Sunday, September 6, 2009

Don't expect to control absolutely EVERYTHING...

Control; it's a very simple two syllable word. However, for me it also raises some complex situations these days. I want control. My mom doesn't want to give up control. I can't control doctors or aides. I need control to safe guard her finances, her health, her physical safety, her emotional well being and to very simply get things done in a timely fashion. Going through this with Mom has helped me to apply the old prayer: Lord grant me the strength to change the things I can, the patience to live with the things I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference. The wisdom is truly the hardest of all.

I've learned to wisely "position things", to "discuss", to finagle, to... well, maniupulate Mom and others to get things done. I don't like to use the word "manipulate" but that's what all of this positioning, discussing and finagling means - I must use my best manipulative behaviors and it's hard for me to do. Normally, I hate manipulators and I'm vulnerable to such people. I feel like a hypocrit but in this case I must feel okay with it. Sometimes it is wise to manipulate if it's for an unselfish and positive outcome. I use these skills so that Mom feels in control of the decisions concerning her life. I try to ensure that she feels heard; that she has some input over what happens - that it's HER decision or preference.

It's wise to understand when I CANNOT control something. I can't control the doctor's schedule, the type of toilet paper the ALF uses; how the ALF does laundry' whether my brothers visit or not. I can only control what I do in these instances. I am forced to ask myself whether I can do something about such situations. If I can do something, I will. If I cannot , then I wisely, give myself permission not to act, not to try and control. if Mom makes comments or asks for something I can't do anything about I try to talk it over with her and let her know I empathize. I ask what she thinks; what she wants and try to work on those if possible. Giving myself permission not to act, not to have control is really freeing and much less stressful.

I realized discussing control here in my blog was important after having lunch with a friend last week. Her elderly and frail in-laws just moved from their home to an apartment near her family. The intent of the move was completely honorable and she and her husband are doing all they can for his parents - more than many people might do. But, my friend must realize - for her own sanity - that she can't control absolutely everything. My friend complained that she sent a list of requests to the doctor with her mother in law. The list included many details, requests for tests and information; when the elderly in-laws came home, only 2/3 of the list was completed. My friend was upset. "Now I'll have to spend hours on the phone making these requests and pusing to getting it all done." The things left undone where basics like cholesterol checks, fecal smears for colon cancer and drug interactions. I thought - 2/3 of it was DONE?! Wow, I'd be happy with that!

She was so upset that I didn't dare say anything at this point but did try to take the heat off her in-laws by pointing out that the doctor might not be able to do the tests due to insurance restrictions. In this case, she wanted a whole lot of control. She wanted to know all of this information and wanted it all done by the new physician as a baseline for their care. It's an honorable intent but not necessarily possible. In a day or so, I'll send a card and write the poem about change and mention a word or two about control. I hope she'll get my message that we can't control everything all the time and to try that will only make YOU feel worse. If you're trying to control too much or too many people, think about whether you CAN do something that will have a positive outcome. If not, let it go. Your parent needs you to be positive and healthy as much as your spouse, your own kids and as much you do for yourself.

My 3am worry sessions...

So here I am, again, 3am, wide awake, worrying and feeling frustrated. To stave off the inevitable heart burn that comes with these episodes, I'm sitting up on the couch in the dark listening to NPR on my laptop. This has become a weekly ritual for me over the past two years. It's not a pity party, I'm not feeling sorry for myself. When this happens my mind races with issues about Mom - or other things but mostly Mom or her business affairs - and I just can't sleep. I often wonder if it's my subconscious trying to solve problems that I don't have time for during my waking hours.

There are so many things distract me from helping my Mom - or put it correctly - I don't have time to do all the things I want to do for my Mom. Today, I'm thinking of things that aren't vital to her physical well being but are vital to her emotional well being: can she easily get to the sink to sit and brush her teeth daily? Is she getting help to her weekly hair appointments? What about a permanent before the holidays, a new phone with volume control, getting out of her room for a 2pm coffee date with a new acquaintance, getting to resident meetings to stimulate her.... and on and on.

I believe that the emotional aspect of her situation - her whole life really - is equally important and most often overlooked in cases like hers. The staff at her ALF just don't have the time to work with her individually, it's no different from me. I don't have the time either and I feel terrible guilt because I don't. It would be a full time job, like being a stay at home mom with a toddler; I'd be a stay at home daughter.

When it comes to our parents I believe that most of us are all still narcissist kids and we just can't wrap our heads around the change in our roles. I don't mean narcissist in the most self-centered negative sense. I mean that we are looking out for our selves; trying to keep our own heads above water with jobs, kids, our own households to tend. There's just so much to do that we tend not to see how much help our parents really need. Once you're able to do that the role reversal from child to parent-of-parent seems complete. After decades of expecting them to consider our emotional state and help teach us how to handle our own needs, we have to put that training to work and turn the tables to help them. We have to turn our attention away from ourselves (and our kids if we'd had them) to our parents.

At this moment, I feel better. This blog is a quick distraction but Mom's needs remain so for now I'll do what I can at 3am. I'll search the internet for a new phone, I'll email my sistern in law about getting Mom to a hair appointment. I'll add some things to my to do list and keep plugging away. It's what my Mom would do if she were awake at 3am and worried about her own mother.