DEAR ABBY: I would like to respond to "'Grace' in Eau Claire, Wis." (Aug. 2), who is resistant to her children's suggestions to move into a smaller home.
I am 89 years old and, three years ago, lost my wife of more than 52 years. She was a diabetic, and our doctors had explained how her health would gradually decline.
About a year before her death, she had reached the point where she sat in a recliner most of the day and needed a walker to get around, but soon I had to help her with every step. As she became weaker, I was no longer able to provide proper care for her, and the last three or four months of her life were spent in a nursing home. There she received the kind of care that I was unable to provide.
My children didn't want my wife in a nursing home and offered financial help to obtain at-home care. Still, it was my decision to put her in a place where I felt she would receive the care she needed. My children accepted my decision with love and understanding.
Grace, be thankful your children love you enough that they want to help. Accept the fact that one day you and your husband may need their help. Embrace them with a loving and thankful heart. -- TOM IN SEFFNER, FLA.
DEAR TOM: I commend you for having both the courage and foresight to make the difficult decision of placing your wife in a nursing home. The avalanche of responses that Grace's letter generated is an indication of how many families are being faced with similar decisions. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My sister and I became aware that our parents were having problems coping with their large home and yard and offered helpful suggestions. All were met with hostility, anger and fear. We discovered later that the problems we perceived were real and almost disastrous.
Dad started a small fire to burn leaves and the flames got out of control. He fell trying to get the water hose and nearly burned down the house, not to mention burning himself.
Mom had difficulty paying their bills -- or paid with transposed numbers on checks and was unable to maintain a checkbook balance. She was also unable to cook, so they lived on cold food and greasy take-out. There were several minor traffic accidents, along with problems with medications.
All this was hidden from us for fear that we would "make" them move. After they finally admitted their difficulties, we were able to help them choose an assisted-living facility where they could be comfortable and happy.
Our mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's shortly after the move, and Dad died from cancer within the year. However, I am grateful that their final year together was calm and peaceful. -- THANKFUL IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: I am a trained dementia/Alzheimer's caregiver. Grace's change in personality, inability to accept the reality of her husband's condition and the "letting go" of previous household standards are red flags! Please advise her family members -- and all relatives of elderly people -- to be aware of the subtle signs of the onset of Alzheimer's.
I urge Grace's family to persist in their efforts to assist Grace and her husband. Backing off and leaving them alone can only end in tragedy. -- CAREGIVER IN BATH, PA.
DEAR ABBY: Grace said she "doesn't want to be a burden on her children." I believe we all share her sentiments. However, the "trick" is recognizing the differences between our desire to be independent and the reality that we are not. The time we are no longer able to see the difference due to diminished capacity or stubbornness is when we can become a real burden. I hope Grace will allow her family to help her. It sounds like they have her dignity and best interests at heart. -- STRUGGLING WITH AN ELDERLY PARENT IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR READERS: Tomorrow's column will offer a different perspective.