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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006
    Location
    Evansville, Wisconsin
    Posts
    3,081

    Default Helping recently widowed grandmother

    A few weeks ago my maternal grandfather passed away. His health was poor and he was in his late 80's, so it wasn't entirely unexpected, and it sounds like the medical/hospice team did a good job of managing his pain up until the end, so he passed on relatively peacefully.

    My grandmother is also in her 80's, and is in very good health for her age. But she, very understandably, is feeling quite lost and alone. The last several years of her life have been spent caring for my ailing grandfather, and now that he's gone, she feels adrift and without purpose.

    In a little over a week my son and I will be driving out to stay with her for a visit. She seems quite excited about the idea, and since she's enthusiastically given us the go-ahead to bring the dog along, we could stay for up to two weeks or so.

    Although I'm sure it varies from person to person, I was wondering if anyone had any advice for things that I should or shouldn't do as I keep her company for a while during this difficult period. Luckily she's pretty feisty, so I suspect she'll make her preferences fairly clear, but in case someone who's been through a similar situation had tips for things that they or their loved ones found particularly comforting (or distressing - I'd like to avoid that as much as possible!) Or anything that might be particularly helpful to her during this time.

    Most people I've talked to have said that the first couple of weeks after losing a loved one they were surrounded by friends and family, and then after that, everyone went home and they were all alone, so I've tried to time my visit for the period shortly after most of the crowds have dropped off, but other than that, I'm not sure if there's anything else I should think about.

    Any words of wisdom are welcome.
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
    -Edward Hoagland



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar. 23, 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    2,641

    Default

    As you said, she'll probably let her preferences be known. Don't let her wear herself out entertaining you ... she's still recovering from caring for her husband.

    Most of all, enjoy reminiscing about your grandfather, her husband, if that is what she wants to do some of the time ... sharing stories with your son if appropriate.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2000
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    10,164

    Default

    Adding to RDR advice, I'll share what one of my Aunt's told me when she was 92 years old. She said the hardest and scariest thing about growing old is not mattering to someone/family anymore.

    To be sure, my cousin took excellent care of his Mom and she mattered to his family every single day. So make Grandmother matter to your life during and after your visit.

    My condolences on the passing of your Grandfather.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 5, 2003
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    1,224

    Default

    Let her set the pace. She may be worn out and just want to rest or she may be stir crazy and want to get out. Just let it be her decision. let her talk about him as much as she wants but don't make her. Look around and see what needs to be done around the house. She may not ask, but there may be a lot of things she can't do anymore and she doesn't want to have to find someone else to do.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun. 12, 2007
    Location
    Westchester County, NY
    Posts
    5,750

    Default

    Try to help her stay in touch with things she used to like and people she'll see regularly. If she has a weekly book group/poker group/knitting group/etc. encourage her to continue going. If she doesn't try to find something that might interest her so she has something to look forward to each week that involves interacting with other people.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 11, 2000
    Location
    Chantilly,va.
    Posts
    10,855

    Thumbs up "little things"

    Anything you can do to make her daily life/ activities easier, less painful, fixing meals for her, shopping, getting her hair done, going to doctor/ dentist, visiting friends/ neighbors, other relatives; she probably has not not spent much time away from her husband in order to not leave him without her care; She may just like some time to herself; perhaps you could help bring her some, make a list of "what I'd like to do" or "someday I'll "organize the family pictures, etc. You might get a small, nicely bound journal and encourage her to write what she would like the grandchildren to know; you could also get a tape recorder of some sort and encourage her to record her thoughts and or the story of her and your grandfather that way; My brother went through the family home with our father one day; and recorded him talking about some of the items he had brought from his family home, unfortunately, he only did it once and only with our father.
    breeder of Mercury!

    remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul. 13, 2008
    Posts
    2,779

    Default

    Trips out to the store, etc., are a good idea. Be aware, though, that longer trips might be an ungreat idea. My sister dragged my mom out on a daytrip 60 miles away to see a museum, the week after my dad died. It was a nice idea and well-meant, and my mom did need to get out of the house for a while, but it was just too much stress to go so far and "do" a museum. I think you need to be close enough to home, and in a setting where you can slip out easily, so that if you do get weepy (which happens unexpectedly), you aren't sort of trapped at a place or in a setting.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006
    Location
    Evansville, Wisconsin
    Posts
    3,081

    Default

    Thanks everyone!

    I'm planning on bringing some knitting projects with me, and I'm definitely bringing stuff for the kiddo to play with, so we can entertain ourselves if my grandmother needs a rest. And I'm comfortable cooking and such if she needs a break from that sort of thing as well.

    My grandmother does have a book club that she tried to get to regularly. That and going for a short walk at a nearby park were two of the things she did to have a little bit of time for herself while she was caring for my grandfather. I won't push, but I'll make sure to ask her about it. And if the weather's nice, I'd be glad to walk with her in the park.

    Her laundry room is in the basement, and I know it's getting harder for her to make it up and down the stairs, so I'll make sure to check and see if the laundry needs doing. We've offered to build her a first-floor laundry, but so far she's been quite resistant to the idea. One of my aunts swings by pretty regularly to help her with that, but that particular aunt will be out of town most of the time that I'm visiting, so I'll plan on taking care of that for her. Now that I think about it, maybe I should call my aunt to see if there's anything else she generally does, so that I can do it while she's away.

    Yardwork is another thing to think about. My grandfather had a small apple orchard that's been sadly (but understandably)neglected for the last several years. Clearly I'm not going to be able to revive it in a short period of time, but I can remove some of the dead branches that are troublesome. I think my cousin mentioned that one of them was cracking and starting to droop and rub on the roof of the pole barn.

    And I think you guys are absolutely right about letting her set the pace when it comes to talking about my grandfather. If she wants to, I'll be glad to do so, but I won't try to bring it up unsolicited.

    And thank you for making such a great point SLW. I think that is part of what's worrisome to my grandmother right now as well. Not only is she missing her husband, but she's unsure of her place in the world right now, I think. It would be good for her to know that she does still matter very much to all of our family.

    Very good points, all!
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
    -Edward Hoagland



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006
    Location
    Evansville, Wisconsin
    Posts
    3,081

    Default

    Those are great ideas Carol - I know that we have a big family history book that my grandmother's side of the family has kept for many, many generations, but I'm not sure that much has been added in recent years. I can see if that might be something we should look at.

    And I think vacation1 has a good point as well - even if she wants to get out of the house, I think you're right, that short trips would be better than long ones. I don't think she feels up for going too far away from home yet.

    I'm also going to call the farm I get my CSA produce box from, and see if I can reschedule my weekly box to pick one up to bring with me right before I leave, if possible. If they're willing to do that, then veggies will be one less thing for us to worry about.
    "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
    -Edward Hoagland



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