Family Assumptions

by Jill Francis on August 3rd, 2015

Family assumptions....we all have them.  They come from living with and interacting with family members throughout a lifetime.  They come from what my brother likes to call, "family muscle memory".  We assume certain family members will respond certain ways in certain situations.  We assume our spouses will behave, our children will behave (mostly) and our parents will be with us a long, long time.  We also tend to assume our fathers will pass away before our mothers because "that's the norm".

And we make plans around those assumptions.  Take my friend for example.  Her mother called me a couple of weeks ago and left me a very disturbing voice mail.  In it, she said the issues her family was having were all a result of her deceitful lifestyle, that her life had been a lie and it was now time to confess.  She continued the message with attempts to quote a favorite speaker of hers and the message trailed off into incoherent mumbling and finally ended.  I knew something was wrong and called her daughter.  Hours later, Mrs. L's daughter called me back and said her mom had "flipped".  Now it's a matter of running tests and labeling what happened and how to proceed.

Here's the problem:  in Mrs. L's family, Mrs. L was the caregiver of Mr. L.  He was the one with medical issues, the one who would try to sneak the car, the one who had almost died twice already,  the one everyone assumed  would die first.  When that happened, the plan was for the mother to move in with the daughter's family.  It was a good plan but it was a plan based upon the Caregiver being lucid and capable of providing care.    That is no longer the case.  In 30-40% of cases, the Caregiver passes away first (it can be even higher if they are caring for an Alzheimer's or dementia patient).   http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/caregiver-stress.html 

Fortunately, before Mrs. L lost her wits, she made sure her daughter was a LEGAL part of their life, so the daughter has the ability to speak with the family attorney, doctors and whomever she needs, in order to take care of her parents.  Unfortunately, their best laid plans are all up in smoke...but at least they had some, at least they had a place to start.

If you've spoken with your parents and made end-of-life plans, good for you!  BUT, don't assume they'll happen according to plan.  It's good to have a plan B.  Or C.   Or D....because LIFE doesn't care about your family assumptions.  



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