A few posts ago I promised to include responses from our Grandchildren to some questions I suggested.  Tonight I am keeping that promise. 

The first two below are Abigail and Ashlyn.  They are the children of our Daughter, Lisa, and her Husband. Denis.  That family moved here to spend the last two years before I retired near us so that they could help us.   Just the natural attrition over the years had begun to diminish the number Volunteers from our church available to be with Mary Ann while I was working far more than forty hours a week, including evening meetings.  A year ago, when I retired, that family moved back to their home some ten hours away.  The girls got to know Mary Ann well during that two years, since she was at their house or they were at our house two days a week.   Abigail is now 6 and will turn 7 in November.  Ashlyn will turn 5 in a few days. 

Chloe is our oldest Granddaughter.  She is the Daughter of our Son, Micah, and his Wife, Rebecca.  Chloe is 10 and will be 11 in November.  That family has lived about three hours away until moving only a little over an hour away a few years ago.  Chloe can remember Mary Ann from a time when she was much more communicative than she is now.  She has always been ready to help Mary Ann whenever there was something she could do. 

Her are the Grandchildren’s responses:

Abigail’s Notes: 

What do you like about Grandma? I like her clothes.  I think her socks look silly. 

What do you think about when Grandma stands up on her own or when she faints and Grandpa or one of your parents have to go over and hold her up?  I like bringing the wheelchair over.  I think it hurts when she hits her head.  She gets a bump on there. 

What would you like to say to Grandma?  I hope you feel better Grandma.  I wish Grandma could run and play with me.  We would go to the movies and go to the swimming pool and the park. 

If one of your friends had a Grandma that was sick like yours, what would you tell them to do to make her feel good?  Give her some medicine and do what she wants them to do.  Like get her some juice and get her wheelchair when she needs it.  Bring her food in bed.  Let her sleep in.  That’s all.

 Other comments: Grandpa, do you want some help with Grandma? 

 Ashlyn’s Notes: 

 What do you like about Grandma? She’s nice.  I love her.

 What do you think about when Grandma stands up on her own or when she faints and Grandpa or one of your parents have to go over and hold her up? I feel sad. 

 What would you like to say to Grandma? I love you Grandma.  I hope you feel better.

 If one of your friends had a Grandma that was sick like yours, what would you tell them to do to make her feel good? I would tell my friend—I’m sorry.  Tell your Grandma that you love her.

Chloe’s Comments:

grandpa,  what i like about grandma is that if she says that she is going to do something, she sticks to it and never gives up. whenever grandma fainted when i was little i would panic majorly, but now i understand her illness and now know to react in a calm manor. right now all i have to say is grandma to just keep going. if i had a friend that had a very sick relative like my grandma i would just tell them to keep there spirits high.

Needless to say, we are very proud Grandparents.   I think we and their parents would agree that while this hasn’t been easy on the girls, they have grown in understanding of the needs of others.  Hopefully, they will be better people when they grow up than they would have been if they had not had a Grandma who needed their attention and their help.  

If I live long enough to hear about it, I will be very interested in what they remember when they are young adults about these years, what they recognize to be the impact on who they have become. 

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As I traveled in the car coming back from my Renewal Retreat, I thought about how the transition back to my role as the full time Caregiver would go.  Having done retreats before, I knew that once I was in the door, there would be little chance to ease back into the demands.   Having realistic expectations about the transition back to Caregiving duties has helped me very much in the last years. 

It is actually unreasonable to expect the person who has been left at home to be anxious to celebrate the wonderful experience you have had away from him/her.  As Caregivers it is important for us to try to put ourselves in the place of our Carereceiver who does not have the luxury of going on a retreat and enjoying some solitude, doing things for the sake of renewal, things they can no longer do. 

Sometimes the very things we do to help maintain our equilibrium so that we can continue to be good Caregivers make our Loved One’s jealous.  How could it be otherwise.  We are the people closest to them.  We are the ones they depend on for all their needs.  They would love to be able to take care of themselves.  They would love to take some time to do the things that used to bring them joy.  They would love to get away on their own just to enjoy themselves.  They can’t any longer.  Our freedom, however limited we may feel it to be, can be for them a painful reminder of the freedom they have lost. 

As a result, sometimes Caregivers don’t hear the words of appreciation for all they do, words they would like to hear.  Sometimes Caregivers receive some passive aggressive indications that they are not appreciated.  Sometimes Caregivers feel as if their Loved Ones resent them instead of appreciate them.  Sometimes they do resent us, whether it is fair or not for them to do so.

I have taken over the kitchen duties from Mary Ann.  Her way of responding if anyone asks about cooking is to say, “Theywon’t let me in the kitchen any more.”  She says it with a tone that sounds blaming.  It is the way she expresses her frustration that she has lost one of her most meaningful activities, one from which she got lots a positive feedback and satisfaction.

When the Grandchilren come and visit, there are hugs and kisses for both Grandma and Grandpa, but I am the one who can respond to the Grandchilren, who can talk with them and read to them and play with them.  The attention they give me is hard for Mary Ann to see.  It is another reminder to her of what she has lost. 

When people visit for any reason, her words are few or barely audible due to the progression of the Parkinson’s Disease.  I am the one who engages in conversation.  She has always been the entertaining one who had the smart-aleck comments to make.   She still has that wicked sense of humor and will get you when you least expect it.  Those who know her well still enjoy her sense of humor.  Now, her thoughts don’t always translate into audible words quickly enough to keep up with many conversations.   Of course, she gets frustrated and a little jealous.   

Caregivers are the ones who are the most accessible when Carereceivers need to vent their frustrations.  Their limitations are highlighted by anything we do, especially anything that was in their territory before the chronic illness took its toll. 

We feel hurt that we are doing so much for them but are not appreciated adequately for it.   One of the tasks that comes with caring for someone we love is to allow them to express their frustration, yes, even at us.  We are only human, so it does hurt when it happens.  The real culprit here is the chronic disease, in our case, the Parkinson’s.  While resentment and hurt feelings are a part of the Caregiver/Carereceiver relationship, it is the third member of the relationship, the chronic disease that is the source of the frustrations. 

In our best moments, we can talk about the frustrations and the jealousies and the hurt feelings and the lost freedoms.  My goal in keeping my equilibrium in the face of what the Parkinson’s has tried to steal from us is to match expectations with reality.  If I am constantly expecting Mary Ann to behave in a way that caresses my ego as a noble Caregiver, when she does not, my feelings are hurt, I am disappointed, and even more frustrated by all the difficult tasks associated with that Caregiving.  When I remember what has been taken from her, how hard it is for her to accept that she cannot do almost all of the things that formerly brought her satisfaction, when I remember what she has lost, it is easier to accept the times her frustrations come my way. 

It isn’t fair, it is just what it is.   Yes, there are sometimes hurt feelings and misplaced frustrations.  It comes with the territory.   The goal is to recognize the real culprit and refuse to allow that culprit to damage our relationship.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.