The Compassionate One

Of all of my siblings, my sister, Cyndie, is the compassionate one. I think most everyone in my family would agree. I’ve always thought this about my sister, even when we shared a room with each other and knocked heads because we were as different as night and day. She was the wild one. I was the goody-two-shoes.

But Cyndie has the biggest heart.

And it has never been more evident than in the last three years. In 2015, when my mother was ill and ultimately dying, Cyndie returned home from India to help care for her and say goodbye.

After my mother passed away, Cyndie said she would stay to help care for my stepfather, Tom, who has Alzheimer’s. She had three successful businesses in India, but left them behind to care for him, five days a week, 24-hours a day. My sister, Tami and her husband take care of Tom on weekends.

I appreciate the care both of my sisters have given Tom, because I am a long-distance co-guardian. (I live in Dallas. Tom lives in Tulsa.) Tami is the other co-guardian. Cyndie has been invaluable in keeping me informed on everything, from Tom’s doctor’s appointments, to his good days and bad days, to maintenance issues with the house, to caretakers. In other words, she has been my eyes and ears in Tulsa. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Cyndie has gone beyond “babysitting” Tom. She has CARED for him, trying to find activities he can do, sitting and talking with him–though he often cannot finish a complete sentence anymore–making sure he bathes and brushes his teeth. Each morning, she places his clothes out, and throughout the day, she helps him to the bathroom.

Tom has declined significantly in the last six months, and it has gotten more physically and emotionally challenging for her to care for him, even with the help of caretakers.

So, we stand at a fork in the road, where we must decide what’s best for his health and safety. Because we do not all agree, our family has suffered conflict that has torn us apart. Anyone who has ever dealt with such a decision knows it’s heart-wrenching, with many things to consider.

Some have vilified us for our opinion that Tom would be safest in a memory center, most without even knowing us. I hope those who know Cyndie know she is no villain. And for those who do not know her, you’ll just have to trust her older sister–that would be me, the one with whom she once shared a room where they often knocked heads. Cyndie has the most compassionate of hearts, especially as she’s cared for Tom.

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4 Responses to The Compassionate One

  1. Wayne T Yee says:

    Jan,

    “It’s all about family – honor, respect, and love for our elders”

    Melissa’s Mom and Dad are in an assisted living facility. Tom, her 92-year-old father, has good and bad days, the bad days becoming all too frequent. Often when we visit, he does not recognize his “Little Lissy”; of course, it breaks her heart. On his good days, he remembers and can point out minor facts unlocked from the cobwebs of his memory from 30+ years ago. He has the grip strength of a 50-year old, as I can attest to when I shake his hand and give him a hug. Because of his physical health and strength, I believe he will succumb to this awful disease at a snails’ pace…

    Darlene, Melissa’s mom, uses a walker and motor scooter, having had 2 knee replacements and a broken leg. She could not care for Dad and take care of the 4-acre farmhouse they called home the past 40 years.

    Mom and Dad’s best option, given the lack of day-to-day care volunteered by Melissa’s siblings, was assisted living in the “Alzheimer Wing”. Mom can care and do things for Tom, but she gets a big assist from the most helpful staff members. Nevertheless, the food, at best, is mediocre, and not all of the staff are much more than “satisfactory” – lost laundry is a common occurrence.

    When Melissa and I visit (it’s about 6 times a year), we take them on outings to run errands, make appointments, and treat them to “real food”. If Melissa were there more, she would make meals for them, and make sure they get out of the facility on a daily basis.

    We do this because we love them.

    Whatever decisions you and your siblings make regarding your Tom’s well-being, you are doing out of love.

    Wayne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thank you for sharing yours and Melissa’s story, Wayne. You know the decision is a very difficult one, where we must look at dozens of different angles to determine what’s best, even as much as we’d like Tom to remain at home. A difference of opinion does not make one person a good guy and one person a bad guy, nor should it destroy a relationship. However, the conduct around those opinions, sadly, can.

      Like

  2. StuHN says:

    My family line had something similar. My Uncle set up a medical center for his wife (my aunt). He refused to have her sent anywhere. Daily nurses, sons and daughters, cousins…all came together to help out, even if was just a visit so he wasn’t alone. Not an easy thing to experience.

    I’m glad you are so supportive of your sister. That helps her as she deals with the process.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan Morrill says:

      Thanks, Stu. I’m afraid this is something many families struggle with as our parents and relatives age. I didn’t mention above that my sister was also the primary caretaker for my uncle when he lived with my mom and stepdad. When he made the decision to move away to another city, she stayed by his side when he fell ill and was the only one of us at his bed when he died. I have always envied both her compassion and my sister, Tami’s compassion as they’ve cared for my mom, stepdad and uncle. Unfortunately, the disagreement about my stepdad’s future care has caused a rift.

      Like

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