Saturday, December 29, 2007

Betty and the Budweiser Brouhaha

I received an urgent phone call from an old friend, X. He's the widower of a woman I used to work with. I was always fond of their family and often visited X at his assisted living facility, and at the hospital when his COPD gave way to pneumonia.


On the phone, X asked if I could pick up something for him from the store. Sure, I was always happy to help. What did he want?


"I want a 12-pack of beer."


"Uhhhh....Are you sure it's OK for you to have beer? What about that thickener you have to add to all your beverages?"


"Oh- didn't I tell you? The doctor said that carbonated beverages are fine for me now."


"Even beer?"


"YES!!!"


"Did the doctor say the word 'beer'?"


"Yes, it's FINE!!!"


This is where the conflict started to set in. X's family thinks he's an alcoholic. When he first became ill a year ago and had to be taken to the hospital, he nearly died. I was told by the family that it was the alcohol which had brought him to such a physical state.


I knew that the family would not want X to have alcohol. I guess I am obligated to honor the family's wishes, not X's wishes. When an older adult reaches a state of health which requires long-term care, it appears that the person loses control of his life. The younger family member who has been given Power of Attorney is the one who takes over control of the older person's life.


X, mind you, is mentally sharp as a tack, and at age 74, is not exactly ancient. He has his own room in the assisted living facility. Three meals a day are served in the dining room, which is a huge benefit for this widower who doesn't know his way around the kitchen. I'm not sure why, but he doesn't seem to be allowed to drive.


His family, along with the pastor of his church, seem utterly convinced that X should not be allowed to have alcohol. If obesity was X's problem, would they be limiting his food, I wonder? If lack of exercise was X's problem, would they have him on a strict daily exercise regimen? Is it really right for human beings to control other human beings when they reach a certain age or level of vulnerability?


Would I want a family member controlling me if I were in X's situation? Hell, no! If I'm dying of some chronic condition and some doctor says I can't have ice cream, I hope my son will bring me the ice cream anyway- I've already told him that. Even if my ice cream intake is viewed as suicidal, bring it on. Whose business is it besides my own?


If X's intake of beer is viewed as suicidal by his controllers, well, so what? Each decision we make day in and day out is either life-giving (like exercising) or life-threatening (like drinking Coke). X's life choices are none of my business (and none of his family's business).


So I decided to deliver the beer to X. In the grocery store, as luck would have it, I ran into a friend. I was embarrassed about the tarnishing of my goody-two-shoes image as I struggled with the large, unwieldy package of beer at the checkout. Still unsure of my decision, I felt obligated to explain myself.


"Well, Betty, the assisted living facility is responsible if anything happens to X. You really should ask them if the beer's OK. You don't want to end up in trouble if something happens..."


Oh, boy. X's simple request was rapidly turning into a complex dilemma. But I had purchased the beer and was on my way to the assisted living place.


Imagine my surprise when the gentleman exiting as I entered the facility happened to be X's pastor, whom I recognised from a prior encounter! I tripped over the threshold, causing the beer box to rip its way out of its paper bag. His eyes bulged as he offered help and then started to recognise me. He gasped audibly.


"Ohhhh....so YOU'RE the 'important meeting' that X had to get rid of me for......Are you taking BEER to him?????"


Feigning ignorance, I looked at him with confusion. "Is he not supposed to have it? He assured me it was allowed...."


The all-knowing pastor shook his head. "He's tried to get me to bring booze, he's tried his family, now you.....he's alcoholic, and he lies to get the stuff. Go ask the staff here about it."


Feeling like a criminal, I looked around in the building for some authority figure to consult with, just because I'd been exposed and now felt that I needed their permission (if I could miraculously obtain it).


Finally I ran into an elderly resident doing her laps around the hallways. I asked her if anybody worked here on Saturday. She took me into the kitchen. I felt hopeful at the sight of these rather laid-back kitchen workers, and in fact the first one who answered my question said that residents are allowed to have beer in their fridges.

Then another one said, "Well, we'd better call the family to make sure there's no issue we don't know about..."

Well, the phone call didn't go well. X's daughter-in-law laid down the law- no booze for X. He might die from it, after all. And in the society we live in, I suppose I could be held resonsible for his death if it happened to occur after he enjoyed a cold one.

Well, I have to play by other people's rules in this case, but let it be known that my motto is this:

LIVE AND LET LIVE.



17 comments:

Kacey said...

Oh, Holy Cow! ALcohol is not going to kill him. He had pheumonia and COPD, not cirrhosis. As someone who is over the hill on a downward pull, I demand the right to say what is going in my mouth, what I read, where I go, whom I go with, etc. You should not give it to him, purely not to get in trouble yourself. My mother had her dad living with them when he was about that age and first she took away his beer, then she took away his chewing tobacco. Neither one had hurt him up till then, but the loose tobacco bothered her --- it was messy. She didn't like having beer in the house, so she took away what little life he had left---so he died! I don't do alcohol or cigarettes, but I do Coka Cola ---like for breakfast. If my children try to take it away when I am older and goofier--- I'll break their arms and run away from home.

Betty said...

Dear Kacey,

You make perfect sense, and I respect your opinion. I was especially intrigued with your story about your parents. The LACK of alcohol killed him!

It ain't over yet for me and my friend- he is determined to get his beer one way or another, and I'm determined to help somehow.

Hugs and happy new year!
betty

Loving Annie said...

Hi Betty !

As an outsider, I'd agree with you. After all, life in an assisted care facility isn't much of a life.

But, if I'd been a memeber of this guy's family, and been put through hell backwards, which is what alcoholics do to their loved ones, I might be adamant about no beer as well.

You were put in an uncomofrtable position.

We all have our little (or big vices). If it only hurts ourselves, we ought to be able to choose our own way to go.

With a family involved though, the equation gets complicated. As does the liability b.s. of a place he is staying in, who will doubtless compare a beer or two to meth as a reason why exceptions can't be made...

Why does someone have power of attorney over him if he is as sharp as a tack ?

Dust-bunny said...

Wow, Betty, that was uncomfortable! I would more or less be concerned that the beer might interfere with any meds he might be taking. Then if something happened to him, it might be blamed on you.

Alcoholics do lie, and I'm quite sure the doctor did not give the "ok" for any booze! But I do hear what you're saying. If he was still in his own house, he may have drunk himself to death by now, though, so it's probably better that he's in a facility where they can monitor his drinking and he can still be "sharp as a tack."

Betty said...

Dear Annie,

The son has power of attorney because of the father's physical frailty. A couple of times he's been so sick that he's barely conscious. In that state, he can't make decisions. When he recovers, he regains mental clarity.

You're right about the family going through hell with an alcoholic. I guess that is a legitimate issue to consider. I have definitely lost steam, and hope he doesn't persist in asking me for beer.

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Dust-bunny,

Well, I went to visit him today. He is sober, but he looks miserable, and his health has deteriorated considerably since I saw him Saturday, when I was trying to deliver the beer. It would be hard to call him sharp as a tack on a day like this when he is too weak to walk down the hall with his walker. I can't help womdering if his disappointment has caused this remarkable decline....

Hugs,
Betty

Dust-bunny said...

Betty, it isn't his disappointment towards you for not bringing him the beer, please don't think that...it is his disappointment at where his whole life has ended up. He only believed that drinking the beer would make him feel better...I think deep down, he knows he might possibly be dying, and he's probably frightened and regretful.

In my business, we do volunteer work in nursing homes and senior centers...and sometimes it's so sad to see the 75 year olds who are negative, drugged up, angry, or sleeping through life...and then you see the 85 year olds at the senior centers who are still playing cards, eating on their own and generally enjoying life. I really think we are the products of our own thinking. Obviously if he was an alcoholic, his thought patterns were askew to begin with, and he needed to work on that during his "well" years. Now, he's probably faced with the reality that it is, indeed, to late. That must be so depressing.

Loving Annie said...

Dust-Bunny's comment was very insightful.

How are you doing today, Betty ?

Betty said...

Dear Dust-bunny,

Yes, you're right- it must be incredibly depressing. It's hard to imagine being that age. I often wonder what it's like, especially for one whose lifelong partner is gone. And that's what his disappointment is about.

Hugs,
Betty

Betty said...

Dear Annie,

Hello again! It's a busy week, to say the least, and it ain't over yet (not until Monday for me!). But at least I'm not in the same boat as X!

Hugs,
Betty

Kacey said...

I know I already commented, but I came back and read what some of my favorite bloggers had to say. I feel so weird--- talking about oldies in nursing homes. OMG, I turned 72 last week and "my Honey" will be 76 in two weeks. He is still an elder for a large church and has been helping a younger guy (67) build a sunroom onto his house. I was scrubbing the bathroom floors on my hands and knees yeasterday, for a dinner party we had last night. I remember thinking, "This hurts --- I wonder how long I will do this. instead of using a mop?" The picture on my blog is the one taken for the new church directory this year --- I don't think we look like we are ready for the "home", yet. I just hate the thought that someone else is going to make my decisions for me--- like a recalcitrant four year old! Help!

Betty said...

Dear Kacey,

I think it's great that you're still on your hands and knees washing the floor. Just plan to keep doing it! I've often wondered if I'll always be able to jog. My mother died young, and because of that I have no image of myself as an old woman. I often wonder what it will be like, if I'm luckier than my mother and live to find out....will I still be able to keep my job? jog? walk? go up and down stairs? make decisions?

Hugs,
Betty

GarnetDavid said...

betty- you did nothing wrong! I love this post. you have a spiritual gift which few others have: to see people for the good they have rather than what you want to control about them.

because of the controlling family, X may die in turmoil rather than the loving peace he deserves, even if it means have a bud before bed.

love,
garnet

Kacey said...

Dear Betty, I went back a few posts in the hope that some people we both know would not see it, but that you get your new comments in your e-mail. I would like to talk to you without anyone else reading it---so please send me an e-mail address. Send to:
nootonet@yahoo.com It is important.

Daisy said...

I don't think you did wrong here. I would be pissed if I were older and needed to live in a facility and wanted a treat and no one brought it to me because they deemed it unnecessary or not good for me.

Betty said...

Thank you, Daisy. I really struggled with this one.

Hugs,
Betty

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