Seek support for difficult changes

Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare

I don’t want to sound too flippant about a serious topic when I say this, but I don’t understand the polygamy issue. I have enough trouble keeping one wife happy without thinking about more than that.

And now that my mother has moved in with my wife and I, there are two queen bees and one worker bee, resulting in a little more heat in the hive.

For the past four months, I had assumed my duties in eldercare for my ailing father in my mom and dad’s home, so I seamlessly slipped into their routines and with my wife not being present. There was no competition on the home turf.

With my father’s passing and the need for my mom to join us, at least for the winter, the combination of mother and wife has resulted in more than 160 years of experience hitting the kitchen routines, the cleaning routines and the commander-in-chief role.

My wife is a saint, really. She had to be to put up with me all these years. But I am my mother’s son, so she has an even bigger challenge – dealing with the force of my mom’s personality.

Although my mom is 87 years old and is prone to the odd nap in the middle of the day, she remains a force to be reckoned with, and while she’s working very hard at being the gracious guest in our home, this is new territory for her and some adjustment time will be needed.

There are three main permutations that come when the elderly need assistance in living accommodations.

The first is in-home assistance, a bit intrusive but still focused primarily on their own routines.

The second is living with family members, a loss of their independence and routines but usually some private space and consideration for such routines.

Finally, there is movement into a care-giving home, where routines are completely those of the institution, and privacy, for the most part, is a thing of the past.

It doesn’t matter how simple we believe such changes to be, or even how much better we believe new arrangements will end up, change is always difficult for those who have well established and comfortable routines.

It is very important that we practice patience, listen to their concerns and gently reinforce why any changes will soon be a new and comfortable routine.

We have all experienced the anxiety that comes with change in our lives. With aging, such anxiety tends to manifest itself more as fear than it does of excitement for something new.

That is even more exaggerated, I think, when the change in living accommodations is accompanied by a change in personal relationships – the loss of a spouse, the introduction of new caregivers into the situation or the change of family dynamics that comes with moving in with relatives.

It’s not a very easy thing to do and while some are able to maintain a positive attitude through it all, others will struggle with fear, anxiety and depression.

For family members new to such changes, I certainly recommend the use of support groups or counseling, which is often available to help understand the challenges and to provide initial help in making adjustments.

Any problems you may be having are likely common and well-experienced by others and sharing tried and true strategies will be a benefit for everyone involved.

Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare. Email him at ghookey@yahoo.com.

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