There is peace in a garden. Peace and results.
About two weeks into my visit, things fell apart. My sister, who holds the POA (power of attorney) for my parents decided to move my mother into a foster home - adult group home. She'd been talking about the move for a while and she thought she'd done her homework. I went with her to meet the potential caregivers and see the home. The home seemed nice enough, but I wasn't overly impressed with the caregivers. I couldn't really put a finger on anything specific, however, and wrote it off to the ambivalent feeling I had about moving Mom out of her home. I didn't say anything to my sister about it because she isn't inclined to listen to me even if I have hard facts, vague feelings of unease wouldn't cut it.
The move was upsetting and exhausting for Mom. She was being moved out of her house and she WASN'T HAPPY. Well, that's an understatement. After telling Mom goodbye and leaving her at her new "home," I slept badly and felt sad and unsure about what "we'd" just done. The next morning, Mom's live-in caregiver and I were puttering around the house when my sister burst in visibly upset. Her face was splotched with anger and she told us that the caregiver at the new place, "didn't know what she was doing," "We're bringing Mom home!" she yelled and, as I remember, she also told the caregiver - let's call her C. - and I that "Everyone has to toe the line or I'm quitting!" I wasn't exactly sure what line my sister had in mind, but I knew her well enough to know that it was inevitable that she would be venting her frustration and anger on me.
Sure enough, later that afternoon my sister asked (well, ask is a kind way to put it) me to come downstairs to talk to her and C., presumably to get my marching orders about toeing the line. I've never liked bullies and so I told my sister that I didn't want to talk to her when she sounded so angry and shut the door to the upstairs bedroom where I'd been staying and told her to go away. Maybe that wasn't a mature thing to do, but I just wanted to be left alone. While I was sitting in my room, I thought more about C. and some of the concerns I'd had about her behavior and her standards of caregiving. Sadly, these weren't trivial concerns and I was very stressed at the idea of C. continuing to care for my parents. I phoned Hospice and talked to the social worker on call about my concerns who assured me that the regular social worker on my mother's team would phone me in the morning.
The morning arrived and there wasn't a phone call. I phoned Hospice more times than I should have and it was down hill from there. My sister was now hopping mad - okay maybe not as mad as the picture - and insisted, again, that I HAD to talk to her. Again, I refused and I ended up fleeing the house and checking back into the motel I'd left two weeks earlier. (More on sibling rivalry and POA's in a future post). The next few days were stressful. Hot too. I spent my days shuttling between the Rehab Center where my dad was and my parent's house where my mom was - encountering my still angry sister in both places. For the next two or three evenings, I would drag myself back to the motel and flop down in bed, exhausted from the heat, stress, and the shlepping from bus to motel. Blessedly, my sister didn't know where I was, or if she did, she didn't know my room number.
Every night on the way to my room, I passed a weed-choked flower bed. The weeds bothered me and one morning I encountered the motel's owner and asked if he minded if I weeded the flowers. "Mind," he said, "not at all!" In fact, he added, he'd be delighted. So that evening, at the end of another hot, sticky, icky day, I decided to have a go at the flower bed. Two nights in a row, I worked away for an hour or two and got gloriously dirty and sweaty. It was a magnificent stress reducer. The second night I brought along some gardening tools from my parent's house and finished the weeding. I already knew that the bed contained day lilies and hostas, but after I'd cleared away most of the weeds, I also discovered some marigolds and a daisy-like flower with deep orange blooms. I went to my room and got a drink and washed my hands and then came out and unrolled the motel's hose and watered the newly weeded flowers. It was immensely satisfying. A wave of relaxation rolled over me as I stood there in the dusk watering the flowers that had been weed-choked and yellowing in the heat. I might not be able to solve the deeper problems with my sister or heal my parents, I thought, but I could set one small flower bed to rights. And that was no small thing.
What do you do when you're stressed out either from caregiving or dealing with siblings about caregiving?
Sweep the floor
Clean the fridge
Clean a junk drawer or another small area of your house that's been bothering you
Go for a LONG walk
Spend an hour or two (you can do it!) on Pinterest
The wonderful book, The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things, is well worth reading on this topic.