Most of the life’s tragedies arrive as unpredictable, blunt hits. They are inevitable and they will push the air out of your body and make it hard to breathe. The best thing you can do is learn how to tackle them with some semblance of dignity and responsibility. The hardest blows usually come when family members are besieged by a group of maladies, which is what happened to my mother – apart from dealing with heavy rheumatoid arthritis, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As a mother of toddler twins, I was already feeling anxious enough about life’s unpredictable dangers. This situation was a wakeup call and here’s what to do when the reality of the situation hits.
It’s all about the point of reference
Most people get destroyed by life’s incessant and inescapable tragedies and, according to my own experience, I think I understand why. Their point of reference, the “baseline” of what makes life is mostly wrong. Well, wrong is a strong word – it might be more prudent to say it is “non-advisable.” We’ve learned to romanticize many aspects of life, pursue happiness and hope for the happy ending. The thing is – life is not romantic; happiness is not a viable goal because it is not sustainable and there really, really, really are no happy endings.
This might sound selfish, but after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I needed a few days to get a grip on all the things that had to be done. Above all else, I needed to collect myself in order to help my mother and be there for my children. The conclusion I’ve come to might sound bleak, but it is actually very liberating and invigorating. The “baseline” of life is not happiness and grace – Judeo-Christian stories of the Western culture can create this wrong expectation in one’s head. There was no “ideal Eden”. The “grace” in the “fall from grace” might mean a lot of things but I am definitely sure that it does not entail Dionysian carefree happiness.
So, what’s the “baseline”?
The “baseline” of life is challenges and problems. There is a whiff of truth to that lyric in Placebo’s song “Teenage Angst” that goes: “since I was born I started to decay.” So, the natural following up question is “Why bother?” and “Why bring children into such a world?” Well, this is the crux of the issue – it’s not that this means the world is bad; the presupposed goodness as opposed to suffering is a bad point of reference – this IS just how the world IS. That’s when I realized that I would not lie to my children about what’s happening with their granny. Of course, I planned to tread carefully about my wording, but I realized that my children will have a much better fighting chance in life if they do not grow up presupposing that the world is all about rainbows and sunshine.
Tackle the problem head on
After the reality of the situation has sunk in, you need to drop the idling and tackle the problem head on. First, I sat down to have a difficult conversation with my mother which, luckily for me, did not turn out to be all that difficult. She faced the facts with a sense of calmness, but the conversation turned difficult when we started dabbling in the logistics. As one approaches middle age, the responsibilities tend to stack up and you are probably pulled in thousand different directions between the age of 30 and 60 – with the quota of obligations peaking around 50.
This means that, if you parents are still living, you probably won’t have the luxury to take care of them full time. After all, you have your children to worry about. This can come as a sort of emotional blow to your parents if they are not ready for it. However, discussing regular in home care services and possible hospice cannot and should not be avoided. In fact, it is probably best to adopt “rip the band aid off” approach – create a list of topics according to their difficulty and talk about the top ones first.
Insist on positive attitude and physical exercise
Physical exercise, positive attitude, stimulation and interaction are the best things for your ailing parent. Insist on regular walks and bring the whole family along. In fact, this is where your children will make your life incredibly easier. Grandparents usually get a new “lease on life” as the grandchildren come about – and playing with them stimulates their mood and muscles. Let your children know that granny has a condition, but let them play with her as much as you can. In my case, a daily stroll in a park and playing with kids has done wonders for my mom and it also creates precious memories for kids.
You are the rock
You need to prepare yourself for what’s coming. Since you and your spouse are the adults in this situation, it’s important to serve as a reliable “rock” for everyone. Now, some might disagree with this and state that they do not have the time for this nor are they obligated to be an emotional cushion for everyone. This is perfectly legitimate, and I must address once again that I am speaking from my own experience. Even though I have a day job, I try to be there for my ailing mother and kids. My spouse is there, too, of course, but my mother is predominantly (and naturally) exclusively my care.
For now, it has been going somewhat smoothly, so I guess this approach works even though it comes at a cost of my own energy. At the end of the day, it depends solely on you whether you think this is a fair price to pay or whether you will leave everything to the professionals and medical facilities. Whatever comes your way, you must keep your head above water for those that will “stay behind”, so make your decisions according to that.
This guest post was graciously provided by Isabel William. Isabel is a consultant by day and a Blogger by night. Mom to twins 24/7, and recent editor on Health&Menal Health on Rippedme. Her areas of interest are well being, mental health, self-improvement as well as beauty.