win!). No one is comfortable with them living full time in hurricane prone Florida. We want this final stage of their lives to be close to family so they have all the care, love and assistance they may need.

I am sharing looking for any sage wisdom and experience others may have had with this stage with their parent(s). There are so many moving parts … just hoping for support and a little vent space as this unfolds as it will.

It is so interesting getting to this part of life. I really never thought I would and I know that many people never thought I would live this long either (my parents included). I am grateful to be clear and able to assist my folks during this big transitional time. And don’t get me wrong, it is testing my patience (which I don’t really have a lot of to begin with), and adding to my anxiety. I am reminded daily that my cup needs filling as it is emptying. But maybe, just maybe, it will allow a bit of healing within my sibling bond. It is certainly humbling being of assistance to my elderly parents and tending to their heightened emotions (in a traditionally non emotional facing family, it is refreshing after 60+ years).

Long winded as always…this is where I am. Gratefully sober. Overwhelmed. Reaching out. :people_hugging::heart::people_hugging: Thanks for listening!

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Oh Sassy, that is a lot! I will write more later, but can relate to much of your post. (Also at the phase where Mom still refers to me, when she recognizes me, as her baby, while those in the public call me ma’am. :smirk:)

Re: the culling of life’s stuff. A storage unit, yes, with plans to visit and cull more and make decisions about things later, is good. My Mom, I think, measured her wealth in relationships. Photos and cards? Well, those are just evidence of relationships! There were an overwhelming amount of them.
The photos? I bought mini albums, and we made theme albums - family, home, garden, etc - and put the big albums in storage until it was less charged to deal with them.
Items you can’t keep? We took photos of them. And didn’t print. :wink: Even photos of some old photos and cards, and stored it all digitally on an iPad for her to look at them.

That was just about six years ago this time… And all of that would have gone much more smoothly, internally for me, had I been sober.

Each of her moves since, from independent to assisted living, to the dementia unit, and potentially soon to long term, have required more winnowing down, more “mandatory dependence” on her part. Gah. I’ve strived to maintain what agency she has left over her life. Grateful to be sober for these moves.

Hugs to you as you face and lean into this transition. Takes some grit and an open, soft heart. Just like you already have. :people_hugging: :orange_heart:

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Adding: Dad had two (TWO) workshops, in the home they lived in for 43 years. He passed away very quickly, and never had to downsize them himself. Sending you and your Dad and family some strength and lots of love. :orange_heart:

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Tears, I treasure you my friend. Thank you for your wisdom and even more, your tender friendship. Always much love and care to you as you and your Mom move thru life.

My Dad is the photo album king. One of his first worries was, ‘Where will the photo albums go?’. Always the theme seems to be, let go, or be dragged. Me…I can access this…my Dad…ooh, a tough one.

I will re read your post more. :heart:

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I will write more after work, but in my family as the eldest child and “trained” to be responsible for family stuff, I was involved in my grandparents’ transitions. I certainly can be grateful now for those experiences and the close bond I had with my paternal grandparents - at the time it felt like a lot on my shoulders. I wasn’t involved when they downsized to a condo, but when my grandfather passed I went to stay with my grandma for an extended period to be with her but also to help go through his things. My dad would visit on weekends to go through his antique tool collection, so much of it was stuff he had built himself and there was a lot of emotion involved in letting go. My dad has the purge gene and usually doesn’t have a problem letting go of things but these were things he couldn’t pass on to anyone. He had to make decisions to throw these once precious items away. So I comforted him through some of that.

I remember helping her go through his clothing with similar circumstances. Hard stuff. The shear amount of PAPER. Goodness. She was one to go through page by page. So we did. It took patience and an open heart and I was hurting, too, so there probably was some therapeutic element there I didn’t necessarily see at the time where I had to slow down and let go of my own expectations and timeline. All good lessons for a 15 year old.

There were several transitions after that, she came to live with us, condo was eventually sold, my parents moved three times, but from what I hear not much of the “stuff” was dealt with in that time. As she got into her 80s at the last home my parents lived in, there was a lot of sorting and labeling of what goes to who in the family and so there was progress there but a lot remained in the attic. I guess the progress is that there wasn’t a need for a storage unit at some point. I know on trips home I would come back with a box of “my things,” my childhood drawings and letters and so on. It can be easier to give the items to someone else to decide to let it go than to do so yourself I guess. Makes sense. She eventually moved to assisted living where she remained until she passed.

At which point, estranged aunts came to “collect.” Which was fine with my parents, though awkward. They are still going through things and my dad recently went through thousands of photo slides, the ones you viewed through a projector, that my grandfather had accumulated and that had never been sorted. He sent a couple hundred to a company to have them digitized and it’s wonderful to have them.

I hope my story helped even a little. I will say it brought back memories and some tears, too. But warm feelings. And once I started writing I couldn’t stop. Long winded sisters :heartpulse:

Sending you strength, patience and warm feelings as you navigate this. I appreciate you sharing, also.

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Thanks for sharing Sassy. And M and Rosa. For me it’s somehow comforting to read? I’m not sure what it is for me, but it’s good to read about how you all deal with this.

For me and my sis it was different. Our parents were divorced for a long time, but their lives stayed intertwined up to a certain extent. And sis and me (me especially) weren’t that involved in both their lives as my parents weren’t that invloved with ours.

Mum was independent until the last couple of months of her life, when the mesothelioma she was diagnosed with a year or two earlier caught up with her. She could stay in her home where she lived for the last ten years or so until her death, and she had a group of close friends who took care of her, together with professional home care and my sis and me a bit. Not that much. I was drunk quite a lot in those days, but not for that particular reason. It does make it hard to remember everything. Sad.

Anyway, sis and me didn’t have to take care of a lot of things when mum was still alive. Only after. As to dad, he had a much younger wife who took care of him and took care of things. Which to be totally honest suited us children pretty well. It must sound cruel when I say it like this. But it is what it is. He died exactly a year after mum.

Looking back one good thing that came out of it is that it was the beginning of me and my sis having a better relationship. We were all little islands until then, parents and children alike. Sis and me have grown quite a lot closer since. That’s a very good thing.

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Goodness, I am so grateful for your sharing your experience. My parents went through all my grandparents transitions on their own, tho I did get many memories and family stuff that helped a lot when I was young and bring me comfort right now. I still have baby blankets my grandmother made for future grand babies and great grand babies…I was blessed to share one just last week with my expecting nephew and his wife…a blanket made by baby’s Great Great Grandmother. :heart:

I did help my parents previously on their original move to Florida many years ago and the downsizing then…they were young then and took a lot with them, but divested alot. Then again when they moved across Florida 10+ years ago to live near us. But they have collected quite a bit again …so. :roll_eyes:

Oh I know those slide projectors…my youth is on them. I think one of my brothers have them…I got most of my grandmother’s toothpick holder collection (it is legendary) with more coming my way I think. :rofl:

I really appreciate you sharing your story. That is a lot on a young girl. It sounds like one of those hard life experiences that as we age holds more sweet than bitter. I am glad you had a chance to revisit.

Patience…I apologized to my Mom on our recent visit for my obvious frustration at times. Patience divided by anxiety + stress = whoosh. :people_hugging: We muddle thru.

I anticipate a lot of going thru paper and stuff my Dad holds dear. He already divvied up our old pictures years ago…we ‘the kids’ were bummed…going thru the old growing up photo albums was something we enjoyed doing when together. Now we all have our own photos…which is kind of weird. I know he meant well. Epic fail tho.

Long winded sisters indeed. I have also been sharing long winded emails with my estranged ish SIL because…women…and it has been a terny bit helpful for the long standing rift in my heart.

Ah well…so much stuff this all brings up. It is good to have friends to share this with. And again…beyond grateful I am sober for this. Thank you Rosa. :heart::heart::butterfly::heart::heart:

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This is how it was with my FIL many years ago, we were very grateful to his dear younger wife. She recently passed, and my hubby and his sis were able to visit with her kids, and it meant a lot to them all to be together again and reminisce. His Mom’s situation she was in a lovely elder facility for a short time…it was a hard time as I was with my daughter who was alone and 9 months pregnant for the weeks leading up to my MILs passing (she moved quickly thru her final transition) and so my husband and I were seperated during this time of birth and death within our family. It was so hard not being able to be with my beloved MIL and husband, but life does what it will. Ah, your story helped me revisit that…thank you. We have many paintings from her Mom…so we have memories (especially my husband) everywhere we look in our home.

I really appreciate you sharing Menno. :heart:

I am very happy this has happened for you. I always wanted a sister, I am awash in brothers. :woman_shrugging:

I always like hearing others stories. And I appreciate and am grateful you shared yours. :heart:

Thank you.

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First I give you a big warm caring embrace. :people_hugging:
I haven’t spoken about it but I have been taking care of my Mom at home with full time nursing for the past 2 years. During this time I have felt a myriad of emotions. And all I can say from my experience is that every feeling you have is legitimate. Guilt is what is best left at bay be it guilt for a feeling or guilt for wanting to do something for yourself or anything. I believe I know you as best as I can through this community and at a distance and based on that, I know that you will do what is best for others. My hope is that you include yourself in that list. With such care compassion understanding and purity of feeling. :yellow_heart:

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Oh my sweet friend, I so appreciate this. :people_hugging: And as always, I send love, compassion and strength to you and to your Mom. She is lucky to have you. :heart:

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:yellow_heart: …… just as Your Mom is lucky to have you and as We are in this community to have you. Please keep yourself at the forefront for You. You’ve earned it. You are important. And You count too. :sparkles:

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Hi Sassy - Of my 5 brothers, I’m the one who most consistently has been in relationship with my folks. 10 years ago this summer is when my mother died. My dad was then 82, and my brothers and I took some important steps. First was to prepare all the legalities for when my dad would pass - put the house in Florida in trust, give one brother access to his finances, another to be executor and power of attorney. Just so all that would be in place - he and we had to make decisions following Mom’s death that easily could have been done years before.

The next transition, at that time, was to send Pop on a tour of tiered living communities in Ohio (independent, assisted, and nursing facilities), to be near his sister and 3/6 of his boys. That did not go well. He was mourning and felt we were not listening to his wishes. And he was caught, as were we, completely unawares at his utter inability to live, emotionally and physically, on his own. He needed companionship. He went back home to Florida. As a widower in Florida, with some money, no long-term illness and most of his marbles, he was not on the dating scene very long. He was married again 13 months after Mom’s passing, and that in accordance with her wishes.

Fast forward to 2022. Pop is still married, living at home, but has a neurological disease that kind of looks like Parkinson’s but isn’t, seizures pretty well controlled by medication, falling and fainting spells, and a general decline in energy and ability to handle life. He has given up driving after drifting across the front lawn of a home on his way back from church. Yet another hurricane came to his part of Florida and in a freak local flood, his home and most possessions were devastated. Pop takes a turn for the worse due to the stress of temporary housing and the recovery, winds up in a skilled nursing facility for rehab following another bad seizure episode. The wife is living in an Air BnB. My brothers came to town to muck out the house, salvaged a couple of storage units of stuff and arranged for the water restoration at a high cost. We find out the wife has been spending like someone who doesn’t know Monopoly money from the real thing - nothing vicious or underhanded, just incredibly willfully ignoring the fact that capital must be husbanded if it is to last.

We got them into an assisted living facility. Pop is not happy, not socializing there, and the wife is really unhappy, not trusting that when Pop passes that she will be taken care of. Somehow, the two of them come up with a plan to take the insurance settlements and repair the house. About 5 months after the flood, they move back into a habitable house with minimal cheap furnishings. The ordeal estranges 2 of my brothers from them, and leaves another holding the bag for about $30k of repair and rehab costs. Eventually enough of that money is repaid or written off so that his relationship with Pop is salvaged.

Today Pop is 92 and declining rapidly. He’s on home hospice, so a lot of his meds and treatments have been canceled. About half the time, he is depressed and fatigued. He moves, with walkers and wheelchairs and lots of help, from bed to bathroom to recliner. He is confronting his life of pride and trying to control others, his life of emotional anesthesia, his impending death with fear. I take a lesson from this, to live my life today, to be honest with my feelings, to daily reflect on what it means to die and to live. Connection to others, to my recovery community and my family, connection to the universe and eternity, this is what is the worthy pursuit of my time.

I’ll be officially old, according to the Feds, this week as my birthday is Tuesday. I did not get sober until age 43, so I have been trying to pack as much into the stream of life (as they say) as I can since then. When it comes to my Pop and his wife and my brothers, I keep in mind the mantra I was given as a message by the Great Beyond on April 7, 2005.

Everything is gonna be alright. You’ll be able to stop drinking now and everything will be okay.

Your pal - Danny

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Oh Danny, that is some journey. So much, just so much. I will be re reading this. The grasping…always the grasping. I come back to it again and again and your family’s story brings it up to me as well. I cannot express how grateful I am for you sharing it with me…all of us here. Thank you. It brings back up when my paternal Grandmother died when I was in high school and in 9 months my Grandfather was married to her best friend. I understand the comfort of grieving together (I did this with my 1st husband’s best friend). Humans.

That is so much to process and yet as you say (paraphrasing) …here we are, sober, grateful, okay.

I so very much appreciate you sharing so much. It helps, a lot.

FWIW, my husband just made 65 in March, a lovely milestone to reach. Here we are. :heart:

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Thank you to all who have shared - interesting and reflective reading.
I will add a brief note taken from a witness role watching my grandparents deal with their parents, and in turn my parents deal with my grandparents.
Don’t do it alone, and don’t leave it too late.
The whole family learnt that trying to take on full time care and support roles, however well intended, is incredibly draining. It will drain your cup faster than you can fill it.
The experience my grandparents had caring for their parents changed how the whole family planned it aging. Their main goal?.. To not burden children (of any age). Aging is hard, and dying a complicated process.
Lessons learnt I’ve witnessed include:

  • Use third party support mechanisms - they exist for a reason.
  • Have transition plans and enact them before solutions are forced on you - keeping a sense of control in your fate is important.
  • Let people know your plans.
  • Try to let children (of any age) continue to be the child - don’t burden them with full time carer roles, even if they say they are willing to take it on. It changes the relationship and memory forever.

Thinking of you all.
Go well.

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Thank you for sharing your experience Aybee. This part really resonates…

We (me!) had been hoping to do this sooner, but met with resistance. I am hopeful we can move the plan forward over the next few months. Ultimately, it is up to my folks. Until of course health forces the issue.

It is a lot and I so appreciate everyone’s sharing. :heart:

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Patience and love. I could have had more of both when going through this with my parents (dad 2016, mom 2023) and my MIL three weeks ago.

Everything about the time of dying is very challenging especially when it comes to trying to take care of a parent. I feel I was very fortunate because I got to take care of my parents and was able to be there for them even if I wasn’t always at my best.

Best of times, worst of times.

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None of us are always at our best, we are all human after all. I am glad you were able to be there for your parents, I imagine that meant a lot to them. :people_hugging::heart: The full circle.

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So much has been covered in the replies.
I agree that taking pictures of even pictures is a nice way to preserve a lot of the memories and to have them available without actually having the item available.
Items. And often times out of sight, it’s out of mind.

In one of your last comments you did say that a lot of this has to do with your parent’s wishes.

Yes, if your parents are able to make the decision on what area they would be happiest in, then try to figure out what kind of place would suit their needs the best.

Hopefully they will pick what their children have decided is the best for them, and be able to understand the reasons and the reasoning.

What you have written is very loving and caring towards them. These are words to be shared with them also. ( without me looking at them exactly right now.) it was the general gist of what I got from what you were writing.

How fortunate they are to have someone like you make these arrangements for them for the betterment of their well-being.

Something I wanted to add that could be comforting to them, once they have picked out where they’re going to live, what the square footage area in there is going to be, how it’s going to be broken up into rooms, or all one room.

Using graph paper so that you can be as accurate as possible, place some of their belongings on the graph paper, identified even with tiny photos around on the piece of paper, or on another sheet of paper.

They then can see that their new surroundings will have some of their belongings in there.
I have done that for someone before. Figured out what was going to go where, what would fit where, and what would not.

As has already been said, all of this can change in a second, either because of disaster or disability, mental or physical, necessitating other arrangements.

It is nice to have their approval of what you’re doing. And a certain amount of agreeability of what their living area is going to be like.

I once moved someone who wanted to get away from where she was because of necessity. She could no longer live alone and wanted to live in another town to be close to family members.

Coincidentally, it’s good that she did move, because a year later, her house was demolished by a hurricane.

As agreeable as she was about making the change, once she was there her personality totally switched from the nice person that she was to, I want to say the devil from hell, well that’s not exactly very nice, but you get the picture.

She would say that she would run away during the night and run back to her previous home. She would say hateful, nasty things about the family members who moved her into her new place, wanting her to have safety and well-being, in the new place.

She would say things like nobody needs to worry, she was gonna go back home to no furniture, she didn’t care. She said things like she hated everybody that had anything to do with it and she didn’t ever want to see any of them ever again, etc. etc. very venomous, very hurtful.

“ I will just run away and I will go down there by myself. You don’t have to worry about me I’ll be OK.”

So be prepared to possibly be confronted with that and just try with your heart to understand where it’s coming from.

After awhile she stopped doing this, thankfully.

A lot of the assisted-living places have these weird fee schedules. They base it on the fact that the ordinary person usually doesn’t stay at one of their facilities for more than 18 months before they have to go somewhere else or end up dying.

At least that’s what they used to say, the world is a big place and I get that.

You’re going to do your best and that’s all you can do. For yourself and for them.

The main things that I want to add, are to consider doing a schematic of the living area with the belongings that will fit in it, if they are able to bring some of their own belongings to the area.

Be prepared for- editing to add- the possibility of - some real nastiness on their part when they realize that they lost a lot of their independence and are in a new environment, regardless of how much of a safer environment it is for them. Regardless of how amenable they were to the idea to start with.

You are not alone on this. It’s always overwhelming and very emotional. We are all here with/ for you during this process.

Big hugs.
However it goes, just remember you will not have done anything wrong. You will have done your best. You and whoever else is helping you and also your parents.
Editing to redo my emojis which are not showing up
:people_hugging: :purple_heart: :people_hugging: :purple_heart: :people_hugging:

🩷🫂🩷🫂🩷🫂

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Thank you Alisa, I appreciate the thoughtful and affirming reply. They are still in the decision making process, but we are hopeful when they visit next month that they will like the apartment. It is small though. My Mom envisions new furniture, my Dad wants to make the old fit. Maybe somewhere in between will work. We just hope they want to make the move even tho we know it is a lot of work. Hopefully me and my brothers can handle most of it.

I am thankful to you all, and grateful, for the support and sharing of stories and experiences. It helps a lot.

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