While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Caring for an ailing parent affects everyone in household
M.: On bringing an ailing parent into your home, Part 1: My father lived with my family for nine months, following the onset of Parkinson's disease. His depression settled over the whole house. Dad clearly didn't want to be there, and the kids, 16 and 8 at the time, avoided the living room, where Dad hung out and slept in the chair constantly, refusing to take any interest in life. Both of the kids essentially quit inviting guests over. They were not immune to the depression and, not to be melodramatic, the feeling of death that surrounded us.
I was driving home from work three or four times a day to check on him, feed him and monitor his medications. My husband was a saint about it, but eventually even he said, "We can't keep this up. We are raising our children in a nursing home."
Once he was diagnosed and began medication, Dad was actually able to move for a year into an independent living facility, and I truly think he was happier there. He eventually had to go to a nursing home and has since died.
I guess what I am trying to say is that in spite of our best intentions, we can't stop the natural course of life, and that also we as parents have to be acutely aware of the effect on our children when a household changes so dramatically. And too, it is not always the desire of an elderly parent to be in their child's home. My father had been extremely independent all his life and it was almost more than he could take to have the balance of the relationship change so drastically.
Vermont: Part 2: My son was 12 when my mother came to live with us. By the time he moved out for good at 19, his grandmother was bedridden, incontinent and did not know who I was. She spent many hours a day calling for long-dead relatives. When she died two years later I had no tears left.
I do not regret caring for my mother, because I had promised to do so and I loved her. What I do regret is that it was so all-consuming that my very intelligent, kind and helpful son was shortchanged in ways that cannot be undone.
If I had it to do over, I would work very hard to find help and support such that I had more time for my boy, rather than just accepting that he was helpful to me, and mostly took care of himself, during those years when I was so terribly overwhelmed.
Make sure others are in the loop concerning caregiving
Careful: On sharing responsibility for another's care: My mother has Parkinson's and is a widow, and my sister and I carry the lion's share of keeping her life straight. I write update memos about everything I do. Every doctor visit, every struggle with her insurance or Medicare, any change in the home, any major purchase, any financial decision. Printed copies go into her files.
If I am hit by a truck anyone can open a file and see the most up-to-date data. And I e-mail this info (less sensitive financial data) to about 10 adult grandchildren as well. No secrets, no surprises.