Support group tidbits

At my last support group meeting, I was struck by some of the new stories I heard. And I was so pleased for one regular attendee, whose three out-of-town daughters sent surprise cake and flowers to our meeting in observance of their parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Knowing how much she does for her husband with Alzheimer’s, who is at home with her, I was glad to see that her kids were giving her that support.

One newcomer to the group cried for about 45 minutes straight, before it was her turn to talk. I didn’t know exactly what was going on with her until she finally told her story. Her niece had been living with her mother for two years, but was moving to Florida. This woman’s father and two siblings had recently died. She is the only child left, and her mother has become too much to handle. Her mother is combative, bites and kicks and spits out her pills. So this woman was moving her mother into the Alz center in the next few days. And she was just devastated with guilt. She had promised her mom she would never put her in a home. Her mom is 99 years old. Many of us tried to assure her that she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Some said there is always guilt about placing a loved one in a nursing home, and that guilt never goes away. And you know, I piped up about that. “I do not feel guilty,” I said. “I am just going to go ahead and say that.” I have felt guilty in the past. I feel guilty sometimes when I let a lot of time pass between visits. But I don’t feel guilty about where Mom is currently living. “I did the best I could,” I said. “And my mom is happier now than she has been in a long time.” I said I didn’t want to give her false hope, but I thought there was a chance her own mother could thrive in the Alz center environment, too. “That makes me feel better,” she said. I just couldn’t help but say that out loud, especially in that setting – I don’t think we caregivers who try as hard as we can to look after our loved ones should be expected to add guilt to all the other emotions we already feel about what we and our relatives are going through.

Another newcomer told of her mother, living in Miami, who is behaving badly in the memory unit of an assisted living facility. The behavior was uncharacteristic and she wasn’t sure what she should try to do, so she was looking for advice. The doctor who runs support group almost always advises families to contact the Alzheimer’s Association, which has lots of information and offers resources. Apparently staff from the association will do in-home assessments to help caregivers “patient-proof” their homes. He asked this woman if she might be visiting her mom in Miami anytime soon, or if she had siblings who could. This woman is an only child and it’s hard for her to travel because – get this – her husband has Parkinson’s disease and isn’t doing very well and she herself was going through breast cancer treatment. There was an audible “oh, no” murmur in the room, meant to be a show of support for this unfairly burdened person in our midst. She had a remarkable attitude.

Another woman who seems to be on the road to becoming a regular recounted how she and her sister share 24-hour-per-day care for their mother by breaking up the week. She keeps a stiff upper lip as she talks about how difficult this schedule is, and about how she and her sister differ on what might be best for their mom. After she spoke, her friend took a quick turn to just say that this woman was her best friend, and she is hurting. At this point, the caregiver started to cry. Her friend said, “I’m a nobody, just here visiting and supporting my friend.” And I said, “You are somebody.” I think we were all moved by her devotion to her friend.

Finally, there were flowers and cake for one of our most regular of regulars, who was going to be celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary the next day. She had tried to talk to her husband about how long 60 years is – she flashed her 10 fingers six times to demonstrate how she tried to convey it to him. He didn’t really get it. He goes to day care several times a week, which I think has become more and more important for her. She got a massage recently – also a gift from her children. She never complains. Never. She even said, “I’ve had my fun. This is my time to take care of him.” But it has been about three years now since his diagnosis, and I imagine she is very tired, and frustrated. She talks about how hard it is to fill the time. How her husband seems very sad about what is happening to him. But she never talks about how sad I imagine she must be. At the meeting’s end, she shared her cake with us. It was so kind of her, and it was nice to be able to wish her well and congratulate her on her very long marriage.

Support group surprise: 60th anniversary flowers and cake.

3 comments so far

  1. Sherri on

    I really have no words. You all deserve cake and flowers :-). I’m so glad you all shared cake with this lady who will be celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary; as you know, it probably meant A LOT to her.

  2. Ben Balsbaugh on

    I feel for that newcomer whose mother is behaving badly in an assisted living facility in Miami. I hope she gets through it all victoriously. It’s prayer that I can offer for her. God bless her.

  3. momsbrain on

    Sherri: Well, that is nice for you to say, but this woman in particular really deserves cake and flowers. I missed support group this week, but I hope she had a good report about her anniversary.

    Ben: Thank you for visiting and commenting. I agree with you – this woman has a long road ahead of her. I am glad she has come to a support group and I hope it can help her, if only a little bit.

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