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Avoiding Reality


This is the post I've been dreading. Like the situation I’m in, I've put it off, and put it off some more. I’m embarrassed, and I’m ashamed of what I've done, or rather what I haven’t done.

In the last six months, I have only seen my grandmother twice. After seeing her several times a week for so many years, it was easy to find a reason not to go. She had finally adjusted to living in her assisted living facility and she no longer needed my care. The laundry list of excuses looks something like this:

• I am so tired when I get home from working all day
• I still have to get dinner made
• One of the kids has an activity
• We are remodeling our basement
• There is yard work to do
• It’s too difficult to keep the kids quiet and contained at Grandma’s
• The kids are being cranky
• I’m cranky

They are all just excuses. There is no good reason we haven’t been to see her. It has been selfish me coddling my emotions at the expense of hers. She may not have needed my care, but she needed me – to see me, to connect with me.

Emotionally it is just plain hard to see her. This once vibrant and independent woman now only carries on about five conversations and is relegated to a scooter that leaves marks and gouges along walls and furniture in her path.  She talks about going to work each day – something she hasn't done in 15 years. Her hearing is so far gone, it requires us to shout. I am completely drained emotionally after visiting, and it leaves me a cranky, emotional wreck.

It is heartbreaking. That is what got me on this road of avoidance. One week turned to two, which turned into a month, and then a couple more months. And now here I am, terrified she is angry with me. Heck, I’m angry with me. I am sad that I have let this go on so long. I feel like I have let her down.

So now I must fix this. I have to set my emotions aside and focus on Grandma’s. Sure I’m sad and heartbroken, but I have the option of not seeing it; she sees it and feels it every day. I feel over-extended and can find little excuses to not stop by; she wishes she had something more to do – a purpose - and is looking for any excuse to feel needed.

I am going put away my shame and embarrassment and go see Grandma. I may be tired, but I’ll grab my cranky kids who need a bath, hit a drive-through and let them have a picnic in Grandma’s apartment. I will put away my expectations of having a “perfect” visit, and just visit. I’m just going to do it. Because facing my embarrassment and shame now is far better than never having the opportunity to.


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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Posted by Sue

    by the way, cat...although the list you gave might be excuses, the list you provided afterwards are REASONS.....its emotionally hard to do it, so lose the guilt and forgive yourself because its not easy. Go when you can, take the kids, enjoy the visit as much as you can, and leave when you need to (if its too much for her or for the kids or for you). <3


  2. July 9, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Posted by Sue

    As a professional CareGiver, and the daughter of aging parents, all of these feelings are natural. We tend to blame ourselves and feel guilty, when in fact it is frustration we feel. We are frustrated because we want our parents/relatives to be the person they used to be. Remember that they are that person inside, and after your visit they may talk about you like you are a king or a queen to them, even if they call you every name under the sun when you are there face to face. Often, it is the primary family care giver who gets the brunt of the animosity from aging family members, because you are present in their lives. They see you more often so your brother who hasn't visited in a year might be praised when you are not treated so kindly. This is not a reflection on you or that mom loves him more....We have to remember that they too are frustrated because of the changes happening inside of them. They may say hurtful things because they are in pain and can't express that. It hurts, I know. I have been there. But stop and take a breather after and realize if it was ten, fifteen years ago they would not have said these things...because they were themselves back then. If you find it hard to visit in person, try to call or send a card to let your loved one know you care. Try shorter visits. It's hard to see them lost inside and wanting them to know who you are, to know that you care. Do not feel guilty if you feel bad. You are grieving,,,for you are losing your loved one before your eyes, before the end of their life. When you do visit, I suggest taking something from your loved one's past with you...some photos, perhaps. Their long term memory is most likely much better than their short term. A photo album or even some music they used to enjoy may bring them to a happy time. As for your own calming....plan your visit to mom or dad as part of a routine...with something pleasing after the visit before you are going out to eat, or stop for ice cream on the way home. Lastly, before you leave, always let them know you love them, no matter what. This part is as important for you as it is for them. God bless you all.


  3. June 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Posted by Becca

    So far it looks like consideration is only given to care of the aging. My husband is a below knee amputee who has some significant health issues. Our adult daughter has Meniere's. As she is not able to work but our government does not consider her disabled she lives with us sharing in our social security. I am care giver to both and deal with the stresses of an aging mother. Fortunately Mom is in assisted living but still visits can be difficult as you mentioned with yur grandmother. I have my own issues with fibromyalgia and arthritis. There is no caregiver for me as it is common that a bad day for me is a worse one for both my husband and my daughter. Stress? It is my middle name!


    • July 11, 2013 at 10:05 am | Posted by Sue

      Dearest Becca: My heart goes out to you and it seems like you need some respite. Do you have any friends and/or family members that could at least provide some time out for you to attend a "funny" movie and/or just give you some time for a good nap. I work for the American Cancer Society and on the wall is a plaque stating "Each Day is a Gift" and is that so ever TRUE. I personally provided caregiving to both parents for about 10 years and understand your stress. Fortunately, after a three years non-stop of caregiving for my parents I was able to get some respite and go to the coast for a week. And boy was that a real vacation! I've never been on vacation by myself but needless to say it helped me immensely. And by the way, the elderly aren't getting all the attention they so desperately need. That's why I have become a big advocate for the elderly and specifically caregivers like you. Take care of yourself, as I've learned this the hard way.


  4. June 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Posted by Debbie G

    Some time back I was going to visit my granddaughter who is 4 and my Mom asked me to get her a birthday present. After I got home and went to visit her she asked what I got her so I told her and in the next sentence I said I bought the kids meaning my daughter a lot of stuff and Mom got it in her head that I was stealing her money and she really made my life miserable over it I showed her bank statements and explained every transaction but she just wouldn't listen to me so the verbal abuse went on for a very long time every time I saw her. I was now a lier and a thief and she has never trusted me again my Mom and I were once very close and I was her go to person now I find it very hard to go see her. I was told many times not to take it personal but I don't know how to do that and it deeply hurts that she would think of me that way. She now doesn't know one day from another and so if I visit once a week or once a month I don't think she knows the difference but the guilt I feel is huge! I want my Mom back I miss her but I know that's not going to happen ever again.


    • June 11, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      I can't imagine the hurt you must feel, Debbie. I understand the guilt, but really we should rename it. Guilt implies you have done something wrong. Not visiting because of the emotional turmoil is causes is not wrong. Feel sad that your mother can no longer recognize you as the person she raised. Feels sad about the loss, but don't assign guilt. Take care o yourself, Debbie - you deserve it! Cat Koehler


    • July 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Posted by Sue

      Debbie, I suggest you go see her for your own needs, more than for hers. She may not realize how long it has been, but you will, and you will carry the guilt. Know that it's not her, but her illness that makes her accuse you of wrong doing. deep inside she loves you. I know how much it hurts and I wish you the best.


  5. June 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Posted by march97

    My older sister is in her early days of Alzheimer's. I'm here visiting for a week and she has made it clear she wants me to come live with her when I retire in four years time. I'm thinking, "Do I give up my plans and dreams to go to the other end of the country to look after my sister as her condition progresses?" It won't be an easy decision to make. She is such a giving person. She just doesn't want to move away from her ocean side community to live in her daughter's basement in the city of another province. I love the area where she is living, but what about leaving behind my own extended family and friends. I feel duty bound to be there for my sister. At the same time, I've waited many years for my retirement to do the things I've dreamed of doing. I guess time will make the answer clear.


    • June 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      I am so sorry this is the coin you have to toss. I hope you will find an answer that fills your heart. Neither side is the good or bad side, you deserve your happiness, and hearing how much this is weighing on you shows what a wonderful sister you are. Cat Koehler


    • July 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Posted by Sue

      dear march, no one can make that decision for you, but I will tell you to do what makes you and your heart happy.. If you have plans and dreams, follow them. You can still be a very important part of your sister's life even if you are not living in the same house. Make sure she has the proper care, such as caregiving in her home or being in an assisted living facility....but dont forget about her, visit when you are able, send mail, cards, keep in touch by telephone or if you or someone you know is computer savvy, have visits using Skype or another video web calling program. If you choose to go care for her and are unhappy or resentful, that will only make things harder on both of you.


  6. June 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Posted by Bobbie Smith

    Dear Cat, Your feelings are sooooooooo alright. It was my only sister who needed me and I had always depended on her because she was the oldest and I, the youngest. She and I were the last of 4 sisters to be living. Well, anyway, remember, your Grandma is still physically here if not mentally, but she still needs your comfort and she can feel it. If you can put a smile on her face, then you will put a smile in your heart. And you will feel so good. Thanks and lets keep praying for a cure for this awful, awful disease. Love and prayers, Bobbie


    • June 11, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      That means a lot coming from you, Bobbie! We went to see her this evening and brought her some flowered from our garden. She was thrilled, and told me she was going to sleep well tonight. Keep being an inspiration! Cat Koehler


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