December is a time to look back on what we learned during the year and what events stood out. My 2011 included several lessons, many from unlikely sources. One lesson from 2011 is that if you have a big family event planned and want to include an elder, especially one with health or cognitive issues, planning ahead is better than hoping everything will work out. Here is a real life example from my own special event in 2011.
My son got married this summer and his grandmother-in-law, with some age-related health issues, was to be included in the wedding here in Boston. She would be traveling 2,000 miles and would need some support to be able to be both involved in the wedding and to enjoy the many events on the schedule. The solution was to have a younger friend escort her to Boston and serve as her “plus one” for the wedding. “Grandma” had someone who could help her travel, watch for any fatigue or confusion that might lead to a problem or become embarrassing, and otherwise serve as her chaperone.
Her escort was prepared to leave an event (rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, final gown fitting, etc.) when and if the need arose. This allowed the happy couple, and her daughter (the mother of the bride), to relax and enjoy the weekend! Such foresight and planning led to everyone having a great weekend, including grandma! She never became overtired, she was able to be involved and engaged in all the festivities, and she always looked fabulous!
The winners were: 1) the happy couple who were able to share their wedding with grandma; 2) the mother of the bride who, while she loves her mother ,had a right to enjoy the weekend without worrying; 3) grandma’s escort, who clearly was enjoying the weekend; 4) the wedding planner, who didn’t have to tell grandma more than once where she was supposed to be standing for the ceremony; and of course 5) Grandma, who had a great time and felt special because she got lots of attention, got to be a part of her only granddaughter’s wedding and never had anything happen that even bordered on embarrassing.
The lesson: When making a decision about whether or not to include an elderly loved one in a family event take steps to ensure that the experience is a positive one for everyone involved. The steps that should be taken vary by situation and with the people involved. Yes, there is an added cost and it takes some time to plan, but avoiding tension and frustration for you and embarrassment for the elder is going to be worth it.
More lessons to follow! Have a great holiday!