Coming to the realization that a family member needs to be placed into a long-term care setting is difficult at best. Even when you know in your heart that it is the right decision for all those involved. I don’t think I ever met or worked with a family member who took this decision lightly.
Guilt is truly the gift that keeps on giving and many sons and daughters experience plenty of that after Mom or Dad is placed. It affects many very deeply. Some family members let the burden of the decision weigh them down and spend a great deal of time and energy in trying to make Mom or Dad happy with the situation. And though the burden of the day-to-day worries about them being at home is gone, they are replaced with a whole new set of things to worry about.
The members in my family are not immune to these feelings. But adding to the burden of the weight of this decision has been the activities of what we have come to refer to as ‘The Three Amigos’.
My father, at 81, is blessed to have 3 very close and special childhood friends still alive and involved in his life! It’s truly an amazing thing to me that he can still tap into the deep roots of his childhood with 3 guys who probably know him better than his family in some ways. They have many long treasured memories and shared experiences that continue to delight them and bring them pleasure. They have rituals and jokes that pre-date Mom, me and my siblings; some we know about and I am sure there are many that we don’t.
After my father was placed in a facility after Christmas, he settled into rehab and the daily routine but over time began to talk more and more about not belonging there (though this is not totally unusual). He started to say things about thinking that he would be happier ‘somewhere else’ and in general spent lots of time expressing discontent about anything and everything. The complaints were a bit inconsistent if you really listened closely.
Just recently, he mentioned to my brother and me that there was a plan to ‘spring’ him from ‘here’. When questioned a bit further, he indicated that his friends had done some checking and that they had a ‘plan’. We questioned him about this plan, which he could not expand on, and even offered to contact one of the buddies to see what the plan was.
With his back against the wall about a direct discussion with his friends, he backed down about ‘the plan’.
It was much to our surprise then, when one of the 3 amigos contacted my brother requesting a meeting with him to discuss my father’s care! Can you imagine? In digging further, my brother found out that the 3 friends had been talking with the administrator at the facility and questioning Dad’s placement.
These 3 well-meaning friends had been fueling the fire!!! No wonder Dad was so focused on his discontent since the friends were reinforcing it (and I might say encouraging it)!
Please, if you are not the family member that is trying to make the best decisions for a loved one, and don’t have all of the information about why the decisions are being made, don’t be the one to stir the pot. Don’t assume that you know what is best. Don’t make a difficult situation even more difficult. Don’t think that you have a vote in the decision. Don’t add to the burden of heavy feelings that the family may already be experiencing. Just don’t!
To be sure these friends love my father very much. And once they had that meeting with my brother, understood more completely about why the decisions were made. Hopefully, without their constant talking of ‘plans to spring you’, my father can once again settle down and be less focused on ‘getting out of there’.
There are threads of the movie ‘Cocoon’ in this story…..maybe they were hoping to go off together and find their fountain of youth?? But, Dad’s life is not a Ron Howard film. So, please, amigos, continue to love him and share those great memories….because while in those memories, you can be whatever age you want to be…….
On the journey with you…….Kathy