I am in my late forties and my parents are now of an age where caring from them at a distance (I live in Abu Dhabi and they live in the Netherlands) is becoming very stressful. They don’t want to come here and I cannot go there as I have a full-time job and my own family to take care of. They are getting very forgetful and frail. My father is particularly difficult as he is micro-managing my mother in every small thing from what she eats to how she goes about her day. This is restricting her already somewhat restricted life (she has had a mild stroke) and makes having a normal relationship with them, very frustrating. He won’t listen to me in relation to health issues, financial issues or just about anything. I am thinking of finding a way to get some anti-anxiety tablets prescribed for him as he is a bag of nerves and is often also verbally abusive when I try to reason with him. Help!
Dear Desperate Netherlander,
Your parents are on their own, getting older (as we all are), your mother had a mild stroke recently. Meanwhile you are living far away from them with your own family and work obligations probably feeling guilty too. No wonder your father is fussing over your mum and no doubt is doing his best to look after her; while you are worrying as you all cope with your family’s recent life changes.
The last thing you want to do, if they are indeed both “frail and forgetful” is move them abroad to a new country, culture, and surroundings where you are also busy living your life – as you should be. Having a “normal relationship” with them from afar at this time is also understandably frustrating and very difficult for all of you. “Lecturing” from a distance won’t be well-received. Prescribing anti-anxiety tablets for him (or you, by the sound of things) is a red herring.
The key to dealing with any complex situation is to ascertain and deal with the key underlying issues and to establish a solid foundation for the future. You have to be objective and work with your father in this process. May I suggest a plan?
With the help of Dutch Social services, undertake a full medical evaluation of your parents’ condition, outlook and needs. Are there other medical reasons why they are both frail and forgetful? It may be that need social interaction to keep them mobile, interested and stimulated, for example.
There are two considerations, your parents’ receiving the right medical care for their conditions (including care in the home, such as nursing and personal care, known as ‘district nursing’), and whether they need to consider moving into sheltered accommodation (Verzorgingshuizen) or residential care homes; both are covered by Dutch national insurance (grants are also available for home adjustments, such as installing a stairlift). For more information, check the Netherlands Health authority web site: https://www.government.nl/contact.
Meanwhile, you can stay in touch with them by regularly chatting over Skype, for example where they can see your family and share your life; and you can plan to spend the summer months with them when you can provide the kind of support they may need. However, don’t let your emotions get in the way, especially any feelings of guilt. You can best express your love by helping them to the best of your abilities.
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