Sandwich Generation Part 206

One of those things that 22-year-old moms are less likely to face: do you take your baby when visiting your parent in assisted living? My father is still mentally with it but needs help, so a couple of years ago we decided it was best for him to be in assisted living. Many are grim or super expensive. The one we found that hit the sweet spot of human decency is about 20 miles from me.

I use to try to see him every week, but since Rex (well, since towards the end of the real uncomfortable part of pregnancy) my goal is more like every two weeks. So, here is one of the issues, do I take my kids or not? Up until recently Vivien was fine with visiting a-little- too- leisure- village.  But lately when I say “Do you want to see Papa?”  “No” is usually the answer. I don’t blame her since many of the people there are pretty out of it.  But when she would visit, it was like a light switch had gone off in their brains.

“Oh, a life force!” She used to sit on the laps of people in wheelchairs without a thought. Now, she has thoughts, and it’s “I would rather go to the park.”

Okay, so Rex and I could go when she is in school. (Timing the traffic is very important in LA) But like young Viv, Rex HATES the car. But my dad LOVES seeing his little grandson… not to mention how happy the other old folks get at seeing a young child.

Am I willing to cause my offspring discomfort to bring a few moments of joy to some infirmed oldies? Yes, sometimes I am. And sometimes there is no choice.

Today was that day. Rex, asleep in his car seat, and I went to visit my dad. I used to take my dad out more, but now that I once again have a stroller in my trunk, it’s pretty tough to get my dad’s walker in there as well.

My dad’s room faces a garden patio, which was a big selling point for us when we placed him there. We sat on the patio, and the folks who are with it cooed at Rex and rubbed his toes. The ones I call “pre-chew Charlies” didn’t seem to know whether Rex was there or a meteor had landed next to them.

When I allowed one sweet older gal to rub Rex’s toes, my dad came charging over with a enraged look on his face. When we walked away he said, “I was afraid you were going to let that lady hold him.” I couldn’t say to him, no, dad, but I did want to throw a little joy in the ladies day and let her touch the yummy baby skin.

To another lady, who is not too together anymore, who was reaching for Rex, my normally social, ladies man dad said, “He doesn’t have time for you.”

He liked introducing Rex to the staff. I think assisted living is like high school or college, but the status is a little different. In this world, it’s not new sneakers or a car but warm, soft skinned people who belong to you and who come to visit you.

Rex fell asleep on the way home, but as we got closer he woke up and cried and cried. I felt bad putting him though it, and I told him he made a lot of people happy today… that is if they remember it.

11 thoughts on “Sandwich Generation Part 206

  1. You know, my kids won’t remember the outings that we do now (when they’re 4 and 2) when they’re adults. But that doesn’t stop me from taking them to the park, the zoo, etc. It seems to me that the remembering isn’t what makes it valuable. If your father enjoys your visits, then you should visit as often as you can.

    It doesn’t matter if his mind remembers – his heart does.

  2. Thankfully, I do not face this in my daily life yet, so my opinion may be null and void. I’ll share my thoughts anyway

    I think it’s important to take the kids to see people in nursing homes and hospitals (as long as their health isn’t in jeopardy by doing so) because it’s good for the people you are visiting. It may be uncomfortable (I get physically ill when I go to nursing homes or to the ICU parts of hospitals), but even the youngest children can see the impact of someone smiling at them. I also think it is important to get a lot of pictures with the person you are visiting. That way when the children are older and asking about grandpa or grandma or auntie, you can say. “Here is a picture of the two of you, he loved you very much.” If you don’t take them to visit, and if you don’t take pictures, they are going to be upset. They are going to feel like they were never given the opportunity to meet their relatives and bond with them. They may not like it now, but when they are older it will mean a lot to them especially if their friends have really close relationships with their relatives.

    It makes scheduling a nightmare, but to make it easier I would take your husband or a friend. This will allow the children to visit briefly with grandpa. Once the kids get squirmy, friend or husband can take them out for a walk or to get a snack while you finish your visit.

  3. That’s a tough one…my mom is, sadly, in early Alzheimer’s. We saw her as much as we could when she was in a pretty good mental state, but since she has declined, we don’t so much any more. There’s not a lot of joy there for the kids, I tell them we go for her, not them. And they get that: it’s a sacrifice, and I hope they do the same for me, (SCAREY THOUGHT…Yuk!)

    Anyway, I try to teach them that sometimes it’s uncomfortable helping others, but we do it. I hope that thought stays.

    I am glad we saw her A LOT when she was with it, b/c now she doesn’t know what is going on. But the kids have the good memories of seeing her when she was still a joy. So,in retrospect, I’m glad I did the scheduling nightmares, the inconvenience..b/c they have good memories of that time with her.

    I say, do it while you can…as inconvenient and as time consuming as it its, b/c they do slip away quickly. Sorry you’re in this dilemma: I know what it feels like. Not a pleasant topic.

  4. all good advice. He is the head of his class where he lives, so we ( rest of family) like to provide some more warmth and chat stimulation.
    I like the bit about “sometimes it’s uncomfortable..” It’s certainly more enjoyable for all when we bring my dad to my home or one of my sister’s, but that’s more logistics.
    I still remember when we first placed him there the admission guy said, “now, a lot of people never visit their parents, are you going to do that?” I do not want to join that club.

  5. Luckily I don’t have to take my kids to see my parents (they are young and well), but I do have to take them to see my grandparents. My daughter has lived to see both of her great grandmothers pass away (not the actual act, but the deterioration) but she also got to see them live! That is something my baby son will never get to see…

  6. Oh, just forgot what I had truly wanted to say: the truth of this is that patients/residents who get visits get treated better b/c staff knows someone will be checking, and will be vocal if things are not up to par.

    That was the main reason I had originally commented: to say that those that get visits, get care. I worked in a nursing home while in high school, and I saw this from the staff, not all the staff, but some of the staff. They’d say, “we’d better clean her up, or whatever, b/c her family comes every Sunday…blah blah blah.” The truth, I sadly heard it.

  7. When my grandmother realized something was wrong with her (wasn’t diagnosed with Alzheimers for another 4 years), she up and moved her and my grandfather across the country. She had forgotten she was babysitting me and gone on with her farm chores for hours. I had a lovely time playing Barbie dolls in the living room until my mother turned up. I was 3.

    Moving away was an overreaction, but an understandable one. We never visited them, because they were so far away, and I think that was hard on them.

    Part of visiting to a nursing home or assisted living facility is understanding, as a child, that not everyone lives in a home like you do. Some people live in fancy houses, some people live in tiny apartments, some people live in RVs, and some people live where they can be taken care of. It’s not as fun as your house, maybe the people smell bad or pinch your cheeks or don’t get your name right…but they are people and you learn to be polite them. Visiting the nursing home can be as educational as going to the zoo or the park…maybe not as much fun…but I wish we’d gone. Instead, I thought that old people were banished to Arizona when they weren’t fun anymore.

  8. My sister works at a nursing home, and she brings her kids in to the home once in a while (on her own time) to see the residents. They LOVE having the little kids around, and I agree with previous comments that it’s important for kids to be exposed to that kind of stuff. It might be uncomfortable at times, but that’s an important lesson for kids to learn too. And the joy you are bringing to those residents is so worth it!

  9. oh, you all make me want to get in the car and drive over there tomorrow.
    Alexandra, I really appreciate the point about the staff paying more attention. Makes sense, but I had thought that through. Although I did recently complain about a few things and they seem to be being addressed.

    Joelle, at least your grandmother wasn’t in denial.

  10. You’re a good daughter Daphne. An interesting thread in your blog, for me, is the question of whether and how much we inconvenience our children. . .I think it is an issue that arises in other contexts, and an attitude that informs a lot of parenting (or lack thereof). A frequent example I see of this relates to parents for whom their kid’s comfort is SO paramount that they will not bend, flex or yield on many grown-up scheduling issues, nor will they intercede when their child is being obnoxious to another child because they do not want their child to “feel bad.” Your situation with an unhappy car camper is different because of Rex’ tender age…and it’s a tougher call. I tend to agree with you about the greater good analysis (ie, “he’ll forget the 1/2 hour ride, but the people whose lives he’ll touch might not). Tougher question, for me, is whether you take a Vivian aged child and force the discomfort for the greater good, or whether you end up with a surly and resentful pre-adolescent if you do? Don’t know, but know that these are the questions that keep parenting interesting. :-)

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