Edison Terrell

It’s all hypothetical right now, but my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year ago and it’s progressed sharply since then, prompting the “home health talk.” He’s there enough to know something is seriously wrong, that he needs help with basic things he could do before this, but he won’t allow for help from outsiders. My mom asked me today without verbalizing it, would I be willing to step in when the time comes? 

Normally, my answer would be no. I have boundaries and I think it’s important to have boundaries. This isn’t the first time it’s come up, but things are different now. There are a whole new set of issues to deal with back home; on top of those and her meager job and keeping her family afloat she’s trying to keep her father’s head above water at her own expense. Now my mother is drowning, and here I am, a veritable lifeguard who’s choosing to stay on shore and see how it plays out because I don’t like getting wet. 

It’s selfish, right, to do nothing when you’re capable of doing something? Isn’t that someone’s definition of evil? But I’ve got a family now, living with my in-laws. I was hundreds of miles apart from my fiancée, now wife, for years and we’re just starting to make up for all the lost time. I also have clients here who need me, and whose families depend on me. And to be completely honest I never really liked my grandfather. He was a bore when I was growing up, and had a quick temper with nothing but a fixed smiley veneer over it. He’s different now, I’ll grant you that. The Alzheimer’s took more than just his memory. In a way he’s a proper grandfather now, just one that doesn’t remember your name. 

I don’t feel much for the man or his wife, except discomfort. I can barely muster up the effort to call him Nonno. That word is a grenade loaded with implications and a deafening reminder that for all our culture’s emphasis on family they did everything for their sons and nothing for their daughter except make life difficult at every turn, impose their will on her, and when they had her, neglected her love and adoration. They’ve done so little to deserve respect and even less to deserve anyone’s help at this time, least of all from the same person they neglected and abused, publicly humiliated on a regular basis. 

It’s so easy for me to say Healthcare professionals shouldn’t be affected by what a person has done in the past but only deal with them as they are now in a time of need. The words rise to my lips now but they’ve last all their meaning. There’s only the stark reality of my situation: I can act or I can let this play out.

One thought on “Boundaries

  1. Billy Clark

    I do see the problem, but you have a responsibility as a health care professional.
    I get that involvement is going to be hard. However, you are not alone in this situation. You have professionals to ask for help to find options for your grandmother.
    The choice is not yours on the place grandfather lives. You do the right thing laying out all the options, and telling her the truth of his condition.
    No one has to agree with you, but you do not want family to hate you for not speaking up.


Leave a reply