Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Faced With Having the "Talk" Tomorrow

I've said it, repeatedly. My son has said it, just as many times. And Mom blew it off for a long time.

Mom's compassionate, trusted, longtime doctor called the other day, and insisted she come in. To not do so was not an option. No office visit, no more medication refills...period.

So, of course, I stepped up. The appointment has been made for tomorrow, a friend has been engaged to assist with the wheelchair transport...and per the doctor's orders, I am to be present and fully participating at this appointment.

When told of the arrangements, my mom became upset, until I reminded her that she had asked me to make them on her behalf. Her stunned response was, "Yes, but I didn't think you'd actually DO it!"

In previous posts, I've alluded to my mom's steadily increasing physical and mental frailties, and how they've affected me. There's an aspect of me that cringes at "sharing family business" online. I come from a lineage that has, for generations, promoted privacy and stoicism, no matter what the issue, or how lonely it caused the individuals to feel. One simply put on a brave face, carried on, and said nothing, even to one's friends.

There's also the part of me that is a member of the baby-boomers, the so-called "sandwich generation." We continue to be involved and concerned with the welfare of our adult children, even after they are grown and gone from home. At the same time, vast numbers of us are caring for elderly loved ones, day by day, and making up the procedures and coping mechanisms as we go along. We all need to talk, to share, to step out from the shadows, to draw strength from each other.

And yet -- it stuns me to consider how many of us don't. Or don't know about the Alzheimer's Association, or AARP, or any of the vast number of caregiver resources. We try to be solitary warriors, with great cost to ourselves, and no benefit to anyone.

Tomorrow will be difficult, and I try to hope I'll be prepared enough for it. If I whitewash my input to the doctor, I will be doing Mom no favor in the long haul. I know, though, if I'm as candid as I am capable of being, Mom will be furious...for a little while. She needs me. I'm all she's got on a day-to-day basis, and "brutal" honesty will be, in the end, the kindest intervention. When Mom was my age, and faced with her own caregiver roles, she would have agreed with me. In fact, she has been my role model for having the strength to travel her future path with her.

I can't presume to know what the doctor's diagnosis (likely some form of moderate dementia) will be, nor his recommendations, but I have an instinctive sense of them, so it won't be a total shock for me. Although it will be painful for Mom, I strongly suspect she already knows, in her heart, and it's a frightening prospect. At this stage in my own life, I can't even begin to imagine how vulnerable she feels.

We'll face this together.

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