Aging fathers: They took care of us

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily SentinelRon, left, and Marlene Danekas visit and call their dads, Bob, second from left, and Evert, multiple times a day. Bob, Ron’s father, and Evert, Marlene’s father, are both in their 90s and live on their own, but as they’ve gotten older, the Danekases have become more protective.


Supportive resources

These are just a few of the many resources available for caregivers and seniors:

• The Mesa County Department of Human Services Area Agency on Aging (248-2717) assists senior citizens, their caregivers or anyone concerned about the welfare of an older person. The agency can provide information and referral to services and benefits in the community.

• The Adult Services division of the county’s Department of Human Services also can help answer questions and with referrals on a myriad of topics. Adult Services can be reached at 248-2888 or at

• The 2-1-1 information line can help link senior citizens or caregivers to the needed services. It is free and confidential.

• Senior Companion Program (263-9092) and Grand Valley Senior Daybreak (241-7798) are two area groups that help caregivers and seniors with needs such as transportation, errands, exercise assistance, activities, information or outings.

• Long-term care ombudsman Marilyn Richardson (243-7940) can answers questions and files complains on elderly care in the area. She is a resource for checking out facilities for possible placement.

It sounds cliche, but every day is Father’s Day in the Danekas house.

Ron and Marlene Danekas spent Father’s Day like every other Sunday.

In other words, the Grand Junction couple hosted their fathers for lunch. After lunch, the men moved downstairs where they lounged around and watched sports. Marlene boxed up leftovers to send home with Ron’s father, Bob, and her father, Evert, who are both in their 90s.

The weekly lunch is only one way Ron and Marlene care for their fathers. After their mothers died years ago, the couple assumed the roles of caregivers for their fathers, even though their fathers still are able to live on their own. At a minimum, there are multiple visits and phone calls every day between the Danekases and their fathers.

“They took care of us,” Marlene said. “Why would we do anything else?”

The reality of aging parents is faced by many children at some point and generally is not a comfortable topic.

“We are a society not taught how to age,” said Joni Vohs, an admissions coordinator with the adult extended care program at Family Health West in Fruita. Vohs has spent much of her professional life helping people answer questions about getting older and often sees with families with emotions and concerns similar to those she had during the past several years.

Her father died nearly a month ago, and her mother, who needs around-the-clock care, moved to The Willows assisted living facility in Fruita.

Watching the health of her parents deteriorate was emotionally taxing, Vohs said.

It’s also can be a struggle to deal with financial and medical questions such as who receives assets after a death, who assumes any family debt, and who speaks on behalf of an injured or ill relative.

Those are items Vohs urged parents and children to address as soon as possible because in the absence of a will or an executor, courts typically get involved, and the outcome may not be what parents or children want.

Vohs encouraged parents and children to discuss wills, including living wills, and other legal matters such as do-not-resuscitate orders, designating power of attorney and naming an executor, who serves to protect deceased person’s property until all debts and final taxes have been paid.

Vohs was named her parents’ power of attorney and executor because she was a trusted family member. Even before her father’s death, Vohs’ name was put on her parents’ checks to give her the ability to help pay her parents’ bills.

Emotion is always a player when discussing these topics, Vohs said, but as heartless as it sounds, emotion needs to be set aside when it comes to making financial decisions for parents.

“You have to become like the business manager when it comes to the financial and business stuff,” Vohs said.

One thing she learned about from personal experience is the value of long-term care insurance. Her parents purchased long-term care insurance more than 10 years ago and it was used to fund their more than three years at an assisted living facility.

Many of these topics were dealt with by Ron and Marlene Danekas and their fathers nearly two decades ago, when Bob and Evert where in their 70s. Now there are other things the Danekases keep an eye out for and they have become more protective of their fathers overall.

They requested that their fathers wear medical necklaces from Home Care of the Grand Valley in case of a fall and the need to notify medical personnel. The Danekases also are wary of scammers who prey on the elderly.

Still, watching the roles between parent and child shift has been difficult, Marlene said.

“I’m a Daddy’s Girl,” she said. “He’s my hero.”


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