There are a lot of us visiting our relatives @CarriageInn.
It is always a surprise to me to see who is here. We are a quiet sub-group of our society—those with elderly parents who can’t keep our loved ones at home. All of us coming or going through the halls, greeting each other with wintry smiles. Nodding in recognition or garnering a quick hug. All of us hurrying to or from work, to or from home, to or from other duties.
Ours is a small town and I recognize friends and neighbors come to visit or to install an elderly parent. I’ve run into employees from the university, from the city and from the prison system, hardware store owners and restaurant owners, doctors and yes, lawyers. No Indian chiefs, yet. Some middle-aged sons or daughters, some young grandchildren taking on the chore, a few whole families sharing the duty. None of us are immune.
Some, whose parents are not doing well, look haggard and worn. “Mom doesn’t get out of her room much anymore,” one said. Some look worried at having to force a parent into the facility. “Mom’s not happy here but what can I do?” A few still smile gamely, perhaps not in hope but in acceptance, grateful that their parent is a willing participant. “I just come to check on Mom and thank goodness, she’s doing fine.” Others look guilty, as I must look.
The reversal of the roles is probably the most difficult part of learning to get along with our elderly parents. Instead of us obeying them, as we have all our lives, it is now up to us to issue the orders. They still see us with pig tails and snotty noses and it is hard to hear us telling them what to do.
Not all residents see visits as a pleasure. There are pros and cons to having relatives come to visit. The benefit is having company to break up the monotony of the day. The disadvantage is the reminder that the parent won’t get to go home again. Quarrels are often the result.
Some of the residents are angry at their relatives and want to get even. One woman refuses to leave her wheelchair out of spite. She is perfectly capable of walking but knows that her “incapacity” inconveniences her relatives. She demands that her children pay for a caregiver and then takes out her frustrations on that ever-suffering kindly person.
Others are in wheel chairs out of necessity. Lady B had broken a hip and was confined to a wheel chair until her surgery. In her eighties, she was adamant that she would drive again. Her son has given up trying to argue with her.
Another son was taking his mother to a doctor’s appointment. She was reprimanding him about how to get her into the car. He looked at me with a shrug and a shake of his head. “She just has her way of doing things,” he said. All of us who roam the halls knew exactly what he meant.
One woman is estranged from her daughter. It turns out that the mother and daughter have fought bitterly all their lives. The fighting hasn’t stopped at the door of the facility and the mother is glad not to have her daughter coming to tell her what to do. And I’m certain the daughter is glad to be rid of her mother.
Not all visits end well. Last night Mom started to cry as I was leaving. She is usually very stoic and expresses few emotions. She kept repeating how much she appreciated my visit as she clung to my hand. I knew she meant for me to stay. I couldn’t. I still have my life to live. So I left her there, promising to come back in the morning.
As I signed out at the front desk, I noted the many names of visiting relatives. So many of us. All going through the same problems, sharing our suffering in silence as we pass in the halls.