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Death Of A Parent – Helping Dad Live On After Mum Passed Away

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Death Of A Parent Helping Dad Live Mum Passed Away

It has been just over a year since Mum passed away. Since then, my 90-year-old father was left behind to pick up the pieces of his own fragile life, trying to live on without her as best he can.

Mum’s death left a huge void in Dad’s life. When Mum passed away, Dad lost the woman who had been by his side for 60+ years. A spouse he had spent two-thirds of his life with.

Losing my mother, and learning how to live without her in my life, has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to deal with.

There have been plenty of ups and downs over the last year. Trying to deal with my own grief, while at the same time trying to help my elderly father with his, has been challenging at times.

Thank goodness I have very supportive siblings who assist with my father’s care. For those of you taking care of an elderly widowed parent on your own, kudos to you. I don’t know how you do it.

No matter how difficult it was for me, I quickly came to realize that I needed to focus on my father, and help him live a life without my mother. After all, I want my dad around as long as possible!

I have learned a great deal over the last year. I hope some of my tips can help you if you ever find yourself in the same circumstance…

 

Death Of A Parent – Helping Dad Live On After Mum Passed Away

First Things First

In addition to the emotional roller coaster that your parent will ride in the year after your other parent passes away, they will have to deal with a myriad of unpleasant tasks. Notifying friends and family, sorting out funeral and burial plans, dealing with debts, banking, and income tax issues – these are just a few of the things that you will need to assist with.

Don’t forget to help your parent check their emails and voicemail messages. After Mum passed away, I discovered some very important messages that had been received from friends and family in the weeks leading up to her death. Dad had been forgetting to check for messages.

No matter how much you need to assist your parent in this regard, always be sure to consult them throughout this process. They need to feel like they are a part of the decision-making process.

What A Wonderful Life

Surrounding your surviving parent with beautiful photos of their spouse, and their life together, can be very comforting for your parent. My dad sits amongst a collection of cherished memories – photos of my mum, and our family, at some of the happiest times of their life together.

Sort It Out

Your surviving parent will need assistance sorting through the possessions of your deceased parent. In fact, you may have to do it all as your elderly parent may find this task overwhelming.

My biggest piece of advice with this? Make sure you show your parent each and every thing you are throwing out, giving away, or keeping for yourself.

Do NOT assume that just because you think something is “junk” and should be thrown away, that your parent feels the same way.

Do NOT assume that your parent doesn’t want to hang on to that special item that you would also like to take home.

These are your parent’s possessions first and foremost, not yours, unless they tell you that you can take them. Be respectful and ask your parent about anything that leaves their home.

The Gift Of Your Presence

The loss of a spouse is devastating, no matter your age. It’s especially hard on your elderly parent who now faces life alone, at a time when it can be difficult for them just to survive.

Life is busy. I get it. Just remember, your surviving parent’s life may not be. Take time to visit your parent as often as you can. They live for your visits. Your parent would rather have your presence, than your presents. I’ve learned this. At times, when I’ve had to cancel a visit with my dad, I can hear the disappointment and sadness in his voice.

What’s For Supper?

Getting Dad to eat properly, since Mum passed away, has been challenging. He no longer has his spouse to enjoy meals with, and frankly, nutrition is the last thing on his mind. More often than not, despite the fact that he has meals waiting for him at the retirement home, he usually chooses to stay in his apartment and fend for himself.

To entice Dad to eat more, my siblings and I will usually take him out for lunch to one of his favourite fast food restaurants when we visit. We also bring healthy leftovers from home that are easy for him to heat up in the microwave. My aunt often bakes him homemade cookies to snack on.

I always make sure Dad has some pocket change on hand in case he’s craving some pizza. I call to order his favourite pizza, and they deliver to his door. All he has to do is pay.

Above all, be sure to enjoy a weekly meal with your parent.  If you can, invite your parent to your place for a homemade dinner. This will be one of the highlights of their week!

Say My Name

No one wants to be forgotten after they pass away, nor do we want people to be afraid to mention our name in conversation. Your parent will want to reminisce about their spouse.

Talking about Mum, whenever the opportunity arises, helps my dad, and me. I regularly share funny or endearing stories about my mum with Dad, and often make him laugh.

A surprising benefit of these conversations? I’ve actually learned a thing or two I never knew about both my parents, since my mum passed away.

Pick Up The Phone

Live a long distance from your parent and can’t visit as often as you would like to? That’s okay. There are many other ways you can keep in touch these days. If your parent has embraced technology, you can easily keep in touch via live video, emails, and texts.

For parents who aren’t able to communicate this way, nothing beats a good old-fashioned phone call. Call often. Once a week is not often enough for an elderly parent. I call my dad twice daily. We don’t usually chat long but, my calls give him the chance to talk, and they allow me to verify he’s okay, and to obtain assistance for him if he is not.

Help Needed – Chores, Chores, Chores

If your elderly parent still lives in their own apartment like my dad does, no matter how independent they are, they will need assistance with chores.

Maybe it’s because they are not physically able to handle certain chores, or maybe it’s because it’s a chore your other parent used to handle. Whatever the reason, be sure to provide your parent with help with their chores. They may not ask but, you can be sure they will need your help.

Keep in mind things like cleaning their home, changing bedding, laundry, shopping, garbage and recycling, banking and paying bills, dealing with repairs, shopping, and any other chores your parent may need help with. If you cannot assist with these things, make sure you find someone who can.

Taking Stock Of The Inventory

There are many devices that can help your parent cope on their own. Look around their home and take note of what they may need.

Consider things like:

  • a cane or walker
  • a shower seat
  • a raised toilet seat
  • safety bars to help them get in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet
  • a safety rail for their bed
  • a power chair that helps them stand up from a sitting position
  • hand sanitzer – to help prevent the spread of germs, especially in a retirement home

Doctor, Doctor

Let’s face it. The older we get, the more we need to visit the doctor. Your parent will need assistance getting to doctor and dental appointments on a fairly regular basis. If you cannot be there to help them get to their appointments, make sure you line up a way to help get them there.

It’s All Downhill From Here

No one likes to talk about this but, you must keep an eye on your parent’s hygiene. Simple tasks can become overwhelming for an elderly parent. They may need reminding to brush their teeth. They may need reminding to take a shower. They may need reminding to change their clothes.

My siblings and I constantly remind my dad to do these things. The one thing none of us thought about, until my dad finally spoke up and said something, was clipping his toenails. He could no longer do this for himself so he just let them grow. Let’s just say, when we finally realized we had neglected to think about this task, Dad was in the running for a Guinness World Record.

I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up

Falls are the leading cause of injury and death for the elderly.  A fall that resulted in a broken hip was essentially the cause of my mother’s death. The hip surgery, and resulting strain on her heart, was just too hard on her body.

Problem is, no matter how much care you and your parent take in trying to avoid falls, they will happen. Since mum passed away, Dad has fallen at least a half-dozen times. Honestly, I’ve lost count.

The latest fall, just last week, happened right before my very eyes. As he walked away from his chair, using his walker, his foot stumbled on the floor, and down he went. There was nothing I could do.

Luckily, the only thing Dad injured was his pride. Getting him back up on his feet was no small feat, but together we did it.

For the times my dad has needed assistance when no one was around, he has used his safety button to call for help. One push and help comes. Piece of mind for Dad…and for me. There are companies that offer this service if your parent lives on their own.

Never Take Things For Granted

A parent never stops parenting even if they cannot physically do things for you. A parent never stops worrying about the safety and well-being of their kids…even if those kids are middle-aged or seniors themselves!

My father still worries about me when I go on a trip, or have to drive across town at night. When I leave his place, he still asks for a phone call from me to let him know I got home safely.

 

Helping Dad live on after mum passed away has been a challenging experience for my siblings and me. But, I’m grateful that I have been around to be able to help my dad during this difficult year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you had to help one of your parents face life without your other parent? Do you have any great advice from your experience that could help others? I would love you to share your advice with us in the comment section!

 

  1. November 19, 2017

    Vanessa

    I LOVE the pizza tip. This is such a smart idea! I think it’s important to realize that solo seniors may not necessarily gravitate towards “senior” food, or the communal environment of a dining hall. I like peace and quiet when I eat – why would likeminded seniors be any different?

    • November 19, 2017

      Sandy

      Thanks Vanessa! I first thought of it just before last year’s Grey Cup game. I knew he’d want to eat dinner in front of the tv while the game was on so I thought, geez, why don’t I order his favourite pizza and have it delivered just before game time. I’ll be doing the same thing again this year 🙂 . You raise a very good point about the eating in a communal environment. My father has never been super social so I’m sure that is part of it. It’s just that he is spending so much $$ towards his daily meals and not eating much food there. Then spending extra $$ for his own food. I wish the home would deduct money for meals if not eaten but then won’t. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. November 14, 2017

    paula schuck

    Great post Sandy and I just want to say your dad is lucky to have you. You are an excellent daughter from what I have seen and heard. Even checking in with him by phone when we traveled recently. I love that as a parent and also respect it. I lost my mom almost four years ago. My Dad has not been part of our lives for decades so that wasn’t a factor but I take many of these points anyways to heart. We lost Jim’s Mom and Dad first many many years ago now to cancer and I absolutely believe in saying their names and talking about them. I will laugh when I see something Jim’s Mom would have loved and say OMG your Mom would have adored that or hated that or she would have enjoyed that scotch. Etc. My kids don;’t have the lengthy memories we had with all of our parents which is sad but I like to remind them they are always there on our side watching out for us and they would have been so proud at your latest martial arts grading or etc. The toenails thing resonated. I wouldn’t have even thought of that either until I realized my Mom’s feet had been severely neglected during illness. Eventually she was well enough to come with me for a pedicure and it was one of my most cherished memories of the last few years with her. I got to take her for her first ever pedicure and she LOVED it. She even asked the lady at the shop to put on some Elvis music. It was awesome. Your Dad has some great kids to help him. And this post will help a lot of people.

    • November 15, 2017

      Sandy

      I just love the story of you taking your mom for her first pedicure! And the Elvis music! Great memory, Paula. I know my dad really appreciates all I (and my siblings) do for him and he tells me this every time I see him. Thank you for your kind words about this. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I remember when your mom passed away and cannot believe it has been 4 years. Wow. Also love that you often mention your inlaws and share your memories with your kids. I never met 3 of my grandparents, and my nana passed away when I was only 12. So my parents kept their memory alive for me, just as you have done for your kids. Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts and story. I truly appreciate it!!

  3. November 14, 2017

    andrea from the fishbowl

    This is really great advice, on a topic that is very very hard to talk about… at the best of times. Thanks for this, Sandy!

    • November 14, 2017

      Sandy

      Thanks so much, Andrea! This was a tough one to write but, I do hope it helps many others. I am loving the other tips that people have shared also, some of which I can definitely use myself 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!!

  4. November 14, 2017

    Aeryn Lynne

    I wasn’t sure if I was ready to read this, but I love your writing, so I gave it a go.

    You’ve hit every point beautifully, hun. ❤ *massive hugs*

    My sibs and I unconsciously took on tasks that would have been taken care of by our mother. One of us is helping with meals, while another helps with house and car maintenance, while another helps with book keeping, etc.

    Losing a partner isn’t something anyone can handle on their own.

    Thanks so much for the article Sandy, it has helped me feel that I’m at least on the right path to help dad out. I’ve also been thinking of writing a post about mom… still thinking, but reading your experiences have helped me, so I just might. So thanks for that too!

    • November 14, 2017

      Sandy

      Thank you so much, Aeryn! Your comments mean so much because I know you can relate. It’s still so fresh for you so I give you a lot of credit for reading this. It must have been hard. I’m so glad your siblings and you are working well together and automatically taking care of the tasks that each of you is good at. That’s great team work. You are most definitely on the right path and your dad is lucky to have you all helping out. This is going to be a tough year for you all but together you will get through it. I hope your dad is doing okay. Btw…definitely write about your mom. I found it helped me a lot. You WILL cry as you write, and you will likely have to leave and come back to your writing (several times) but, it will feel good when you finish a piece. It’s a great way to remember your mom. And when you do…please let me know. Massive hugs to you too, my friend!! xoxo

  5. November 14, 2017

    Carin Harris

    Hi Sandy! I was thinking about your mum after seeing your FB post. I have a friend who lost her mum almost a year ago now too so I’ll be forwarding this to her. She also has siblings to help out and they all live close by luckily. You are a great bunch of kids for taking care of your Dad so well – I’m sure you Mum would be so proud of you all. Hugs!

    • November 14, 2017

      Sandy

      Awww 🙂 Thanks so much, Carin, for your sweet words. I really appreciate it. I think my mum would be. I know she was worried about my dad if something ever happened to her. Thanks for sharing this with your friend. I truly hope it helps her…or that she can relate because she has had to deal with the same things. xo

  6. November 14, 2017

    Heather Boyd

    Beautiful post Sandy. I have tears in my eyes. It is so hard watching parents age. My parents are still pretty mobile, although my mom had a rough year health-wise. It is important for them to still feel useful and they always enjoy helping their kids in any way possible. They also enjoy reminiscing about their own childhoods, wartime, etc. I love hearing their stories, looking at old photos and realizing how lucky we have it this generation! When my great aunt was very elderly and her memory started failing, her family kept a book beside her bed in the residence where guests would write down what was spoken about, what activities they did together etc. That way my aunt could read the book when she was along and the other family members knew what was going on. Sending love to you and your family. xo Heather

    • November 14, 2017

      Sandy

      Thank you so much, Heather! It is SO hard, isn’t it? I love the old stories and yes, we are a very lucky generation. I adore the idea of keeping a book at their bedside so everyone can write in it. Smart! Thanks so much for sharing about your aunt and parents. Love to you and your family as well. May it be a much better 2018 for your mom. xo

      • November 14, 2017

        Heather Boyd

        Thank you Sandy. Hope we can see each other again, despite no BConnectedConf. Let’s have a reunion. 🙂

  7. November 13, 2017

    gingermommy

    Living across the country from my parents I am not looking forward to this at all. Hopefully we still have a lot of time left. However, my inlaws are both getting older and their health is not the best. Hubs is just starting to deal with the choices, support etc and it is tough

    • November 13, 2017

      Sandy

      I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live that far from your parents, Kim. Taking care of aging parents, and everything that needs to be dealt with, is a tough thing when close by. I don’t think I could handle dealing with things long distance. I hope things go okay for you and your hubby, especially now that he is starting to deal with issues. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. November 13, 2017

    Carolyn Percy-Searle

    Great blog post Sandy. So familiar to me. So when my Dad died at 78 of cancer that was when we realized how bad my Mum’s Alzheimer’s was getting. So we had to move them out of their apt before he died. Mum was left living in a senior’s home while we worked the system to get her into a nursing home. Three and a half years later success. My one piece of helpful advice is keep a journal one for each parent with their basic data all meds various doctors all kept in one place. With many hospital visits and specialists this info handy in one spot was vital! My Mum kept going until she was 93 but was very ill at the end. So sad to watch our parents suffer as they age!

    • November 13, 2017

      Sandy

      You know how I feel about what you went through with your parents, Carolyn. Hugs to you! You’re right, so tough to watch our parents suffer as they age. That’s a great tip…and one I will be starting for my dad. I’m great about writing things down…and then losing the notes! As a lover of journals, I’m not sure why I never thought of this. Such a simple tip…but so handy! Thanks for sharing both your tip and your story, Carolyn!

  9. November 13, 2017

    Teresa Coppens

    Wpw. I still have both my parents but they are 86 and 91. I will be facing this situation soon enough. What great advice. I live quite a distance from my parents but call frequently. It is tough knowing they are struggling at times. I also have siblings who help out a lot. So glad I came across this article Sandy. Your dad is lucky to have you all in his life as you are blessed to still have his presence to enjoy.

    • November 13, 2017

      Sandy

      How lucky you are to still have both your parents with you, Teresa! Wow, they have both lived long lives. I feel for you, living quite a distance from your parents. I know my sister wishes she lived closer so she could help more. I’m glad you also have siblings that help out a lot. Well said, Teresa…and the same goes for you. I definitely feel blessed to still have my dad around. I think about that every day. Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts!

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