Care4You welcomes Marci Barrett with one of her thoughtful and caring writings on the Holiday Blues. Thank you, Marci!
Holiday Blues: Mom isn’t quite what she used to be.
By: Marci L. Barrett
Family Communication Strategist and Eldercare Mediator
Elder Resolution Partners, LLC
“Holidays can be fun, joyous occasions, with family members gathering from near and far. Sometimes, the holidays are the only time of year we get to see family members who travel long distances to join in a family holiday celebration. But, sometimes we also see changes that we don’t understand or weren’t expecting, like an aging loved one who is uncontrollably sad, withdrawn or “just not up to” his or her normal holiday cheer.
While family reunions give us the opportunity to catch up, share memories and make new ones, they can also be eye-opening and stressful. One cause of stress may be that family members are seeing an aging loved one for the first time in months, and may be in shock and dismay when they come face to face with changes in a parent’s (or other loved one’s) physical or mental condition.
It is clear to everyone that something is wrong and needs to be done. But what?
Often the best place to start is with a family conversation, and what better time than now that the family is gathered. Gathering and sharing information is key. The family needs to discover and understand the aging loved one’s situation, identify available resources and, if the elder is able to participate in that discussion, find out what the elder is feeling, wants and needs. Once the situation is clarified, the family can start to explore options to fulfill the elder’s wishes and take care of his or her needs, now and in the future.
Without a doubt, these family discussions can be difficult. To engage in them, we have to acknowledge and admit our mom or dad’s situation is changing and that roles in the family have changed or will need to change. We have to talk about issues with which we may feel uncomfortable, such as the need to consult with a mental healthcare professional, undergo therapy or consider medication.
Not all families are accustomed to having family conversations. Some don’t know how to start such a conversation. Others don’t know how to talk without fighting over perceived past injustices or current differences of opinion.
A specially trained neutral family meeting facilitator can help in many ways, such as helping to get the conversation started, keeping it structured and focused, and making sure that all necessary participants are present and able to express their concerns and share their ideas for how to solve the problems. A meeting facilitator can help you identify and evaluate options, with the ultimate goal being for the family to create a unique plan that allows it to move forward having made the best decisions possible under the circumstances.”