Parenting Your Aging Parents: August Column

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© Copyright 2012 by Robert Moskowitz

Dear Robert:

My sister and I haven’t spoken since our mother’s death a year ago. She couldn’t handle everything that was going on during the months leading up to her death, and when it was all over she dealt with her emotions all alone. She left me to do everything for Mom by myself.

I’m angry about how she treated me during that difficult period. She has let me know that she’s angry at me for being angry at her, but more so for me not understanding her “special attachment” to our mother and the problems this caused her. Which of us is right? And how can we get past this?

Signed, Hurt By A Selfish Sister

Dear Hurt:

From all you’ve said, it seems to me that your sister is not recognizing that you, too, had painful feelings and experienced difficulty in facing the crises that threatened and ultimately took away your Mom. As the younger sister, she felt comfortable letting you handle everything she couldn’t. This isn’t reasonable or fair, but it’s understandable.

Time will probably help to heal some of the negative feelings that now exist between you and your sister. At some point, you might even feel comfortable sharing your own experience, grief, and sense of loss with her, being careful not to express any anger or recrimination. She might grow to do the same with you, though perhaps not at the same moment.

It doesn’t matter. Just continue to communicate with her, even if you can’t do so on the warm and friendly basis you once enjoyed. Keeping up some form of exchange with her is important, because it’s very hard to start up a relationship that has been left silent for too long a time. What tends to happen is that each of you focuses exclusively on how hurt and wronged you feel, and it becomes very difficult to give any consideration to the other person’s feelings, which were probably very similar.

You don’t have to discuss with your sister what went on for you emotionally around your mother’s death until you’re ready. But at least continue to talk on whatever basis you can handle at the moment. Regardless of your present feelings, you are still sisters, and you don’t want to participate in building any walls between you that will prove hard or impossible to tear down in years to come.

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Dear Robert:

My father has just been diagnosed with lung cancer, and we have been told he has only a short time to live. The doctor has recommended hospice care for him, but we are afraid that this will take him away from us, and cost a fortune. We’re also afraid they will stop trying and just let him die. How does hospice work?

Signed, Reluctant To Let Go Of Dad

Dear Reluctant:

Most people don’t take the time to evaluate what they are getting and giving up when they choose a hospice program. It’s good that you are doing so. I had my own experience with hospice care for a family member, and I was surprised and pleased that they turned a potentially horrendous experience into a very comfortable and dignified end for her.

More and more physicians caring for elderly and terminal patients are recognizing the value of hospice care’s holistic approach, and making the recommendation to families. But the general public knows relatively little about hospice care.

Rather than providing piece-meal services from a variety of sources, hospice organizations have multi-disciplinary teams they bring to bear: nurses, physicians, aides, social workers, pharmacists, and a variety of therapists (physical, occupational, respiratory, and so forth). Some hospices are residential, but in an increasing number of cases today, hospice care is delivered in the patient’s home.

The most important aspect of hospice care is having the patient and the family acknowledge the condition is terminal, and accept the inevitable outcome.

The team devotes a lot of effort to evaluate and respond to each case, often on an hour-by-hour basis. The twin focus is on providing palliative care that makes the patient more comfortable, and maximizing the quality of the patient’s life and the family’s life during these final stages.

The hospice will provide a wide range of needed equipment and services – from wheelchairs to special beds, from oxygen to pain medications. In most cases, the hospice team is better equipped than the usual mix of physicians and other providers to mitigate the possibility of considerable pain for as long as necessary.

The hospice team also deals with each member of the family, and offers many different kinds of services – including support groups and interventions for a year or more after the patient’s death.

Medicare pays the entire cost of hospice care, including everything having to do with the primary diagnosis, and the patient’s comfort. Extraneous medical problems that might come up during the hospice care, like an ingrown toenail, are still covered, but usually under regular Medicare and medi-gap insurance, rather than hospice.

Although the patient or legally designated responsible party must sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” and other related forms, hospice care teams do not usher patients to their deaths. Most families who have opted for hospice care have felt relieved by the experience, and appreciative of the quality of care, as well as the personal concern and commitment of the medical team.

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“When I read Parenting Your Aging Parents, it hit all the points that my wife and I had gone through with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis up ’til now and forecasted the things that I should expect. I want to point out that this book is not just good suggestions for those of us going through assisting our aging parents, but also assisting our aging spouses, friends, and relatives. A must read and very helpful.”

– Larry Hagman, Film,TV and Stage Actor, Producer and Director, Star of “Dallas” (J.R. Ewing, 1980s and 2012), “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Fail-Safe,” and many more.

To help your aging parents maintain their quality of life, think in terms of becoming like flowing water, which over time can create beautiful formations out of the toughest rocks.

© Copyright 2012 by Robert Moskowitz

Robert Moskowitz is the author of “Parenting Your Aging Parents, How To Protect Their Quality of Life — And Yours!” This 300 page hardcover book has been widely acclaimed as the classic work in the field since 1991. It is available at bookstores, or directly from Key Publications. The Web site is: “http://www.KeyPubs.com/pyapbook`.html”. The cost is $21.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling. If you wish, you can ask Robert Moskowitz your own question for this column by emailing him at: KeyPubs@KeyPubs.com.

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