A compassionate board

Thanks, Sheila for starting this board. I was only recently told about it, but I find it worth the time to read.

My father died a number of years ago,but his story seems appropriate, maybe even meaningful to some here.

Dad was one of the smartest men I ever knew. He was limited by his 9th grade education (Born to a poor white trash Southern family in Louisiana.) He was a hard worker and eventually earned a good living selling office supplies. He was a deacon in his Baptist church, and he was the go-to man on biblical questions.

When he became senile, it was hard for the family to accept. He had always been the tower of strength for everyone else. My sister lived nearby, and she noticed it first, even before Mom did. My brother also noticed it. At first I did not. Why? I lived 1500 miles away and only saw him occasionally. When I came to visit, he visibly improved - he didn’t want me to see him “like that”.

He fell and broke his hip one night. He got an artificial hip, but never was able to use it. The pain bothered him too much and he couldn’t understand that he needed to bear it and learn to walk again. So he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Eventually Mom had him moved to a “retirement home” - the kind with two beds in a room and a community cafeteria. Mom was sure that was all they could afford. Besides that was the only experience she had ever had with retirement homes.

Eventually he couldn’t recognize my brother. This hurt Bro a lot, because he could recognize Mom and our sister. Worst of all, when I came to visit maybe every three months, he would immediately brighten up and call me by the childhood name I had made up for myself (Because I couldn’t pronounce my name.)

Interestingly, he could still play cards and dominoes, so I would play dominoes with him. He was much better than I was. He would look at the board and announce, “The five-deuce will get you 15!” I had not seen it. (And I played something else because I wanted him to win.) He would sing smutty little songs from his childhood. He died a shell of the man I had known as my dad.




I have seen you on another board and so glad that you came and posted.
Everyone has a story or stories to share and I know it was hard to see your
dad in that frail state. I am very pleased he was a terrific card and domino
player. It must have terribly hurt your brother to not be recognized while
you and your sister and mom were remembered.

I am sure your dad was so pleased when you could visit and you actually helped
him to reclaim some of his old self for which I am sure he was grateful.

Sadly, many of us helped or cared for a spouse or parent and many times they
did become a shell of themselves. I am pretty sure most times they don’t recognize
it because their world is just what it is. It is much harder to be the child/caregiver
of a parent or spouse in decline.

Thank you for sharing the story about your dad. You are most welcome here.


Robyn ~

Thank you for the kind welcoming words. I hope you (collectively) will indulge me a story of the Countess’s dad, who died a year ago last October.

He suffered from a number of ailments. Interestingly, the one I think was the worst was asthma. But with COPD and other issues, he was not well. Around Thanksgiving 2018 he had a severe attack of asthma plus I don’t know what else. Two weeks in the hospital, then a month in a “Convalescent hospital” (which is an euphemism for a place they warehouse people they don’t expect to live - just to get them out of the hospital.) He surprised us all and was sent home on hospice. I had always thought being on hospice was a death sentence, within four months, but he seemed to recover. He lived another three years, slowly declining all the while. He would not allow them to send him to a good LTC center. (He had sworn a mighty oath that when he left his house, it would be feet first.) His wife would take care of him. And she did. For three years we watched as she struggled with an increasingly frail man. At first he could “walk” - actually more of a shuffle. Then the Countess and I got him a wheel chair. They had some help by way of being on hospice. The “help” did help keep his meds up and they wold sometimes clean him when he was too sick to get out of his bed. Eventually his wife got a hospital bed for him (Courtesy again of hospice.) He lived his last year in that bed. His wife, my MIL, had to change his diapers, try to keep him clean, and feed him. He was always very demanding (to the point of inconsiderate) of his wife, and it was worse when he was sick. It was a relief to everyone, including MIL when he finally passed.

Now we have an issue of what to do with MIL. She is 88 yo, and not in great health. Can’t drive (almost blind), The Countess and I have researched a number of places we think would be suitable for her, but she won’t even consider them. The Countess’s sister lives with her, and SIL drives, so she is of some help driving MIL to Dr. appts and (very important) to hair do appointments. Otherwise SIL is useless. She had an aneurysm a few years ago and got full disability. (She takes full advantage of that even though she seems to have made a full recovery. I know, I know, I shouldn’t judge her. I diagnose a severe case of laziness.)

As a result of seeing all four of our parents age and become weak, I proposed (and the Countess agreed) that we look for a retirement home for ourselves, before actual need. Last November we moved into an expensive retirement home in San Juan Capistrano. (MIL has refused to come visit us. It’s about 45 miles - good freeways all the way.) Not sure what to do next, if anything.

At present I don’t try to do anything, because last October I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, so my attention has been focused on that. (At present daily visits for radiology, p]us intermittent treatment with chemo therapy.) Our lives have been interesting, if I may say it. Finding new digs, selling a house, and dealing with finding an oncologist we like and trust (The first one failed that test.) (That plus many physicians are almost as arrogant as I am.) The treatment is going well, thank you for asking. I have never felt any discomfort, either from the cancer or the treatment. Well, the X-rays caused my hæmmorhoids to bleed and be painful, but it’s all better now. Sorry for TMI.

Any suggestions on how to get MIL to accept care would be appreciated. She is not as sharp as she used to be, but she is a girl who grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s when women were docile and served their husbands. She never broke that mold. How she is 88, almost blind, and has a few ailments. I can’t spank her, and there is the old saying about leading a horse to water.


If you can’t have her declared incompetent, there isn’t much you can do. If you can, then you simply don’t give her a choice.

Harsh, I know. But not as harsh as something happening to her in that house, and nobody knowing about it for days.

I was fortunate 1poormom didn’t fight me. I had people lined up to testify if she did.



Ah yes. I recall that you and your wife were planning on moving into the retirement home in Carlsbad. I used to live in Oceanside. Something about the room sizes and layout were better in SJC.

On to your MIL. Do you know who has the medical power of attorney? That does seem like something prudent to have in place. MIL’s sister may not be a good fit and perhaps she would prefer that your wife be in that position. However, it doesn’t have to be a family member. If she fights that then Sheila may be right that there is nothing that can be done unless declared incompetent. I am guessing that the court is open or prefers to have a family member or close friend in that role.

My parents were the same way as far as being very vocal about staying in their home and not going to a nursing home or even assisted living place. My dad died after me caring for him, solo, over 5 years. My sister couldn’t stand providing care even when he was more ambulatory. It does require an Olympian strength and you do fade in the background of self-care. To be honest, I was looking at a couple of nursing homes even though he didn’t want that. I am sure that the patient forgets how much it takes to look after them 24/7 for possibly years. I am sorry that your FIL was so demanding and rough in his treatment of his wife. I know she suffered for it and I do commend her for seeing it through to the end although that is not a barometer of love.

Many Assisted Living facilities are lovely and being placed in a nursing home doesn’t have to mean you are sitting in a wheelchair or remain in a bed until the end. So far MIL lives with her sister so I am sure she does do some things for her besides drive. Being company is an important benefit. At some point I wonder if MIL’s care will be more than her sister can provide? What is her sister’s thoughts on MIL transitioning into a lovely facility that can more easily and skillfully provide the care needed?


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I’m confused about your MIL’s situation. You describe your SIL as useless except for driving. So, who’s doing the bill paying, meds management, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc?

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Thanks, Sheila for starting this board. I was only recently told about it, but I find it worth the time to read.

My father died a number of years ago,but his story seems appropriate, maybe even meaningful to some here.

Welcome to this board, Count! Actually, I was only an unofficial co-founder. I had gotten to know anuvaka (Joe Clark) on the Health and Nutrition board, and he had been experiencing increasing health problems with his mom for a good while. I gave him what advice I could. He was inspired to create this board—he felt there was a clear need for it—and asked me to share the responsibility for it. I was delighted to. It quickly become a strong and valuable place. Joe left after his mom eventually passed away. But for me, helping people through challenging caretaking had already become extremey important to me as the result of my experiences in learning to understand and cope with my dad after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the latter 90s. The people who come here have so much of value to say, whether it is sharing their experiences and emotions, fears and victories, confusions and clarities, or helping another to understand and cope.

Thank you for sharing your father’s story here! It is both sad and moving, and a testament to caring. But how painful for your brother not to be remembered!


Any suggestions on how to get MIL to accept care would be appreciated. She is not as sharp as she used to be, but she is a girl who grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s when women were docile and served their husbands. She never broke that mold. How she is 88, almost blind, and has a few ailments. I can’t spank her, and there is the old saying about leading a horse to water.

You have to find a geriatric social worker to help handle this. And I had first learned about this when I went to the orientation session at my local Alzeimer’s Association chapter, which was required before one was permitted to take advantage of the chapter’s resources—meetings, help hot line, support group, etc. That orientation session was spectacular. Relevant to your problem… One of the participants talked about his father, with Alzheimer’s, and his adamant refusal to meet with anyone who could help him. He was advised to find a geriatric social worker (now called a geriatric care manager). They know all of the local resources, including which ones are great and which to avoid. They are aware of handling issues that may arise in healthcare coverage. And they are highly experienced in dealing with a variety of personalities and limitations, and are adept at forming a relationship of trust and then gradually gaining the patient’s cooperation.

Here is some information on understanding what a geriatric care manager does, and resources for locating one.






Good luck!!!



Your highest priority now is getting through your cancer treatments. I’m happy to see you’re in good hands on that front, and that things are going well. Of course I’m keeping fingers crossed, because the process is never smooth, and the trouble being worth the good outcome doesn’t change the fact that the trouble is still sometimes onerous.

So, for whenever you have leisure to consider your MIL, a follow-up:
…who’s doing the bill paying, meds management, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc?
Under “etc.,” as I recall from when my dad was living in his house, are also:

  • home maintenance: arranging for annual HVAC service, for appliance repair/replacement when needed, addressing gas leaks, plumbing leaks, and other emergencies, …
  • managing hired home care givers and/or housekeepers, which in your MIL’s case, sounds like there aren’t any, yet.

I’d been wondering about you and the Countess in a CCRC while the older generation was still in a house. Personally, my move to a CCRC is vaguely on the horizon, and I suspect that I’ll get serious after my dad (currently 96 and in AL) passes and his estate is settled, which is years away.

But the fact that your SIL is living with your MIL makes all the difference. When my sister started spending 2 days/week with Dad at his house, that made all the difference. I am as suspicious of her industry and abilities as you are of your SIL’s, if not more so. My Sis has made many mistakes: messing up meds, denying that Dad fell for a phone scam (while she was in the house, and I wasn’t, but I could see what happened via my online access to his credit cards), etc; and still drops the ball sometimes (Dad’s supposed to see a dentist quarterly for cleanings, but his recent visit was 8 months after the previous one, and oh guess what, 5 of his teeth are now significantly rotted, and one definitely has to be pulled, and oh guess what else, his bridge has been missing for weeks, which was news to Sis).

So yeah, Sis does a pretty crappy job compared to what I’d do if I were doing it, but the fact that she’s stepped up, however imperfectly, means I don’t have to, so I just accept that they’re muddling along OK, and since the AL place does a great job overall, the inevitable slip-ups aren’t too serious.

However, your MIL is not in an AL place, she’s totally dependent on SIL. My thoughts, not knowing either of them personally:

  • Given that MIL took care of FIL, taking care of only herself is probably a piece of cake, comparatively. If I were she, I’d be enjoying my new freedom, and being queen of my castle. And with a live-in companion/chauffeur? Sweet. Not even having to call a cab or friend, or wait for an Uber, just having someone there at her beck & call, sounds good. Your MIL wouldn’t have that if she moved to a CCRC.
  • If SIL’s happy to do it, great. It sounds like MIL is competent with all ADL’s and most IADL’s, so doesn’t need much. MIL & SIL both have companionship, and SIL has (I’m assuming) reduced housing costs for herself in return for doing not much more than she’d be doing anyway if she lived alone.
  • Moving/downsizing from a family home is a huge upheaval.
  • MIL will of course continue to decline. Alas, we’re all on a one-way street. Options:
    (1) She thinks ahead, and moves to a CCRC or AL.
    (2) A crisis puts her on the hospital-to-rehab-to-AL or nursing home track.
    (3) SIL can keep up through the end, maybe at some point with supplemental hired help, and MIL stays in her house for the duration.

If MIL opts for #3, that’s perfectly understandable, and IMO a valid choice. The downside is the risk that #2 might happen, but then again, it might not.
And, opting for #3 is not a final decision. If at any time SIL decides it’s too much for her, then option #1 is still on the table.

I think it’d be a good idea for the Countess to consult with a geriatric social worker (I’ve bookmarked Sheila’s excellent post that includes links to several resources, for reference), but I’m not seeing the urgency to change course at this point.


YewGuise: So, for whenever you have leisure to consider your MIL, a follow-up:
…who’s doing the bill paying, meds management, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc?

MIL does all of that. Two reasons - MIL likes doing everything her own way, and (as previously mentioned) SIL can’t/won’t. They have a weekly gardener, and MIL is doing all the house cleaning. By coincidence, she just had the central heating furnace replaced (But refused to add A/C.) She did this after we (Countess and I) noticed the smell of gas in her garage. Several months ago (Maybe more than a year) she pulled up the carpet someone (they?) had put in the bathroom back when people put carpet in bathrooms (Linoleum underneath), and got some samples from a local flooring place, but has yet to actually finish what she started. We have given up mentioning it. :sunglasses: MIL has for a long time done all the bill paying and she has been the keeper of the check book. We were shocked that her bank account was over $80K. She likes it that way.
Someone somewhere some time told her not to make any life-changing decisions for a year after FIL passed, and she has taken that as a mantra. Actually makes a certain amount of sense. Also gives her an excuse for doing nothing.

She wants everything to stay the same. Two years ago she found a tax guy to do the taxes. (FIL and Turbo Tax had been doing it before, but there were some errors his last two years.) With FIL’s death we tried to get her to use our tax consultant (One have used for years starting when we had our small business.) She went back to whoever it was she had found by herself. She has plodded through things like his pension, his social security, and getting the house step-up valuation. Will not let us help. He owned a number of stocks through Schwab. It is not clear what she is doing there. Won’t accept help from us. (I suggested getting everything into some ETF’s.)

Yes, as long as MIL is in relatively good health she doesn’t need to change anything, so there is no urgency. She can’t use a computer (Or even a cell phone.) She has one of those “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” fobs. I think it sits on her desk, mostly forgotten. She tried to use Uber once or twice, but they won’t come into her driveway, and (she says) they usually have big SUV’s she can’t get in or out of.

Yes, I am frustrated.

You have maybe figured out that I am older than the Countess. Yes, she is my child bride. I am 17 years her senior. (A cradle robber.) I am more her parent’s age. (OK, a bit younger.) So I have someone to take care of me in my old age. (Is that The Eagles I hear singing in the background?)


I think it’d be a good idea for the Countess to consult with a geriatric social worker … but I’m not seeing the urgency to change course at this point.

Consulting with a geriatric social worker isn’t done only in the context of planning a change, but also to be able to identify and benefit from helpful resources in the current living circumstances. It’s a determination of what would improve support, safety, etc, and how to access it.


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…MIL likes doing everything her own way, … Will not let us help…

Well, doesn’t sound like you need to, yet.

I’d be concerned about scammers. They’re very clever. Since she doesn’t use a computer, that’s great, no risk she’ll click on the wrong things. That leaves only phone scams. Hopefully SIL can keep an ear open in that regard.

As far as the house, eh, kick that can down the road. It’s her house, she can do whatever she likes, however ill advised. My dad balked at maintenance, but was happy to do “improvements” without Permits. After he went into assisted living, I spent $60k, 6 months, and hundreds of hours prepping his house for sale. Oh well.

I am frustrated.

Lowered expectations help a lot. :slight_smile:

Best wishes for a complete and pain-free cure of your bladder cancer, Count! I’ve known a couple of people to survive long after such a diagnosis. Last I heard, you’re supposed to “eat the rainbow” for cancer. But maybe that’s to decrease risk rather than help cure. Well, it will do you no harm.

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alstro: Last I heard, you’re supposed to “eat the rainbow” for cancer.

For us slow students, what does that mean?

:grimacing: :grin:


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Eat the rainbow…

The various compounds in fruits and veggies that have health benefits for us are the same ones that give them their colors. So to get a good range of phytonutrients, vary the colors of the fruits and veggies you eat. “Eat the rainbow!”

The only veggie that doesn’t fit this rule is cauliflower. Although it’s white, it’s filled with great nutrients—including some that are anti-cancer.

And though white rice has no real nutritional value, and is considered to be inflammatory (same with white flour), the colored rices are a whole different story.


Eat every color of edible plant…carrots, blueberries, apples, greens, black beans, white beans, nuts, tangerines, broccoli…

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My very loving husband was 15 years older than me. Many folks figured
I was a gold digger but that couldn’t have been father from the truth.
What I married was a very hard-working man who supported my “living below
our means” lifestyle. He was a champion cheerleader for me and all of our
5 children. He was often approached and told that he must be very proud of
his well-behaved grandchildren. He would just laugh and tell them that he
is the dad and that they kept him young at heart.

I really was blessed marrying that man and I am sure your wife feels the
very same way.




Also, sugar in its many forms in not your friend.
Cancer loved sugar and thrives in that environment.

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Also, sugar in its many forms in not your friend.
Cancer loved sugar and thrives in that environment.

Die, heretic scum!


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The first thing your body does with lots of different foods is convert them to sugar. So it has to be good for you!!


1poorguy (has reduced sugar A LOT compared to even 5 years ago)

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