keenchick

Stories and thoughts about family and life

Oreos and the senior life

on September 9, 2012

I have to say that 2011 and 2012 have shown me things about my family (both sides) that I wasn’t quite anticipating.  You know generally how your family is–the aunt that gossips, the sister who wants to pretend you’re important but primarily so she can ensure she is, the brother who doesn’t want to be overly involved in what the parents need because he might actually have to do something, and last but not least the parents who want to tell you what to do while they do what they want to do.  We’ve all got them.

My father-in-law was very sick a couple of years ago.  It began late in 2010 with some weight loss and him just not feeling well.  After months of treatments and tests and us trying to be sure he didn’t have cancer, he finally began to improve and they decided he ultimately had something that attacked his central nervous system.  He’s better, but he still maintains a tremor from neurological damage from said illness.  My mother-in-law has had some issues for quite some time, with two bad knees, a bad shoulder, and various conditions one achieves at a certain age.    We took the care of my in-laws very seriously when this all began, engaging in weekly rituals of groceries and laundry and handling their finances.  As my father-in-law gradually got better and was able to assume more and more of his former responsibilities, we’ve turned them back over, but the reality has been quite simply that they’re not able to handle it all.

Fast forward another year and we’ve had several interactions which have resulted in a number of doctor visits, ER trips, and even a couple of nights in the hospital for my mother-in-law.  It’s becoming apparent that home is not the most appropriate place for them to be.  My sister-in-law came in and had “the talk” with the parents, explaining that they can’t handle the house like they used to, and considerations should be given for that.  With their consent, I began evaluating retirement villages, assisted living, and independent living facilities.  I found a couple I thought might work, and one that I thought they would really like.  We arranged a family tour and descended upon the place, all 10 of us (our four, my sister-in-law’s four, and my inlaws), and ultimately everybody likes what they see.   I feel pleased that I’ve found a place they all like.  I revel in my brillance. . . well, for about an hour anyway.

My friends say that Catholicism is the perfect religion for me.  I have a tremendous amount of self-imposed guilt.  If you have something going on that someone should feel badly about, mention it to me.  Chances are really good that I’ll accept responsibility and work toward a solution for your problem.  I don’t know quite why I have this sense of guilt, but it’s always been there.    So, you can understand how I began to second-guess the whole plan for the in-laws and whether or not we should move them.  Was this the right place?  Is this the right time?  Maybe we’re just not trying hard enough to make it work at their house.  Maybe we should develop another routine and something that will work better for them, and we’ll deal with it and make it happen.

Someone made the statement to me not too long ago “well, that’s what happens when you’re an Oreo.”  Huh?  Oreo?  What?  She went on to explain “you have two small children who are needing a lot of your time.  You also have two aging parents who need a lot of your time.  You and your husband are sandwiched in the middle–Oreos.”  Ah, I get it.  That makes me the yummy stuff everybody wants, then, right?  Sure!  I laugh, but that analogy has really proven itself so much more than I thought it would.

The past several nights have involved many late-night conversations with my husband about whether we’re doing the right thing.  Should we be pushing this?  Are we forcing them into doing something they dont’ want?  Maybe we can do something else.  We talked about it so much that we finally decided to have a follow-up conversation this morning with the parents.  We were really pleased with the results, and their decisions.  So, the parents have decided they really are interested in moving, and thus the right decisions have been made.  We’re on the right track for some improvement in their care, in our stress levels, and hopefully some new engaging friends and activities to make them feel whole again.  I can imagine how lonely and frustrating it must be for them each day, feeling like we’re the only ones that ever come see them and ever interact.

While they’re not actually MY parents, my husband and I have been married for 21 years now, so essentially I’ve grown up with them too.  Sometimes they drive me crazy, true.  But their hearts are in the right place (mostly), and they really do love me.  I hope they understand the consideration we’ve given to every step of the process for them, and how we’ve tried to do right by them.

So, fellow Oreos, I can tell you it is complicated, and it has certainly given us a reason to think about our own futures and ensuring I don’t put my kids through the same thing.  At least everybody loves Oreos.  At least we’ve got that.  🙂

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