Zoe, we’re fine – just fine,” Jeannie said to her daughter with her usual cheerful smile, but in her heart she knew they weren’t. She had been experiencing increasing back pain while her husband, Les, had become more frequently disoriented and often angry.
The visit from Zoe was prompted by a recent internet conference with her siblings; Frannie and the two boys, John and Chas. From their far-flung vantage points, they had all become sufficiently disturbed that something was going to have to be done. But what? Zoe, best-off of the four and with more free-time, was chosen to go as an on-site scout and report back.
In unfamiliar territory about health-care needs, Zoe was at a loss for what to do when she got there. Jeannie was not forthcoming with information. Zoe tried to talk with Les, but hit the proverbial brick wall. It seemed harder than usual to have a conversation with him. After all, he was still “dad.” When she mentioned his seeming disorientation, his response was hostile, “It happens to everyone sometimes.” Then, on the third day as they dined at their club, an untended fire in the fireplace he had lit in his den sparked onto a rug, causing a near disaster. The rug was ruined, the house quite smoked.
Les’ progressing symptoms and what they implied were Jeannie’s worst nightmare. She was devastated to think she might actually lose Les and frightened for her own future. While not always as present as she would have liked, he had been the source of reason and comfort in her life. That now seemed to be slipping away.
She decided not to tell the children of her fears. They would respond by “advising her” again, making frantic calls to “check on things.”
“Zoe would continue her mission to get us put into a “home,” John would argue that we needed to live with him and that woman, and poor Chas, he is too young to cope this. Frannie as the oldest will push them to find a consensus. “ “Oh no” Jeannie said to herself, “they will not tell me what to do. I can manage this myself.” As the visit progressed, it became more noticeable to Zoe that her mother was also in trouble. She seemed to have an increasingly severe lower back pain. She also seemed smaller, shorter than Zoe remembered, but that just couldn’t be happening! Jeannie had not mentioned the pain, but it could not be hidden from Zoe.
Zoe called her parents’ doctor’s office, but due to HIPPA restrictions, they could not tell her anything. She informed the nurse of the events in the household, who then strongly recommended an appointment be set at their earliest convenience. Their first available opening was three weeks hence, to which Zoe agreed. She politely thanked the nurse and made a note to tell Jeannie.
Two dead ends, where to go from here? She e-mailed her siblings to let them know that things were continuing to decline with their parents. As concerned as she was about Les’ disorientation and hostility, she was now equally concerned about Jeannie’s back pain and lack of stability.
What’s a family to do? Les and Jeannie, the “Official” decision makers, were somewhere in denial, that well known, long winding river in Egypt. The siblings were working their way out of the river, but didn’t know what to do about it all.
It’s time to re-group. The family needs an agreed-upon decision making process, and local qualified help to develop their alternatives. A professional home-care team is needed who can work with and for the family. The sooner one is out of that river, the sooner clear, sound decisions can begin to be made.
Patrice Magrath is a principal in McKenney Home Care
Contact: 239.325.2273; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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