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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Expert Comments on The Drama "Babying Mom"

Written by  Leah Abramowitz

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The differences of opinion between the two sisters about their mother's care in the drama, "Babying Mom", is not unusual. Aside from the average sibling rivalry that's being exhibited, (yes, it exists and flourishes even at the ages of 61 and 55), there are the two different situations in which they find themselves, reflecting their different needs and personalities.

Jenny is pressured by the many responsibilities and conflicting loyalties that make her day so full. She probably feels a little guilty that she can't give her mother as much attention as her sister does. Knowing this, Iris can well interpret her sister's "advice" to let their mother be more active, as a cover for these feelings. Iris, on the other hand, has plenty of time on her hand, and may even be looking for something meaningful to fill her day. Caring for an aging mother is an opportunity for her-though she'd be the last to admit it.

Coupled with the time element, Iris may unconsciously be turning her mother into the baby she never had. The nurturing instinct and the need to be needed makes many adult children turn their elderly parents into dependents before their time. So the less busy daughter may have something to gain from taking the protective view.

What can be done? Before the arguments get out of hand, some ground rules can be applied, that are good for any family interactions:

  1. Don't attribute ulterior motives to the other's behavior or opinions. That is, accept their words at face value-as you probably would with a stranger. Just because it's a family member doesn't mean you can't respect their viewpoint as expressed.

  2. Avoid comparing standing in the family-who's more popular, who's the favorite, who does more, etc.

  3. Refrain as much as possible from saying (and thinking) "always,"" never," "as usual," and the like.

  4. Money is the root of all evil, and shouldn't be brought into family discussions, unless the issue is a financial one.

  5. Accent the positive! In every situation one can emphasize the other side's good points/intentions/accomplishments. Jenny appreciates Iris' devotion to their mom and to herself even admits "It actually suits me to have Iris looking after Mom when I'm so busy". Iris no doubt is happy that her sister and brother-in-law have the means to put the mother in a good rehabilitation facility, though she's never said it. Stated otherwise, Jenny might say to her sister, "You're really doing so much for mother. I see she's sitting up now. When do you think she'll be able to try feeding herself like the psychologist advised?" instead of "Why don't you do X,Y or Z"..

Hopefully, the sisters' innate good sense, common concern for their Mother and genuine affection for each other will overcome destructive and age-old jealousies and rivalries for the general benefit of all.

There's another side to consider in this scene-the mother. Often when we're in the heat of an argument, we easily forget that our differences of opinion influence the listeners, children for example, spouses, and of course parents, especially if they're the trigger and directly involved. In some pathological instances the subject of the dispute may enjoy being the center of attention and being fought over. More than likely, however, it is uncomfortable for him/her. It may simply be embarrassing, or it may be a cause of deep sorrow for a mother to see her daughters fighting, no matter how good their intentions are.

Another issue is just how much should a recovering patient be encouraged to be independent. Is there an accepted line to take in every case? The answer is of course, that each patient is different. There are different causes of a stroke, and the course of rehabilitation varies. Even more so, each individual is different and relates differently to illness and handicap. The attending physician, a therapist working with the patient, and even a medical social worker can probably give guidelines how much to "push" the patient or, on the other hand, how much to hold back and caution the rehabilitee to be careful.

There are people who may so want to be well and independent that they'll do things that are foolish or dangerous, like getting out of bed or the wheelchair without enough preparation and supervision. There are others who will remain passive or even apathetic, perhaps because of accompanying depression, a common side effect of stroke, or because they've come to view themselves as a sick person who needs care. These people won't benefit from all the professional rehabilitation work invested in them. Here the rehabilitation team will tend to encourage the family to reinforce their efforts and refrain from doing certain things for their loved ones, whether out of love, pity or a desire to be helpful.

In short, each case must be judged on its own merits, and hopefully, with the right direction from professional staff, as well as the natural motivation by family members to see the patient improve as soon as possible, the right path will be followed.

Last modified on Sunday, 03 July 2011 12:21
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Leah Abramowitz

Leah Abramowitz

Leah Abramowitz is a geriatric social worker with more than 30 years experience. She founded a day center, called Melabev, for the cognitively impaired in Jerusalem and the vicinity. She is also a free lance writer and the author of "Tales of Nehama", on the late biblical scholar Professor Nehama Leibowitz.

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