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Dad Cannot Care for Mom Anymore


"I'm afraid my father will not be able to care for my mother much longer. Both are in their late eighties and Mom relies on Dad for everything. She needs assistance with meals, bathing, and all household tasks. My father is tired and wants to move into assisted living to get better care for Mom. She is stubborn and refuses. On top of that, one of my sisters has also always been somewhat of an unofficial dependent of theirs and isn't capable of much.

When do my other siblings and I step in? We all agree with Dad and fear how the current situation will play out." - READER


My answer is that you step in now. Your father needs help, and he is not being supported adequately. Your mother and your sister are dependent on a man that will soon require help for himself. You clearly see a ticking time bomb that could go off at any time.

Your father needs you to step in and manage the situation, as he is clearly unable to tell the woman that he loves that something has got to give. I would start with Dad. Share with him everything you have observed and push for a change. Affirm his judgment by telling him you agree with his decision for assisted living, be it at home or in a complex.

Ask him if you may address these issues with your mother and sister. Once you have his permission to speak with them, move forward, first with your mother. You need to be honest with her that Dad cannot provide all her care anymore. Let her know what the choices are and that the current setup is not one of the choices. I expect that she will rant and rave. So be it. You and Dad must hold firm on this.

Your father is being a dear husband, though it appears he is realizing his limitations. Let your mother know this. A change needs to occur in order to protect what remains of his health. Walk through the list of choices and give your mother an opportunity to voice other options. Do not accept the status quo as an option. 

It may help you to know that stepping in and supporting your father as the authority figure is not that uncommon for a child to do at this stage of life. Your father is caught in a situation that he used to have the stamina to manage. He simply no longer can handle it. As tough as this is, you are doing the right thing.

Next, get together with your siblings and develop a plan to manage your dependent sibling. Your local department of aging can be a resource for disabled adults/elders. Pull in your resources and work toward a long-term plan that does not include your parents, as they are no longer a viable option. You and your siblings may also need to assist your sister, at least somewhat.

You have a difficult path ahead with Mom, Dad, and your sister. Do your best to be loving and firm, as it is best for everyone involved.

I wish you the best.


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