Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Holiday Update - Let There Be Peace on Earth

Well, Thanksgiving and Christmas Part 1 (of 4) is behind us.  Our family rarely has a chance to gather everyone together and this year's festivities will long be remembered as the Thanksgiving of 12 people, six dogs, the first grandchild and Granny.  Ah, eldercare at the holidays....

Our grandmother has long been a handful.  This year alone, she was asked to leave her assisted living complex, fired her private duty company (AGAIN), moved into senior housing and finally met a wonderful professional caregiver who helps her daily.  She refuses to make use of her facility's social outreach, so she's often lonely.  Knowing that, our aunt brought her to Thanksgiving with the mass of visitors descending on mom and dad's home.  Plus, we were all excited to get to spend time with her and that she could enjoy her great-grandson.  At 90 years old, she's losing her sight, is very fragile and has a hard time walking.  With so much commotion in the house, we all were very conscious to make sure that no one (or dog) tripped her or got in her way.  We made sure to include her in conversations and let her judge what she was capable of doing.  From what we knew, everyone had a great time.  There was no drama and even the dogs got along with each other as well as the toddler chasing them around.

Little did we know a day later that she would lead an extended-family vent session.  On the three hour drive back home, she spent the entire time saying how there were too many people, too many dogs and in general nothing was right.  Our aunt finally had it and told her that her negativity was getting to her.  Granny interpreted this as our aunt having a complete physical breakdown (not the case).  This led to much angst, yelling and phone calls from Granny to anyone who would listen.  All of the sudden, our wonderful Thanksgiving turned into the trigger that had people from four different states up in arms resulting in bruised feelings and resentments.  Unfortunately, this situation probably sounds very familiar to many families out there.  We may be luckier than some as we made it through Thanksgiving.

I'm very fortunate that I'm removed enough from the situation to help offer both an ear to listen as well as a bit of perspective.  In our situation, everyone wants to help, but we're all reacting to the facts as we know them.  From our vantage point, we're doing everything we can to offer our support to Granny and make sure that she has everything that she needs to age safely in place.  We also have finally come to the realization that no matter how much we do, SHE is in control of her well-being.  For example, we know she is lonely, so we made sure to find a facility that has social programs.  We even encouraged her professional caregiver to bring her down to the common areas.  But, she refuses to use the resources as her disposal and resists any attempts to meet new friends or take part in activities. 

Our extended family members are reacting to the information that they have.  Namely that she feels that we are trying to ignore her, don't respect the challenges that she is going through and that she's unhappy.  Needless to say, this makes us defensive.  What does all this have in common?  Lack of communication.  Our family uses Making Care Easier (MCE), but had not invited our extended family members to join our care team--big mistake.  If we had, everyone would know what has been done in the past to deal with Granny's problems.  Not only that, but they would understand the tremendous amount of work our aunt puts in and how we help from afar.  We started MCE to help families caring for elderly parents and little did we know how much it could help our own family as well.
Now that even the leftovers are gone and everyone's back at their respective homes, we're making a better effort to communicate with everyone Granny relies on.  We love and respect her and want to make sure that everyone has all the CORRECT information about her care.  We don't want another repeat of Thanksgiving's aftermath.  After all, "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"….

It's Thanksgiving, Sort of

We are about to have six dogs and twelve people converge on our parents' home for the holiday. Thankfully, my parents have a good sized back yard and plenty of sleeping room. Now, if all the personalities could fit in the house.

My mom has been looking forward to this for a long time. Yet, I constantly hear mumbles in her voice about how our grandmother is going to ruin everything. Chances are, she might. But, if we plan for that to happen, and assume the worst, we may be predicting our own future.

While more easily said than done, we have encouraged everyone to plan for the best and manage exceptions. If we constantly predict and plan for the worst, we often encourage the worst to happen. So this year, we are encouraging everyone to have a good time and let my grandmother just be. We are all old enough that our mom is now the grandmother and we want her to enjoy the time with her grandson.

If it is a traditional holiday there will be something that goes astray, but worrying won't add to anyone's enjoyment.  Just in case, my plan is to get a good bottle of wine and plan on spending a lot of time playing with my son and the dogs. Or, better yet, enjoy everyone for who they are and that we are all here together--which is somewhat of a miracle given all that we have been through. Not sure this will work, but it is worth a try and I thank God we are all here together.