She Says She's Reached Her Limit


She Says She's Reached Her Limit

Dear Denise,

I need advice. My father had a stroke 4 years ago that left him unable to speak (though he understands everything he is unable to speak or write) and his right arm is paralyzed. He was only 60. He has been able to do most things for himself during this time (walking, dressing, eating, etc.) My mother has taken care of him during this time, but she has had a lot of caregiver stress. Recently, he was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. He is currently in the hospital undergoing his first round of chemotherapy. He is in a VA hospital that is about an hour drive from their home. I live in Arizona and have been with my parents for 3 weeks to help. My mother is overwhelmed with stress and emotion. We don't yet know the prognosis for my father, but my mother is anticipating the worst and says she can't take care of him any longer. I am having a hard time knowing what to do for her. I have been telling her she needs to go to a support group for years but she is resistant to do that. I've suggested that she get assistance with his care but she resists that as well. My parents have some money, maybe around 25,000, but she worries that it could all be gone in an instant if she began receiving in home or other care for him. Some of the first hurdles I'm trying to get past are how to know how to help them protect their financial resources and know their insurance specifics, and what support is best for my mother. Thanks for your help.


First, you’re doing a great job helping your folks. Your commitment to doing what’s best for both of them is just terrific.

Because your mom is telling you she’s reached her limit, she has reached her limit. It’s possible that she may change her mind after she’s had some time to rest, but because it must be so hard for your mom to indicate she can’t do it any longer, then it’s safe to assume that she really can’t do it any longer.

Consider your role for your parents to be that of researcher, information gatherer, communicator and supporter. You’ll want to research options, gather information and then communicate that information and options to your mom (and dad, when appropriate).  Once you’ve communicated the options to your mom, it’s important to let her know that you’ll support the decision that she feels is best to make.

In addition, it’s important that your mom use this time to get as much rest as she can, so whatever you can do to help her get some sleep will be greatly appreciated.

To help you get started:

Based on your estimate of your parents’ assets, your father may qualify for Medicaid, which is the state and federally funded program for persons with low-income. Many nursing homes accept Medicaid as payment. (Medicaid is different than Medicare, which is an insurance program for older adults.)

To learn more about Medicaid, contact the Area Agency on Aging in your parent’s community (call the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for a referral). Medicaid has a provision to protect the at-home spouse in case of nursing home placement. This article includes information on spousal impoverishment.

You also can search to learn more about benefits your parents may be eligible for here: You also can learn more about benefits for veterans here.

It’s also important to meet with a social worker at the VA Hospital to help you and your mom decide your next step. The social worker can tell you about nursing home options, as well as explain any other benefits available to help your parents. The social worker also can help you and your mom discuss options and then help your mom make the decision that’s best for your mom and your dad.

In addition, contact the doctor to learn more about your father’s prognosis and plan of care. More information about his prognosis also will help.

Hope this helps!