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Visiting relatives for Christmas

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
Hello All,
I am new to this forum but desperately searching around for advice.
I am full-timer carer for my mum. She is 83 years old, with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia.
Recently she has deteriorated. She is becoming more labile in her moods, poor prone to getting upset and crying. She usually cannot tell my why.
She is also increasingly suspicious/ feels that others don't like her/ thinks she doesn't like others.

We are supposed to be going to her sisters for Christmas. It is a 3 hour drive and we will need to stay at least 2 nights. Her sister has a very large family. There will be at least 50 people for Christmas Lunch!

Mum does not want to go. I think it is exhausting and confusing for her. She cannot remember who most people are - even her sister at times (who for some reason she has begun exhibiting animosity toward). She does not like not being in her own bed. She feels overlooked and ignored at gatherings and she cannot really participate as she can't hold a conversation and others don't really get that, so she is actually ignored a bit in reality.

I don't know if I should try to make her go or not. I have to admit, a lot of my worry comes from the feeling her family doesn't really understand how she feels, how upsetting it is for her, or the extent of her dementia. I feel like they won't understand if I say we can't go, but I feel I should do what is best for mum - or is it best to basically force her to engage socially (forcing people to do anything sounds terrible). This may be the last Christmas we can even consider going, given mum's increaslingly rapid decline. Her sister recently had a stroke and heart attack, which she has recovered quite well from, but it ads to the feeling of guilt I have about going.
Maybe I could suggest we visit at a less busy time?

Does anyone have any advice?
Thankyou
 
Last edited:

marionq

Registered User
Apr 24, 2013
6,463
0
Scotland
I wouldn't take her. Listen to her feelings. Sitting in her own chair and sleeping in her own bed will be more comforting. Thank the hosts but firmly say she's not well enough.

You'll both be happier at home.
 

Sirena

Registered User
Feb 27, 2018
2,336
0
I agree with you, it would be too much for her.

That is a very large number of people, it'll be busy and noisy, she probably won't recognise many people and she will not necessarily remember the house so it could feel like unfamiliar territory. Asking your mother to engage socially might be fine if it's a couple of people for an hour, but to deal with a roomful of people for hours on end is much too big an ask. If she gets very distressed you are 3 hours away from home. Go with your instincts, don't be guilted into doing something you feel is wrong, you need to do what's best for your mum.
 

Beate

Registered User
May 21, 2014
12,183
0
London
50 people for lunch is crazy! Even I wouldn't want to go to that! Please leave her at home. She has made her feelings clear, and this will be torture for her. People with dementia need routine, quiet and their own surroundings. Family always think they are doing them a favour for including them in noisy festivities, when in fact they are doing the opposite!
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
I wouldn't take her. Listen to her feelings. Sitting in her own chair and sleeping in her own bed will be more comforting. Thank the hosts but firmly say she's not well enough.

You'll both be happier at home.

Thank you very much for your response. I feel so much better having other people with experience tell me my instincts are right. I sometimes feel family, even though they have good intentions, are also often trying to make themselves feel better. Like, they feel terrible thinking about us at home alone, so they try to force us to participate socially, when the stress I feel from continually having to monitor mum actually makes the experience unpleasant for me and I much prefer enjoying the time I have left with her and making sure she is happy.
 

nellbelles

Volunteer Host
Nov 6, 2008
9,568
0
leicester
Hello @Falco a warm welcome to TP.

I’m in agreement with the other posters, that’s a big gathering and with a 3 hour drive you are not just going to be able to take her home quickly.

Now you have found us I hope you will continue to post
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
I wouldn't take her. Listen to her feelings. Sitting in her own chair and sleeping in her own bed will be more comforting. Thank the hosts but firmly say she's not well enough.

You'll both be happier at home.
Thankyou. 3 responses in a couple of minute! I will have to bite the bullet tomorrow and tell them we cannot come. I just wish I didn't feel guilty all the time. I want mum to be happy, and in my heart I know she will not enjoy it.
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
Hello @Falco a warm welcome to TP.

I’m in agreement with the other posters, that’s a big gathering and with a 3 hour drive you are not just going to be able to take her home quickly.

Now you have found us I hope you will continue to post
Thankyou, it a relief to talk to people who understand. Mum sisters family are the type who are pull your boots up and get on with it - one even suggested I tell mum to snap out of it when I was trying to talk about her changing moods! I responded quite sharply and bought a book on dementia which I left in a prominent place :).
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
Thankyo
I wouldn't take her. Listen to her feelings. Sitting in her own chair and sleeping in her own bed will be more comforting. Thank the hosts but firmly say she's not well enough.

You'll both be happier at home.
Thank you. Hearing from people who know who someone with dementia can feel is helping me immensely.
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
I agree with you, it would be too much for her.

That is a very large number of people, it'll be busy and noisy, she probably won't recognise many people and she will not necessarily remember the house so it could feel like unfamiliar territory. Asking your mother to engage socially might be fine if it's a couple of people for an hour, but to deal with a roomful of people for hours on end is much too big an ask. If she gets very distressed you are 3 hours away from home. Go with your instincts, don't be guilted into doing something you feel is wrong, you need to do what's best for your mum.
Thankyou. Sometime you need to hear from an objective party to reassure you what is the right decision.
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
50 people for lunch is crazy! Even I wouldn't want to go to that! Please leave her at home. She has made her feelings clear, and this will be torture for her. People with dementia need routine, quiet and their own surroundings. Family always think they are doing them a favour for including them in noisy festivities, when in fact they are doing the opposite!
Thankyou. It is crazy! Today I exclaimed "50!" to my cousin and she was like "what"? That is just my aunt's children, grandchildren and some great-grandchildren - and not all of them! They are all used to it. Then more are coming round in the evening for dinner! Then they all go to the races the next day. I am tired just thinking about it.
 

Sirena

Registered User
Feb 27, 2018
2,336
0
@Falco you are doing all you can to make your mum feel happy, so don't feel bad about it. You are making efforts to ensure she will be as comfortable as her condition allows over Christmas.

And honestly, I couldn't deal with that size of gathering myself so I have no idea how someone with dementia is supposed to!
 

Falco

Registered User
Dec 20, 2018
14
0
@Falco you are doing all you can to make your mum feel happy, so don't feel bad about it. You are making efforts to ensure she will be as comfortable as her condition allows over Christmas.

And honestly, I couldn't deal with that size of gathering myself so I have no idea how someone with dementia is supposed to!
Thankyou. I better get offline and get some sleep. I am in Australia and it is 1.30 am here. Just couldn't sleep thinking about what to do. My resolve is strengthened!
 

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
17,451
0
68
Toronto, Canada
If I were you, I would definitely not go. It will be too much for your mother. I can appreciate that her sister, nephews, nieces & etc want to see your mum but why don't you suggest they visit you at another, calmer time.
 

Witzend

Registered User
Aug 29, 2007
4,289
0
SW London
I agree 100% that it would be far better and kinder to let her stay at home.
Many years ago we learned the hard way, with my FiL, that even a normal family Christmas could easily prove too much for someone with dementia who needed their quiet, familiar routine. It just made him anxious, fretful and confused.
Never mind 50 people! Sounds like a nightmare even for many people who don't have dementia!
 

Katrine

Registered User
Jan 20, 2011
2,837
0
England
Falco, your first post was so clear and well thought out. It would make the basis of a good letter to send to family. Can you think of positive things to add that would help people to find better ways to stay connected to her? Some family members will understand, if they really care about her, but it's hard to make your point in the highly charged atmosphere of Christmas. Maybe a letter in the New Year would work better, once you've had your first quiet Christmas and can explain what really worked better for your mum.

Awareness of your mum's changed needs is very uncomfortable for others to accept. It's easier to be in denial. Nobody wants to understand dementia unless it affects them directly. Much easier to tell you that you're the problem and need to stop trying to stop your mum from enjoying herself. Or that she just needs to snap out of her brain damage and stop being so selfish and moody.

I think you're going to find it tough to stand your ground at first. These big gatherings are a tradition in some families, a gathering of the clan. The need to keep the tradition going is seen as more important than the comfort of any one individual member of the group. The event may be sold as having a wonderful time but really it's about group conformity and compulsory attendance. You are trying to opt out of this group activity for very good reasons, but the change will be resisted. Why?

It's the thin end of the wedge. Once group members feel free to opt out when it suits them then attending family events becomes a choice. Inevitably some will choose not to attend, particularly those who are more loosely affiliated to the group. People will start to be aware that the family as they've always defined it will inevitably come to an end. Few family clans last beyond the 3rd generation, due to sheer numbers and distance and the competing needs of spouses families. The host of the family event will feel offended and may try very hard to pressure you into changing your mind. They don't want change to happen on their watch. If they can't get you to conform then they will also receive criticism from other family members.

However, you know you are defending your mum's best interests and this will give you the courage to resist. Can you get anyone else completely on board with you? Don't fight your battles alone if you can find allies. With some sympathetic support you can laugh off the sillier comments and avoid getting ambushed. You need someone to watch your back. Relatives have a habit of conducting surprise attacks when you least expect it!
 

Guzelle

Registered User
Aug 27, 2016
421
0
Sheffield
Falco, your first post was so clear and well thought out. It would make the basis of a good letter to send to family. Can you think of positive things to add that would help people to find better ways to stay connected to her? Some family members will understand, if they really care about her, but it's hard to make your point in the highly charged atmosphere of Christmas. Maybe a letter in the New Year would work better, once you've had your first quiet Christmas and can explain what really worked better for your mum.

Awareness of your mum's changed needs is very uncomfortable for others to accept. It's easier to be in denial. Nobody wants to understand dementia unless it affects them directly. Much easier to tell you that you're the problem and need to stop trying to stop your mum from enjoying herself. Or that she just needs to snap out of her brain damage and stop being so selfish and moody.

I think you're going to find it tough to stand your ground at first. These big gatherings are a tradition in some families, a gathering of the clan. The need to keep the tradition going is seen as more important than the comfort of any one individual member of the group. The event may be sold as having a wonderful time but really it's about group conformity and compulsory attendance. You are trying to opt out of this group activity for very good reasons, but the change will be resisted. Why?

It's the thin end of the wedge. Once group members feel free to opt out when it suits them then attending family events becomes a choice. Inevitably some will choose not to attend, particularly those who are more loosely affiliated to the group. People will start to be aware that the family as they've always defined it will inevitably come to an end. Few family clans last beyond the 3rd generation, due to sheer numbers and distance and the competing needs of spouses families. The host of the family event will feel offended and may try very hard to pressure you into changing your mind. They don't want change to happen on their watch. If they can't get you to conform then they will also receive criticism from other family members.

However, you know you are defending your mum's best interests and this will give you the courage to resist. Can you get anyone else completely on board with you? Don't fight your battles alone if you can find allies. With some sympathetic support you can laugh off the sillier comments and avoid getting ambushed. You need someone to watch your back. Relatives have a habit of conducting surprise attacks when you least expect it!
 

love.dad.but..

Registered User
Jan 16, 2014
4,959
0
Kent
Excuse yourself and mum from the lunch for many on Christmas Day and arrange to visit and have a quiet lunch with perhaps a few immediate family on another day. Phone and explain but don't be persuaded because or if they don't understand .... less traumatic and disruptive for your mum to be in familiar surroundings where she can have peace and quiet if she chooses...and less worrying for you to stress about her having to be in the middle of a huge crowd and how she may react. Stick with your instinct.