Originally Published: May 2, 2017 5:59 a.m.
Dear Annie: Our family is going through the end-of-life challenges of my husband’s final illness. We have always been close, and our children, who live nearby, have really stepped up to assist him — and me — in these final months of home hospice care. In all the important ways, we are supporting one another emotionally and otherwise. But there are a few rough edges, and I thought a list composed by someone going through this might help another family with this ordeal.
To the children visiting: Mom is no longer the cook, maid or hotelier. That was fine and freely given for holidays, but this is no holiday. If you come for a visit, make up your own bed, and change and launder your sheets and linens before you leave. And how about offering to throw in some of the towels and sheets for your father, folding them and helping to change our bed?
If I cook, you’re in charge of the cleanup — and reach out to be sure the garbage is emptied, paper towels are in the holder, the refrigerator is occasionally cleaned and the bathrooms you use are left clean. Offer to shop for groceries, run errands, walk the dog and take us out if your father is up to it. And consider cooking a meal for us. Check the car. Is the tire pressure good? Is it gassed up?
Look around you proactively; if something needs fixing, offer to take care of it. Ask whether I need coverage so that I can make my own appointments. I lose sight of these things with the demands of feeding, bathing and dressing your father. The weekly hospice support is limited and focuses mostly on nursing care.
To my beloved grandchildren: Just be yourselves. No need to tiptoe around. Your grandfather likes the clamor of your play and to hear your stories. Just try to keep the peace among you. Help your parents clean up your toys. Tell your memories and stories of your grandpa to us, and help us make new memories.
My beloved kids and grandchildren have been wonderful in all the important ways — spending loving quality time with us and sharing activities and memories. But like all people, they fall back into the habits of visiting children, and I hope these suggestions will be of help to others. — Sad Nana With So Much to Be Thankful For
Dear Sad: This is a beautiful letter. I hope you’ve already shared all of these requests with your children. If not, please do. I’m sure that helping you would bring them some solace in this trying time.
Dear Annie: I enjoyed reading about “Fussy Larry,” the man who is constantly complaining about the free food his friends cook for him. I have a loved one who, like Fussy Larry, can sometimes be ungraciously and needlessly critical of things I make. When that happens, I give him a big happy smile and say, “Then I have wonderful news: Nobody is going to make you eat it!” It doesn’t change his behavior, but it ramps down my irritation considerably. — Maggie
Dear Maggie: I totally agree with that tactic. In familiar situations such as this one, a humorously blunt response is sometimes the best mirror to hold up to a person so he might reflect on his rude behavior. Plus, as you mentioned, it can help deflect your feelings of annoyance, and that alone is a win in my book.
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