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Worrying About My Widowed Father...

My parents were married for almost 40 years, when my mother passed away from ovarian cancer in February 2010. I'm a military spouse and live across the U.S. from my widowed father and wanted to visit him, since it'd been 2-1/2 years since I'd last seen him when Mom died.

Well, I took the trip home last month and he's not doing well at all. (He's 67 years old, by the way). He's basically "existing" instead of "living." He's put on A LOT of weight, has Type II diabetes, heart arrhythmia, and doesn't seem well physically or mentally. He's lost all desire to do the things that he loves most, like put in a vegetable garden every year, clean up the yard, repair things that broken, etc. He also doesn't do barely any housework and there's clutter and filth everywhere in the house. It's so depressing to me and I feel so helpless, because I'm a 39 year old military wife with a family of her own to tend to, who lives 1,000 + miles away.

Also, back this spring my husband, father, and I were talking about moving in with him (my childhood home) when my husband retires from the military in 2014, and taking over the maintenance of the place and letting my Dad live out his twilight years there. Dad was all on board and so happy that we wanted to do that. Then a couple weeks later he started changing his tune and getting cold feet and didn't want to talk about it anymore and said we could live there until we found a permanent place to live. I was dumbfounded about why he would change his mind?

Then when I saw him last month we got into a argument about it and he was all paranoid that we would kick him out of his home if we moved in and remove all of my mother's decorations and knick-nacks, etc. It was a different side of him I hadn't seen before and I brought up the fact that he's clearly depressed with life, and he shouts at me "SO WHAT!"

I just don't know who this man is anymore. Growing up, I was "Dad's girl", but he's really changing into a person that I don't recognize. What happened to the strong, kind, understanding father that I used to know? It's so sad to see him like this and so hard to deal with. It's like he's lost without Mom and I feel really helpless in this situation because I live so far away. It's been 2-1/2 years since she died, he should definitely be getting better, but instead he's getting worse and like I said, "he's just "existing" instead of "living."
DiamondAnne DiamondAnne 36-40 1 Response Jul 23, 2012

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I went through all if this too. I ended up having to sell his house due to his mismanaging bills and not paying taxes in the ten years after my mom died and he gambled way all of their savings.
I spent five years cleaning up that mess and in the end had to sell the house. He now lives near me in a senior's apartment and is rather miserable but spends three nights a week at our place.
Had I been able to keep him in his place, I would have and just controlled his money - as my mum did apparently. Now he complains non stop and drives me crazy when he's here and I miss him dearly when he's not.
My advice: be honest without ragging on him. Tell him what the bottom line is: that you are scared for him and worry about him. He's scared to be taken from the only things he knows: his home and his things. Maybe he could talk to a therapist about the changes he's gone through and you get home care in to take the strain off doing what your mum probably did: de-clutter, organize and clean.
But, you would likely have to take some time and go there and just take the lead and get the place organized without being pushy. If you give him a month's notice for example. Explain that you want to go there and help him get the place back to how "mum would have liked it" (or something like that). And just get the place back into order. you could ask him if you can set up his account that all his bills come out automatically, if he has money management issues, that is. And then get him connected to the community resources. You will have to explain that without it, he may need to move. It may motivate him into taking care of himself and take back his life.
The other thing: don't fight the process or try to hurry it along because you are busy. Change is EXTREMELY difficult for seniors. Accept it and prioritize this into your life as it isn't going away anytime soon. If anything, there will be more to come as he ages. But you will manage.
:). There is also seniors resources organizations that you could call for advice.
Good luck. This is not an easy road and one I never imagined for myself let me tell ya!! But we will only have one time to do this for them so do what you can.