Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home for the Holidays -- Omigod!

I haven't written in this blog for months. My life is in great transition and writing anything just hasn't been on my priority list. But I suddenly noticed that, despite my lack of activity, hits to my blog suddenly jumped. Huh?

Oh yeah, people just got back from the Thanksgiving holiday. And, like millions of other people, they saw a beloved parent or other older relative they had not seen in a long time and were shocked.

Grandpa made a speech at the holiday feast thanking God that the family was "together for the first time in forty years!" Um...nobody said a thing but everyone knows the entire family had come together for his birthday just a few weeks before and many family gatherings over the years!

Nana seemed perfectly okay but then went shopping and brought back nothing but cookies, lettuce and pizza. So? Well, there was already too much lettuce in the frig, a cabinet full of the same cookies and a freezer full of frozen pizza. And Nana's response when she got home? "Oh look, dear! The children already bought pizza! Isn't that sweet?" But it wasn't true.

Auntie Anna's kitchen was filthy and she didn't seem to notice. Her bills were piled up on the dining room table, about four month's worth, and yet she denied that there was anything wrong.

So people came home and went to work. Is this dementia? What can we do?!!!

Yup, tis the season...

Okay, so first things first: calm down and breathe. And remember the most important things. Does something need to be done? Yes. Does it need to be done by you and you alone? Not likely.

Your first step: educate yourself. If your relative lives alone you will need to do something. Is there an Alzheimer's Association in his or her area? Contact the closest Area Agency on Aging. Or find the ones in your own community. They can direct you to any resources your relative might need. You don't have to figure this out alone!

In fact, you shouldn't. If there are any other family members involved check in with them. Compare notes, compare possibilities, educate yourselves and then decide on a plan of action.

And guess what? If your relative does not live alone there may or may not need to be anything done at all. If no one is in physical danger and there is someone taking care of the absolute necessities (the bills, for instance), the most important thing might be taking care of your own emotional upset. Yeah, it doesn't look good from the outside but, more often than not, people living together overcompensate for each other's difficulties, they overlook the little slips and idiosyncrasies, they do what has to be done and let the rest slide. It's shocking if you haven't seen Nana for a long time but if grandpa still seems to be handling it alright... Do check in but don't freak out if he says they don't need anything.

At least not what they'll accept for now. But they most likely will need help if not outright intervention as things continue to decline. So get help to know what kind of things to look out for, what resources may be nearby, and how you as a member of a larger group (family, community resources, etc.) can prepare for the time to come.