“I haven’t seen your son lately,” I said to Lady J.
“Ugh,” she says. “I don’t want him around.”
“Oh,” I said, looking startled. I waited for the rest of the story. Of course, it came.
For several weeks Lady J had suffered from a relapse of some sort and her son had taken a leave of absence from his job to be there to care for her, feeding her, staying overnight, bringing her meals, dressing her, bathing her, etc, etc, etc. I knew the drill and we commiserated over it.
We met three times a day at Mom (or Lady J’s) table while he picked up the to-go meal for her. Occasionally we would also see one or the other daughter. By the time Lady J was improved enough to come back to the table, and for her son to go back to his job, she had become fed up with the wrangling among her children.
It seems that the elder daughter handles the money. The son is angry that he had to take off work and the daughter didn’t. The son is certain that she is absconding with the funds, or at least not doing a good job of preserving the last of the money for their own future. The youngest daughter doesn’t do anything, according to the other two. The quarrels frequently take place in Lady J’s room when the siblings come together. Finally, Lady J ran them out and told them not to come back. Of course, they will return, but at least she won’t have to listen to the squabbles for a while.
Many of the other residents have sons or daughters who come to visit. I’ve met most of them. Lady S, the ‘master gardener’ who pulls weeds all day (invariably leaving the real weeds) has a big brawny son of whom she is very proud. She doesn’t like having him come to visit. He and her daughter have disagreed for years over where she is to stay, what she is to do and, the most important question, whether she has dementia or not. She does, believe me!
Lady B, she of the bouffant hair do and the broken and replaced hip, won’t let her son come to visit at all. She says he tries to boss her around and wants to sell her car. She is bound and determined to drive again, although I haven’t seen her walking to the dining room. I, and several of her friends, caregivers and neighbors, still push her to and from to her room in her wheel chair. Her Cadillac sits unused in the parking lot and her son doesn’t visit, much.
Lady H, the new arrival with the fake fireplace in her room, had her daughter and granddaughter and great grandson, ‘Casper,’ coming to visit. It seems the daughter and granddaughter can’t agree on anything, from the décor of the room to what Lady H is to eat at table or whether the doctor is doing a good job. Young ‘Casper’ (6 years old), perhaps not so oblivious to the quarrels, draws battle scenes (autographed) on his paper placemat and hands them around to the other residents.
Lady D, Mom’s table mate and closest thing to a friend, has two daughters who also disagree about their mother. One daughter does her disagreeing from long distance for which Lady D is most grateful, but she still hears about the not-so-pleasant back-stabbing every time her closest daughter comes to visit.
Cheerful Lady I, perhaps advantaged by being blind, deaf and arthritic, only has two daughters. They come to visit when she goes to the doctor. If they squabble, she doesn’t know it, doesn’t hear it and doesn’t care.
Lady D, she of the dachshund Doc, says she doesn’t want her son to come visit. She remembers the difficulties of taking care of her own mother. Most assuredly, she says, she doesn’t want him to have to go through the same thing. Fortunately, for the moment, she is still in Independent Living and doesn’t need Assisted care. But the time is coming.
It’s coming for all of us. Get ready. But tell your kids not to squabble. It makes living in a facility, where you are stuck listening to the angry words and can’t do anything to stop them, into a nightmare. Being there is bad enough. Don’t add quarrels on top!
I am extremely fortunate. Both brothers are too far away to get involved. And when Sister says do something, I just say, “yes, ma’am” and do it. Mom never let us quarrel. If we did, we had to ‘Kiss and make up.’ That caused some groans and complaints at the time, I can assure you. But the training was good. We don’t quarrel now, leaving Mom to live in her dementia bubble in peace and quiet.