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Losing Dad, Loving Mom

Now what will be the best care for mom when Dad dies and she’s left alone with developing dementia?

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 I think taking care of Mom’s needs will be an issue of getting the right care. Until now, we haven’t tested her for dementia. We’re also going to have to learn to validate her frustrated feelings; live with the reality of the moment; and use distraction, redirection, and memories to keep her happy.

And then there’s the financial aspect. We pay for their stay at the center from the rent we get from their Palo Alto home, Social Security, and Dad’s pension. But when Dad dies, we’ll lose his pension.

Just when we thought we had conquered all future problems with our elderly parents, life is changing again, and quickly. Dad and Mom emigrated from El Salvador in the early sixties. Both were accountants, but in the United States Dad worked as a chef at Stanford University and Mom as an accounting clerk. They had few friends and no relatives nearby. We were their family. They expected us to take care of them as they grew old in their home in California—which they bought with great sacrifices—until they died. That was the way they had been brought up. We’re probably not doing enough by them.

When she was younger, Mom never gave up; she always managed to come up with a solution to problems. Her biggest gift to me as a child was teaching me fortitude in the face of disaster.

I wonder what goes through Mom’s head now. Where have the shrewdness and insight that helped her guide her family from El Salvador to the United States gone? Is she afraid now as she contemplates her life, a life that will change drastically when Dad passes away? How will she face life alone, life without the husband who’s been her partner for more than half a century?

Facing Dad’s death is forcing me to ask a lot of questions about my own life. I know I didn’t accomplish the goals he had in mind for me. I didn’t have children, buy a big house. But both Dad and Mom were proud of the varied paths my siblings and I took. And I think Dad will be happy to know that the values he taught me—and which have stayed with me throughout the years as I have moved around many countries—are faith in my own strengths, honesty, and loyalty. 

What happens when your parents need to move to an assisted-living facility—but they don't think so? One daughter talks about the struggles she faced.

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