Dear Carol: Father’s Day is coming up, and my mom wants to make Dad’s day special because it’s probably his last one. My brother and I want this too, but how to make it work is where we disagree with Mom.
Dad’s been in a nursing home because of several health problems, but terminal cancer is what will take him soon. The problem is that Mom’s physically frail herself and worse, her decision-making is shaky, so we feel that she’s being unrealistic. Dad’s in pain and he tires easily. He needs a wheelchair, and Mom’s apartment has steps. He’s also on oxygen. While we understand where Mom’s desire comes from, bringing Dad home for dinner makes no sense for either of them. How can we get her to see that? — HG.
Dear HG: I’m sorry about your dad’s declining health. I, too, can understand your mom’s desire to do something special for Father’s Day, yet I agree that she’s being unrealistic. She can be forgiven for that, but you’ll need to tactfully help revise her plans.
Your concern about your mom’s ill health, as well as her declining ability to make decisions, seems warranted. She’s thinking with her emotions and not her head. It sounds as if given your dad’s health, taking him out of his care home would be a strain on him physically and maybe even a risk. Could you approach her in this way? Remind her of how fragile his health is and suggest that the process of bringing him home would be too hard on him.
Avoid making your discussion about your mom’s health, though. She’s ready to make any sacrifice to give your dad this special day. So, after reminding her that his health could suffer from the rigors of bringing him home, talk to her about alternate plans.
Ideally, the nursing home may have a small room that they’d allow you to use to host a dinner for him. If that isn’t possible, bring him special foods and have a family celebration in his room. If he has a roommate, try to make sure that you can offer him some goodies, too.
An alternative is to let the nursing home staff know that you want to reserve a table for the family at dinner. If they can’t accommodate this, your mom could eat with your dad in the dining room, and then you could all share a special dessert once your parents are back in his room.
Your mom seems to be living in the past somewhat which could be due to her own cognitive decline, but it’s possible that this is just stemming from her intense need to make this day memorable. So, be gentle with her. Help her understand the reality of your dad’s limitations and show her that there are alternatives that can accomplish what she wants without so much extra strain on him.
Even though you’re all struggling emotionally, I believe that you’ll make this day nice for everyone.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.