Dread of forthcoming 'celebration.'

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by MrsMoose, Apr 16, 2016.

  1. MrsMoose

    MrsMoose Registered User

    Oct 1, 2014
    First of all, I'm aware that family occasions - Christmas, weddings etc - are often a source of strain even without having to take a relative's dementia into account.

    Even so, I'd appreciate a bit of feedback from people re my father-in-law's forthcoming 95th birthday. He has mixed dementia as well as the general frailty and difficulties (hearing loss, sight loss) associated with advanced age. He lives in sheltered accommodation a few miles away from our house. A carer comes in every morning and a communal lunch is served in the place where he lives.

    As I'm 'just' the daughter-in-law obviously my role in planning what happens isn't and shouldn't be the key thing. However, because my husband and I are the only people doing day to day support, I have a tendency to feel my views 'should' be taken notice of - even if they're not necessarily the ones that win the day. Before my husband retired I would take my father-in-law to medical appointments, and drive to bring him to our house on visits, as well as cooking for him. The only other relative is my husband's brother. He lives abroad, and only visits a couple of times a year. When he visits or phones he tends to make pronouncements about what 'should' be done for his father, but obviously these pronouncements don't come out of a kind of day to day knowledge. Everything practical and important has been done by my husband and me.

    I'm also the person who looked up a lot of stuff about the condition when my father-in-law got dementia. My husband tends to get frustrated by his father - which is understandable. So I tend to be the one who says, 'This is part of the illness. It's to be expected. Perhaps what would help is we did/tried this instead of that.'

    Anyway my husband and I began discussing how to celebrate the birthday that's coming up. He, I, his brother and his father had had a successful lunch at a restaurant near his sheltered accommodation recently. The place was quiet, the staff were caring, they served a fairly simple meal - possibly just a single course plus coffee and drinks. My father-in-law who can get very tired now managed to stay alert and involved and join in the conversation. (At the last family lunch before that where we were a bigger group in a noisier environment, he simply couldn't cope and 'faded out' of the proceedings.)

    So I'd put forward the view that going back to the restaurant for lunch, and for my sister-in-law (who'd been ill on the previous visit there) to be part of the party, would be ideal.

    I was aware that my brother-in-law felt that a bigger do would be appropriate. The three grandchildren (two of them are my stepchildren) should come, and my father-in-law's only surviving friend should also come. I was a bit dubious, but could see that if anyone hadn't seen my father-in-law for ages the lunch represented an opportunity. I'd assumed that both the grand-daughters would see their Grandpa at Easter though - and their busy lives might mean they'd find it hard to travel back for the birthday celebration as well. My husband had, I thought, agreed.

    Just last night though I discovered by chance that things have moved on. My husband has arranged with the restaurant that there should be a special three course menu - the one that's normally served in the evening, and would like there to be alcohol. (Even though my father in law becomes a) offensive and b) exhausted if given wine) He's just told me that my stepdaughter would be there. Apparently this was agreed several days ago. I really like my stepdaughter and haven't seen her for ages - so found it a bit odd that my husband had forgotten to let me know she would be coming along.

    NB. There will also be a second celebration a few days later at his sheltered accommodation - tea and cake - which will involve me too.

    It's absolutely not my place to say how the family birthday lunch should be organised. I offered an opinion about what I thought might work well, but of course other people want to make into something a bit bigger and more like the celebrations that used to take place - perhaps because in a year or two years' time, there won't be the chance to celebrate at all.

    I'd just be interested to know what other people think. I think my husband gets very stressed about everything to do with his Dad, and this may be part of why he hasn't been keeping me updated. I don't want to be a bossy control freak, but I feel as if I'm slightly dreading the occasion because I find it very sad when I see my father-in-law out of his depth. It may be that he will be able to cope with what's going on and enjoy it, but I think it may all be rather a struggle - both for him and for us.

    Sorry this is such an epic post. Just wanted to get it all off my chest.
  2. marionq

    marionq Registered User

    Apr 24, 2013
    Step back. This is their Dad and although you have done a great deal for him now is the time to let his sons do their thing. Enjoy the fact that it is not your responsibility and be magnanimous with any flaws that show up.
  3. LadyA

    LadyA Registered User

    Oct 19, 2009
    What Marionq said. In reality, there is nothing that you can do. If they want a bigger do, they will have it. If their father is not able for it (and I expect you are right on that), they will find out.

    What's the absolute worst that can happen? Probably that he will get so exhausted that he will have to be taken back home early, long before the celebration is finished.
  4. MrsMoose

    MrsMoose Registered User

    Oct 1, 2014
    Yes, you're right. I just have to cope with the fact that my husband is likely to get upset if his Dad is visibly/audibly struggling/not enjoying the party. But then my husband is generally finding his father's dementia hard to deal with - like pretty much every one else on this forum.
  5. Owly

    Owly Registered User

    Jun 6, 2011
    You are right, the smaller and simpler would have been better. People organise these "do's" to comply with social expectations regardless of the recipient's state of mind, and also to assuage any guilt they feel about not being there on a daily, regular basis.

    But you have said your piece and it's been superseded by what they wanted to do. You'll have to let it play out as it will. Perhaps it could be agreed in advance who will be the one to take FIL back home early and sit with him as he "goes back down the gears", if he appears overwhelmed by it all.
  6. CollegeGirl

    CollegeGirl Registered User

    Jan 19, 2011
    North East England
    It's such a shame when something that should be a happy occasion causes so much anguish and dread :(. I really feel for you.

    I also agree that smaller would be better, but like the others, sadly, I don't think there's much you can do this time. I think your husband and his brother, and the other relatives, would be resentful if you tried to change their plans, even though I think your idea is the better one.

    Having said that, who knows? It may go very well - in fact I hope it does, and that you all have a nice time.

    Fingers crossed, and do let us know how it goes.
  7. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    Some people just have to learn the hard way. They can't understand that what would be lovely and appropriate for someone without dementia, can be just too much - stressful and confusing - for someone with it. I would just sit back and hope for the best, and try to say nothing if it all proves too much for him.

    When my mother was in her 90s with pretty bad AD I found that even the fairly low-key birthday parties organised by the CH were too much. She would become agitated and grumpy - too much noise and fuss. I asked them to tone the next right down - TBH by then she would not understand that it was her birthday anyway.

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