DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been going round and round about nursing homes. My father's illness and memory loss have brought us face-to-face with the issue. This dilemma is not for those families who can afford to pay for someone to care for a patient in his or her own home. Nor does it apply to those who can afford an assisted-living facility.
When is it the "best-case scenario" for someone's continued care to be provided by a nursing home? Or should the parent be allowed to remain at home despite the consequences? Is it more compassionate to prolong his or her life in an environment that he or she would never have chosen or agreed to, or is it irresponsible to honor his or her wishes to live alone, with limited assistance, even though it may lead to an early death?
My father's care is far too complex and time-consuming for me or any other family member to take on in our own homes.
Your advice would be welcomed in making this complicated and emotional decision. -- DISTRESSED DAUGHTER IN ILLINOIS
DEAR DAUGHTER: The decision you're facing is a wrenching one, and you have my sympathy. The question you must answer is, is your parent aware enough of his surroundings that he even knows where he is?
Has he reached the point that he could wander and be unable to find his way home? Is he getting enough to eat? Can he bathe himself, or does he need assistance with hygiene and dressing? Is there family close enough to check on him in case he falls? If there was a fire, would he know what to do?
These are scenarios in which your father should not be living alone. If he has become so demented that he is a danger to himself, then sad as it may be, you must listen to your conscience and understand that past promises no longer apply.