Sunday, February 2, 2003

Alive & Well

Caring for parents a labor of love


More adult children are caring for parents with age-related disabilities, and both caregivers and receivers sometimes fumble for the appropriate attitude. A letter responding to my Dec. 29 column offers insight from someone who has been there and can help others.

From Paula Bischoff, West Harrison, Ind.:

"I'm a caregiver for my beautiful mother-in-law. I personally have not had the experience of being treated with insensitivity, but I'm extremely prepared and guarded for that possibility.

"There is so much I've learned in this year and a half of weekend care that I want to share it with you.

"An older person diagnosed with Alzheimer's is embarrassed about her condition. She almost believes that she can will it away and then here you come, caregiver, to constantly remind her that she can't.

"In a way, she blames those closest to her.

"She is losing her reliance on herself to another person and it's scary. She knows she loves you but is not sure you have enough love to see her through."

My first advice to adult children caring for a disabled parent is to tell her many times a day how much you love her. Consider yourself blessed if she never says thank you, because that omission is a sign she is confident that you love her and will always be there for her. Children don't tell their mothers thank you, and that's because they are secure with their mother's love and care. That's a good thing.

Another important element is to attend to social needs. The fact that your parent won't remember what happened an hour ago or who was present shouldn't deter us from arranging visits and conversations. People need people. We all want to feel that we count, and this sustains us awhile longer.

Restaurant criticized

My account of a multiple sclerosis support group feeling discounted by treatment received at the Golden Lamb (Jan. 5) triggered other stories of customer dissatisfaction. Here's one from Angela Piers, Deerfield Township:

"One Friday evening last summer, July 12 to be exact, I was dining there with my husband, mother-in-law and father-in-law. For the past 18 years, a party of 10 or 12 of us have started our holiday season with this tradition.

"In the middle of dinner I became very ill and blacked out in the lobby. My husband could not awaken me, could not find a pulse, and had to ask several times for someone to call 911. Finally, one of the (employees) behind the desk did so. ...

"I woke up just as the paramedics arrived to take me to the hospital. In the meantime, none of us had finished our meal. But my father-in-law was presented with the bill for the dinner (as I was being loaded into the ambulance), and no one even asked if they could box up any portion of our meals.

"My doctor did extensive testing, and luckily could not find a cause for the incident.

"You can be sure that we did not go there this past December nor will I ever set foot in that restaurant again. ..."

Golden Lamb responds

Paul Resetar, managing partner of the Golden Lamb, does not remember the incident Angela Piers describes but was clearly troubled by it.

"We serve over 200,000 people a year," he said, "and 80 percent of them are elderly. Canes and walkers are seen every day here, and I think we are usually very accommodating." If the check was presented in such an instance as (the letter writer describes), he said, that was inappropriate.

Resetar said, however, the restaurant has no official policy regarding people with disabilities or an emergency medical situation. Generally, Golden Lamb employees simply act accordingly. Still, "if even 10 people out of 200,000 had a bad experience," Resetar said, "we're not happy."

There could be a happy ending here. Asked about interest to review materials designed to assist restaurant employees to more appropriately accommodate customers with disabilities, Resetar responded enthusiastically:

"Absolutely. If we can minimize just one negative experience out of those 200,000, it's worth it."

Contact Deborah Kendrick by phone: 673-4474; fax: 321-6430; e-mail:

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