Aging Parents

 Posted by at 3:49 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 012009

I want to wish a belated Happy Anniversary to Terry’s parents, Pete and Bess Weber, who celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary yesterday. Here’s hoping you have many, many more together.

My in-laws are very healthy, active senior citizens who are always busy. Apparently walking four miles a day, being involved in his church, helping his daughters with home improvement projects, and doing small repairs for the neighbors wasn’t enough to keep him busy, so at 79 years old Pete got a job as a Wal-Mart greeter! Bess is always finding a new recipe, working with her genealogy projects, taking part in church activities, and a hundred and one other things that fill her days. They’re just too darned busy to get old!

Unfortunately, as our generation’s parents age, not every family is as blessed as Terry’s. Diminished physical or mental capacity can impact every member of the family. Last night ABC aired a Primetime special on aging parents that showed some of the problems that come up.

Sometimes the fulltime RV lifestyle can be an asset to a family with aging parents, and other times it adds to the problems. We know several RVers who return to their hometowns to give other family members who are caregivers a respite, sometimes staying for several weeks at a time.

We have also known RVers who take elderly parents on the road with them for short trips, and even one or two who travel fulltime with an elderly parent. Just last week our friends Richard and Patsy King stopped at Elkhart Campground with Richard’s 91 year old mother, Dorothy, who is still as sharp as a tack and absolutely beautiful. They had been showing Dorothy the sites around Ohio’s Amish country and then Indiana before taking her back to their hometown of Victoria, Texas.

Some RVers we know have had to get off the road to care for parents whose health is failing, either because other family members refuse to do so, or because there is nobody else to take on the responsibility. One lady told me that she loves her father, but she felt guilty because she also resented having to give up the lifestyle she had dreamed of for years to care for him. I told her not to beat herself up, that her feelings were only natural. But I secretly thanked my lucky stars that my in-laws are so healthy, and that Terry and I are able to continue enjoying the freedom of life on the road.

Thought For The Day – A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  6 Responses to “Aging Parents”

  1. I was fortunate that my Dad stayed healthy and active up till the last 7 months of his life. We returned to S. Alabama to be with him during this time. Did I wish I was out there on the road? Yes. Do I regret any of the seven months that I spent with him? No! Would I do it again? Yes. He was my Dad and was thrilled that we were living the fulltime lifestyle. Since he didn’t use the computer, I printed almost every entry on my blog and mailed them to him so he could keep up with us. He enjoyed receiving those in the mail and when I was going through his personal belongings, I found them and could tell he had read and re-read them. After all my parents had done for me as a child, it was the least that I could do for him. I only wish I could have done more!

  2. What a timely post NIck!

    We are currently in Muskegon Michigan at the Elks Campground. Muskegon is our home lodge and we love being right on the shore of Lake Michigan. The cool weather is welcome after the two+ months of high 90’s in the Rio Grande Valley. We have Paul’s 92 year old dad with us. We thought he would enjoy the trip and seeing some family members along the way. We came off the road to help him after Hurricane Dolly did some damage, and we have been in the valley since last August, much to my dismay. Paul is an only child so he feels a great responsibility for his Dad and I admire him for it and would not have it any other way. That being said, however, I hate to say it but this trip has been a disaster. Dad complains continually…nothing pleases him. Paul drives to fast. He won’t sit anywhere in the motorhome but in the navigators seat, leaving me the navigator in the back of the MH. He reads EVERY road sign and billboard outloud…I finally put on my headset and listened to music it was putting me so on the edge. He is cold with the ac on…the fan is blowing on him…he is not happy with the TV reception. We are paying too much for camgrounds. He has had several “ailments”….bathroom issues(he hates the rig bathroom as it is so tiny!), stomach problems (I guess my cooking in the rig is different from the sticks and bricks?) leg craps, back pain and the list goes on and on. He wants us to put him on a plane back to Texas. Both Paul and I feel terrible that he is so miserable. I have a sneaking suspicion that alot of his aliments are exaggerated for attention. We love the lifestyle and he doesn’t “get it”. We had planned a two month trip in the midwest, hoping to get to the Gypsy Journal Rally in Sept. I am afraid that if we send him home, he will not be able to function on his own again and we will be back in Texas soon thereafter. I feel resentment towards him as he has become quite demanding and difficult. How can I tell Paul to consider putting him in an assisted living facility…? We spent 4 years caring for his mother while she had Alzheimers and I don’t think I can do the care thing again. Paul and I both have minor health issues of our own, and don’t know how long we will be able to fulltime anyway (hopefully a long time!). I do feel sandwiched and I know Paul is feeling it too. What to do?

  3. I was privileged to both care for my aging parents as well as full-time RV. In the Summer of 2003 I received a conference phone call from my parents and a brother in California asking if I’d be able to travel from our then home in Kentucky to California in order to aid in the care of our aging parents. I lived for the next nine months in our MH in their driveway. My dad passed away during that long period and my mom needed to go into assisted living (now skilled nursing). My various brothers and I (and I should mention their wonderful wives as well) spent many months sorting through our parent’s decades of accumulated belongings. Oh. . . what to save and what to dispose of! My mom still resides in the nursing home in LA. . . she just doesn’t know it: she has that dreadful disease, altzeimer’s. One of my brothers visits her several times weekly, I speak to her on the phone during his visits as well. Interestingly enough, my three other local brothers seldom visit her. . . going even years for one of them although he lives within 50 miles. Hard to understand; I’ll just chalk it up to family dynamics. I apologize if I’ve hijacked your thoughts today, Nick. . . I suppose I’m a bit jealous here. As always, oRV

  4. How well I can relate to your problems. We had only been retired 3 yrs. and tried to
    take a 2 week trip to Florida when my mother just refused to take pills, have anyone
    else help her, etc. So after 12 days we were back home and stayed here for 5 years.
    She refused to move out of her home into assisted living or any outside help. We
    were able to join a trailer club and go out with them for a long weekend. That was
    okay with her but no long trips. So, yes, after they pass away you feel guilty enjoying
    yourself again but my doctor said you took care of her all those years it is your
    turn now to enjoy life. I felt sorrier for my husband as he looked forward to
    travelling after working all those years and raising our family but for the last 5 years
    we have been able to go away for 3 months each year. Unfortunately, we are still
    in our sticks and bricks house which we should have sold 10 years ago.
    The best you can do is take each day at a time and be grateful you still have a
    parent(s). I was 71 when my mother passed away and not many can say that.
    (I was an only child so there was no sibling to share care with).

  5. We were on the road full timing when I lost my mom. I really feel bad about this that I could not be there with her. She was 88 in a nursing home with dementia. My brother lived next to her in his home before she ended up in a nursing home. I did get to see her a few months before she passed. So this is something to consider if you go on the road full time and have to return to eldery parents.

  6. I lost my beloved father Oct 14, 2007. Peter, my husband, & I were the primary care givers. When we retired in 1997 we took him with us on a long RV trip. He loved the scenery but hated being away from his “home.” He never went again by his own choice. Since Peter wanted to travel, I was put in between. I loved my husband and I loved my Dad. So now what? Rather than sit around, wait for Dad to die and resent him, Peter & I compromised. We traveled 8 months of the year. But we spent the winters every year for about 4 months in Florida with my Dad. I also sent cards and letters to Dad while on each trip and called him EVERY day. I called him from Labrador, a sail boat in Key West, Alaska, you name it, I found a way to call and talk every day for many years. Now it’s would be even better with a video camera and phone on both ends, you can talk & see each other.
    When my Dad was finally failing we put him in an assisted living facility with a medical section. He lasted 10 months and passed away at age 87+. Do I feel guilty? No. Why? Because I spent years and my time every day communicating with him & checking on him. I also know Peter & I could not care for him 24/7. I am not a nurse. I do not have the knowledge to properly care for an elderly person who needs 24/7 care. Dad didn’t have a lot of money but we got him into an affordable nice facility in central Florida. That’s what his money was for, caring for him. His money lasted just about as long as he did. I was just about to get him on Medicaid when he died. Peter’s Mom is there now (age 96) and Peter’s dad was there for a year & 1/2 before he died. Peter is an only child. So we have cared for 3 out of the 4 parents.
    I tell you all this because I feel I qualified to say these is always a way to work it out. To stay in one place and totally give up your life to care for a parent is wrong for you, your spouse, even your parent. The parent needs expert care which you are unlikely to be able to give them. I know lots of you out there will disagree. You will say the parent can not afford it or the parent needs you. Perhaps your motives are suspect. Perhaps you need to be needed or you don’t want to feel guilty. Look at the situation and be realistic. Ask what is good for everyone involved. You only have a few years after you retire to travel in your RV, to be free, will you give that all up to care for a parent for how many years? What if you care for them 10 years and then you are too old to travel yourself? Is that fair?
    There is always a way to work it out. There are no problems, only solutions. There are local social services: ex. Meals on Wheels. There are people you can hire to clean, make meals and check on your parent. There are many ways to solve the problem without you personally having to be there. We have seen a number of couples go off the road and never go back on because of caring for aging parents. Usually there is a lot of resentment from at least one member of the couple. How sad. It didn’t have to be that way.
    My recommendations are: to check every possible avenue of caring for the parent, only as a last resort should you take on the care yourselves, ask yourself why do you really want to stay to care for the parent. Is it quilt? Is it fear? Is it selfishness on your part? Do what is best for EVERYONE involved.
    Hope this helps some of you out there, Connie B.

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