A Father-Son Dilemma

Family Health, Featured Article, Healthy Living
on July 31, 2012

QUESTION: This is going to sound terrible, but my two brothers and I need the help, so I’m going to put it out there. Our father can no longer live alone and care for himself. The problem is that none of us like him. He’s a tight-wad, critical, and foul-mouthed. I don’t know how my mother lived with him for 45 years before she passed on, but she did. We have all avoided him throughout the years and only dealt with him when necessary. Now life has taken an interesting turn. One of us has to take him in and care for him. I am very close to my siblings and we have made the decision to work together to solve this problem. Our first choice would be to put him in an assisted living home and let someone else care for him. But, somehow, this doesn’t feel like the best solution. Should we flip a coin and loser takes on the role of caregiver? —Roger

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ANSWER: Kudos to you and your brothers for agreeing to work together on a solution to this touchy problem. You didn’t mention whether or not there are funds to place him in an assisted living facility. It appears to be more of a question of emotions and, perhaps, a feeling of responsibility for your father’s welfare. Given that information, you might want to create a plan in two phases. Phase One would be to allow your father to live with each of you for a prescribed amount of time. Since there are three of you, 4 months each would give you a year. At that time, you can reassess the situation. During your time with your father, it is important that guidelines and boundaries be stated clearly. Let him know in no uncertain terms that his critical and foul-mouthed behaviors will not be tolerated. He must also understand that he must help pay for his housing, food and medical care to the best of his ability. To avoid a monthly argument, set up an automatic payment system where his living expenses are transferred from his account to yours. And then spend his money wisely and present him with a monthly accounting of his funds.  If after a year of living with your father doesn’t work, it is time to find an alternate living arrangement. Do find an assisted living facility in close proximity to at least one of you. Visiting him on a regular basis might help to soften his difficult behaviors. There is always hope, and it’s never too late to create an environment where love, respect and authentic caring can take hold and grow.


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Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com.