Communion Of Dreams

April 11, 2008, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, General Musings, Society

It is enlightening, if sometimes dismaying, to discover what sorts of things motivate people. I have found that one of the most reliable ways of doing this is to see what sorts of motivations they perceive in others – what motives they attribute for a given behaviour.

Case in point: our caring for Martha Sr. I had mentioned previously that there was some discord in the family about the distribution of her estate. And what at the time seemed to be a misplaced guilt (that still may be the base motivation, actually) causing this has now manifested as a perception that we cared for her over the last five years out of some financial motivation. Yes, it seems that some thought that we did what we did in order to benefit from a more favorable disbursement of her estate.

*Sigh* This is so wrong that it took me a while to really wrap my head around it.

As I told a friend via email this morning:

Needless to say, this is not why we did what we did – honestly, no amount of money (well, no reasonable amount of money) would be sufficient inducement for me to have cared for someone like that for so long. It was done out of love – for her, and for my wife.

And I’ve been thinking more about it. Why? Because I like to understand my own motivations, and to keep them as honest and clean as possible. I’m an idealist, and try to approach the world that way, knowing full well that the world is not an ideal place and that reality will likely not be kind to my approach. When my motivations are questioned, either directly or by events, I like to step back and reconsider – and will make changes if necessary to insure that my motives are clear.

We were favored by Martha Sr. in her will. Not to a great degree – the value of it was less than I could have earned in the intervening years, had I been working rather than caring for her. And it was considerably less than would have been spent on either hiring full time care-givers, or moving her into a nursing home for that time. But because this additional benefit was there, some made the assumption that this was our motivation for caring for her. And this has caused the discord mentioned above.

So, after discussing the matter with my wife, we’re going to wipe out the benefit, just split up her estate equally and without consideration. It is not worth the grief. We didn’t do what we did for money or property – we did it because it was the right thing to do, and we could. Removing the benefit should resolve in anyone’s mind what our motivation was.

Everyone grieves in their own way. We may have wiped the slate clean, but that doesn’t mean that the grieving process is over. Not by a long shot. There are still sympathy cards on the mantelpiece. There is still a sudden slight panic over where the monitor is when I forget for a moment that Martha Sr is gone. There is guilt over the times we failed in some way, and joy over memories of happy moments Martha Sr had even in those final difficult days. And there is a profound gratitude I feel in having experienced this role of being a care provider.

I think that I am richer for this experience than others who have not been through it. I sometimes wonder whether the tendency to put people in nursing homes is partially done out of a fear of grieving – to create a distance from a loved one who is reaching the end of life, and so to mitigate the pain of loss. If so, those who take that path have indeed curtailed the amount of pain that they would feel, perhaps even cut short the time needed to completely grieve. But they have also cut themselves off from a remarkable human experience.

Jim Downey

Updated, April 13: I cross-posted this to dKos yesterday, where it generated some interest and discussion you wish to also see.  You can find that here.


5 Comments so far
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I find it a bit strange that you could be accused of something like this, I never got the impression of it from reading your entires here. But then again I suppose its just a blog.

I think your right about motivations though (which makes me a very, very cynical person I suppose), but really – severe alzheimers sufferers are not going to be in much of a position to play favorites with wills, I would have thought. (I hope I put that delicately).

BTW, I’ve finally started to get to the end of the audiobook but Chapter 18 part 3 is unavailable. I have to say I’ve been enjoying it very much, especially the realism.

Comment by Troika21

Troika, first off – we’ll get that Chap 18 thing sorted out, probably later this evening. I’m glad to hear that you have been enjoying the book – I hope you find the ending satisfactory.

I had debated whether to even mention this topic (the motivations one) here. But after being honest about the experience of being a care provider, I thought that this was an important perspective to offer. Idealist that I am, I am also deeply cynical about how the world really works – and feel that anyone who enters into this role should be prepared for the possible pitfalls I have learned about firsthand.

And so it goes.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

I’ve never had to care for anyone like that, and I found your writing on the matter to be insightful (thats not the right word, but it’ll do).

Anyway, as regards the book, yes I continue to enjoy it.

A few years ago I stopped reading, I used to be a prolific reader (well, not *that* much) but it all had to stop, along with talking to other people (a long story, social anxiety disorder, yay me! 😀 ). Its only with reading blogs, and then plucking up enough courage to comment on them, that I’m starting to get back into shape.

Yours is the first fiction book I’ve been able to read/listen to in a long time, and I’m thrilled that it cleverly deals with complex topics, its just the sort of book I used to read.

Comment by Troika21

Troika, thanks again for your kind words – I’m happy that you have both found the ability to comment, and have enjoyed CoD.

The problem with 18/3 is now fixed – thanks for bringing it to our attention, and profuse apologies from my support staff (my good lady wife) for the glitch!

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

[…] mentioned previously, we’re in the process of dividing up Martha Sr’s estate.  This includes the household […]

Pingback by I never really ‘got’ that. Until now. « Communion Of Dreams

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