Dear Carol: My widowed dad is 83 and doing well enough, but he’s lonely. He lives in the same house that he and Mom owned for decades. Dad has mild cognitive impairment, but he’s aware of that and shows no signs of dementia. Dad’s decided that he likes the idea of moving to the same assisted living facility where some friends live. I think that’s a great idea but my brother, who has power of attorney for Dad and lives 900 miles away, insists that because Dad has memory problems, he doesn’t have the judgment to make his own decisions.
My brother claims that aging at home is the way to go. Since my mom was the dominant personality, and my brother is like her, Dad does what my brother says. I think that my brother is afraid to lose our childhood home, but Dad’s the one who counts. How do we resolve this? — CV.
Dear CV: I feel sorry for your dad. He’s likely finding life tough enough without having the freedom to choose where he will live taken away even though he’s capable of making that decision himself.
Most adult children would be thrilled to have a parent who is willing to embrace change. Your brother might mean well, but he could be confused about mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Mild cognitive impairment is not dementia. While many people with MCI do go on to develop dementia, many don’t, and the fact that your dad is aware of his memory problem indicates that his judgment is most likely fine. He hasn’t lost his ability to make decisions for his own well-being.
Yes, your dad could regret the move, but because your dad is presumably capable of making such a decision, that’s a chance that he’s taking. The fact that he has friends in this assisted living facility (ALF) is an enormous advantage, and there’s a good chance that he’ll thrive in the new environment.
Your brother may also have heard negative things about ALFs, so maybe you can help put his mind at rest. First, ask your dad to give his doctor permission to talk with your brother. I can almost guarantee that the doctor will be on the side of your dad making this move.
Additionally, while your dad’s friends seem to like this facility, see if there are family members of residents who can vouch for the care, as well. Provide this information to your brother along with specifics about the ALF, such as opportunities for social engagement that could help your dad maintain his memory as well as address his loneliness.
The ALF could also provide increasing assistance as your dad’s needs evolve. If the ALF has a memory unit, that could help sell the idea to your brother because should your dad’s MCI develop into dementia, he’d be closer to obtaining the care that he would need.
I hope that your brother eventually agrees with this move, but either way, it’s your dad’s decision.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.