Sunday 13 August 2023

The Yeah-But Bird, or, Follow up to "Mom" Post

Warning: Very Long Post. (But there are memes at the end.)

My late husband used to tease me about being a Yeah-But Bird.

This is what would lead to it: I would present a problem to him, and ask for his thoughts on how to solve it.

After he had dissected the problem and made his best effort at giving me good advice, I would methodically shoot down every bit of it. My sentences would always start with, "Yeah, but . . ." because I had already considered everything he said and discarded them as unworkable, which is why I was asking for his input in the first place. I was looking for some idea I hadn't thought of yet.

I'm sure it's something we could have used some marriage counselling to fix, but instead we did what most couples do and just laughed and accepted it - likely harder for him than for me, to be honest. But that was one of the things I loved about him. He loved me even when I was being a Yeah-But Bird, and a lot of other things that I shouldn't have been.


I feel like the Yeah-But Bird has resurfaced in a big way in my replies to my post about my Mom (here).

All of you had good suggestions for me, yet in my replies I realized I was pretty much Yeah-Butting every idea.

If you read all the replies, you would have the bigger picture of why I feel there is nothing I can do about the Mom situation. But if you haven't, I'll recap here:

- Mom has dementia, yes, but the bigger problem right now is her personality PLUS dementia, which leads her to refuse all help that she perceives as "help" (as opposed to just a visit initiated and desired by the guest/me)

- the public system/government services are definitely available to her, and she has been referred to them once already (in 2021) but their first requirement is that she must AGREE to have help, and she has dismissed that as unnecessary; case closed

- private care is "more likely" (quoted from the geriatric clinic) to agree to try to come into Mom's home to give assistance even if she doesn't want it, but ultimately Mom has the right to kick them out (and insult them while she's at it), which I am pretty sure she would do

- private care is the full financial responsibility of the individual receiving help (or whoever will pay for it on her behalf). Mom won't agree to have help, so I can't see her agreeing to pay for it, and it's expensive enough that my brother and I can't pay for it without jeopardizing our own financial futures.

- our efforts to get Mom to sign an Enduring Power of Attorney, as suggested by the geriatric clinic, in order for my brother and I to use her money to pay for help, fell flatter than a non-leavened pancake. Despite repeated conversations about it, Mom refused. (She is remarkably cagey for someone who cannot remember where her pies are located in the grocery store. Note: they have not been moved in years.)  For those unfamiliar with an EPOA, the essence of it is that it allows a person to name one or more of what are called "Attorneys" to act on behalf of that person if he or she is incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently. If there is no EPOA and the person becomes incapacitated, the court must appoint someone to act on their behalf. The benefits of having an EPOA are that it is less expensive to have it drawn up by a lawyer than having it go through the court system, it is also faster, and you get to choose your representative instead of having one chosen for you. (None of those things swayed my mother.)

- Mom has good neighbours and a couple of understanding friends who try to keep in touch, but her neighbours already do so much for her (yard care, which I am trying to find someone to pay to do, with little luck so far, chatting with her, keeping an eye on her), and her friends have their own problems (health issues of their own or their spouses). I am reluctant to ask anyone to deal with my mother, especially if they are already doing what they can or have a significant burden of their own. There is no other family living within 1800 km of us except my two adult kids, neither of whom is in a position to help due to family and health considerations, and my brother.

- My brother lives a six-hour round trip by car from my mother and I. He has given freely of other kinds of help including financial advice (to me), doing our tax returns, mowing both our lawns, household repairs at Mom's house, and moral support for me. I am sure he would put aside his own responsibilities to come and stay with Mom for a bit if I asked him, but I see that as a last-ditch solution which would leave me feeling I had just used my emergency parachute and afterward there would be nothing at all in reserve for me to do to help myself, except . . . the next item below

- My truly, truly last-ditch solution would be to call Adult Protection Services. In order for them to take over, I was told by the geriatric clinician, I must essentially abandon my mom and all care for her. They will monitor her and they use certain markers or indicators to tell them if she is a danger to herself or others; for example, they will monitor her weight and if she loses a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time, they take it as an indicator that she is unable to care for herself. The problem (again, told to me by the geriatric clinician) is that, in practice, a client of APS may need to lose a lot more weight in that time before the system kicks in and protects them from themselves. Similarly, putting herself in a situation that "could" be dangerous is not seen as reason enough to take someone into protection; they must have actively put themselves in danger (with witnesses) in order to have their freedom taken away.

I understand why the system protects people's independent living. I truly do. Don't we all want to have the choice of how we live as long as it's not hurting anyone else?

But there's the problem. When those who "live independently" do so only with support from those close to them (which is not truly independent living) and refuse the help of people who are paid to do it, whether that's through our taxes or by paying personally, it hurts their caregivers.

Please, Universe, make me not be like this when I get to the point I need care. Help me accept that it's time for the next chapter in my life, and that I cannot demand my freedom at the expense of the freedom of others.

I'm not relying on the Universe, though. I've already had my own EPOA drawn up, and it includes both financial and medical decisions.

Writing about this and knowing that people are listening and understanding is a huge help, for me at least. My family, my in-laws, my neighbours, Mom's neighbours, my co-workers, fellow bloggers and commenters all listen while I unload. Most of them have experience with dementia in some form, but all of them are generous with their time and kindness. I am so grateful for those people, beyond-words grateful. I also journal now, in an effort to unload less on those people, and on better days I also make a grateful list and I try to see the beauty and wonder around me, to take myself out of my headspace for even a few moments. Lately it has been a struggle to do that and I need to try harder, because it really can help.

But more and more I feel like my compassion and empathy are just drops in the bottom of a cup that is usually full but is now close to empty. It makes me dislike myself and dislike my mother. Every day, I start dreading the 8 pm visit around 4 pm, and it hangs over me like a dark cloud until it's over, at which point I feel completely empty. (I can't do the pill delivery earlier because of the timing of one of her pills.)

I know that many folks are in the same situation I'm in, or worse. Dementia is increasingly an issue in society, partly because we have cures for many diseases that wiped out people of earlier generations before they got to the point of developing dementia. And the situation will only escalate as the baby boomers like me get older and older. Capacity in nursing homes, assisted living, and independent living is failing to keep up with demand. Nursing homes in particular had an abysmal record of deaths during the pandemic (and Canada had one of the worse records, which I was shocked to find out), so families are understandably reluctant to put their loved ones in care, and trying to look after them at home. I subscribe to several Facebook accounts for caregivers - mostly caregivers of folks with dementia, and it is heartbreaking what I read there. People cannot afford to put their loved ones in care, or feel guilty doing so, and they are ruining their health and marriages and relationships with their own young children in order to look after their relatives. This is hugely detrimental to the family unit, to psychological health, to finances and job security, and to society as a whole, and when you get right down to it, it is detrimental to the patients as well. Everyone deserves to be treated with basic respect and care that allows them their dignity and a feeling of community, if they so wish it. (In some cases, people don't wish it, and that wish should be respected too.)

Well, it's been another mammoth read, so if you're still here, you really deserve more than these memes, but they're all I have to offer besides my sincere thank you. 

... which is now four years ago, but who's counting

This video is a voiceover, one of the better ones I've seen:

This video is innocently funny, with no questionable treatment of the animals involved (as I feel there sometimes is):


Have a good week, everyone. 


The Happy Whisk said...

Yeah, but ... I felt your answers were fair and that you sounded open to them. I hope you can find a way to get help for your mom, like you said, she's not living independent now, not really. This is hard. Very hard. I wish we had better answers for you. Huggs, Ivy.

dinthebeast said...

Pretty much figured that you would have thought of all the advice I could come up with, which is why I went to "please care for yourself" first thing, because even though you know that, it can be hard to try and do something about it when you really need to.
Like the poster says: "When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp."
Which, when you think about it, sounds like a dumb thing to do, especially if you have ever listened to Jim Stafford.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Elephant's Child said...

Oh dear friend. I hear you. Been some of the way there, done that and refuse to buy the t-shirt.
It hurts like hell.
I well remember disliking my mother and myself and dreading going to visit. And dreading not going to visit.
Look after yourself as best you can.
And thank you (muchly) for the memes.

kylie said...

I never thought you were yea-but-ing me because it's a complicated situation with many variables I don't know or keep in my brain. We all just hope that a little brainstorming might turn up the seed of an idea that can help.

As for your brother being your last parachute, you know a parachute can be folded and re-used? If he came for a weekend, say, and relieved you of 8pm pills for a couple of nights, you might feel the weight of it all a tiny bit less

messymimi said...

I'm probably a yeah-but bird, too. I'm glad there are others who can talk to her and visit on occasion, I'm sorry you are stuck in the position you are in.

Mike said...

It's a good thing you don't have thought bubbles above your head... me too.

kylie said...

in response to myself, when the parachute is your brother, I'd rather say he can be re-deployed than re-used!

Boud said...

I think my message earlier maybe landed in spam. But I don't have much help to offer, since I assumed that like every single caregiver, you've already thought of whatever it is, or tried it for it's impossible, etc. I got all that during the years I cared for my husband's multiple ailment including dementia and rages. People meant to be helpful, but unless you've been there, you can't know.

I signed a durable power of attorney years ago, for my son's benefit, and arranged legally with my doctor that he can consult her about me, usually not possible. I see you have done better than your mom on that point, too.

I wish you energy and peace.

Andrew said...

Sadness interspersed with some humour is kind of my life at the moment. You wrapped with a good laugh.

River said...

I have an ex who is a yeah-but person, always looking for the worst thing that could possibly happen.
I try to give positive suggestions, but have no experience at all of dementia, neither of my parents had it, they both died in their 70s, so maybe either or both might have developed it, but maybe not, and if that's the case I hope to never have it and put my kids through what you are going through.

jabblog said...

I thought Kylie's suggestion , of the 'refoldable parachute' was an imaginative, useful one.
I like the conspiracy theorist meme.

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

The thougth bubbles had me laughing and feeling a cold down my spine at the same time - then thankful that it is not so. I have no advice (as I likevise see no way out of a somewhat similar situation), only my commiserations to offer.

gz said...

Just sending virtual ((hugs)).
Thanks be you have your brother....and us lot out in the ether , you can offload your thoughts on us...even if you do Yes but!!

Diane Henders said...

Thanks for the memes - I enjoyed the chuckles! I hope they made you smile, too. :-)

Marie Smith said...

Take care, my friend. I pray there is a way you can get help!

jenny_o said...

Ivy: Thank you. No, she is not living independently at all. Besides her medications, groceries, and socialization, I have to do everything financial (except for cheque signature) and laundry. I've gone in and vacuumed the whole house when she is at a long hair appointment, as that's the only time she is not home and not with me!

Doug: lol :) I know that I have to care for myself, it's just hard to find a way to do that when I'm so mentally worn out from the mom problem - how to handle the everyday things and the long-term things, and the endless repetition and complaining.

Elephant's Child: It's damned if you do, damned if you don't, isn't it? I'm sorry you had to go through this too. And sorry it's still in your head years later. I know you did the best you could, just like I am doing. We have to be okay with that, but it's hard.

kylie: That is a good point. Can emergency parachutes be re-used?? Just kidding. The analogy is still a good one, regardless of that answer (which I do not know, to tell the truth). It's still good because I think my brother would come and do that more than once. I find it so hard to ask for help. That's probably an issue I haven't scrutinized enough.

Mimi: I'm not sure how to NOT be a yeah-but person. Maybe preface my questions with something like, "I've already thought this through quite a bit and I'm looking for ideas I haven't thought of yet" or similar. It's too late for my husband and I, but it might help me at some point in the future.

Mike: I think most - if not all - of us are better off without other people being able to know what we're thinking :)

kylie: lol

Boud: Thank you. And I do not see your comment in spam. But Blogger is glitchy sometimes. I've had comments disappear too. I feel for you having gone through similar things, and especially with the rages, which I've not had to deal with. That must have been very scary. I've read about it happening and wondered how people handle it, especially if the person is larger than the caregiver. Even if there's no size difference, a rage gives a person extra strength, all that adrenaline. I'm glad you got through it, and that you understand the blank wall that is often all there is when you turn for help. And I'm glad for your son that you've taken steps to make sure he doesn't have to go through it.

jenny_o said...

Andrew: I'm glad you can still find things to lift your spirits. It's necessary and good to do so. Hang in there, it's early days yet.

River: Sometimes all we can do is hope for the best :) You strike me as a very practical person who gives advice when you have it and stays quiet when you don't!

jabblog: Yes, I liked kylie's thoughts on that, too. It gave me something to think about - can I ask my brother to come regularly, for example, even though the travel is long and he has other responsibilities. I have other responsibilities, too; I've just been cutting back on them as much as possible (eg., job).

Charlotte: I'm so sorry you're going through this too. There are so many of us out there. It's very stressful. And you are still raising your children, which is a responsibility you can't ignore. My best to you in the struggle.

gz: Virtual hugs are good! Thank you. And yes, I am so grateful for the people in my life, those close to me and those around the world.

Diane: I can't live without humour. It's what I search for when things get bad, and I love passing it along :) Glad you enjoyed!

Marie: I'm not holding my breath but I appreciate the wishes. I have had to accept there is a limit to what I can do for my mother, and that she bears some of the responsibility for the lack that results (because of her life-long independent outlook).

jenny_o said...

Infidel: I received and published your comment, but for some reason it doesn't show up with the approved comments. It's not in spam, it shows as being live on the blog but it isn't. Anyway, I appreciate what you said. I do hope that I can feel good at some point in the future, but I don't know if that will happen. My mom and I are very different in personality in many ways, and that's probably one of the most difficult things about this. She has always been relatively self-centred as well as independent (they are perhaps related) and that has increased as her world has shrunk. Maybe my compassion will make a comeback when she has declined more and resists less. Currently it's a huge mental struggle for me to continue caring for her and I can't find any way to get relief (except writing and talking about it, and that is quite temporary relief :)) I commend you for the care you gave your mom; it's not an easy thing at the best of times and I'm glad you can look back with thanks that you were able to be there for her. Well done, friend.

Mr. Shife said...

We had a lot of "Yeah buts" in my fraternity and we would always shut them down by saying no "yeah buts." It worked for us but the situation you are dealing with is drastically different than what we had going on as 18-22 year-olds. I hope help or a solution works out so you can get some relief physically and mentally. Take care, jenny_o.

jenny_o said...

Mr. Shife: Thanks, I'm feeling a little better this week after stepping back for a week. I do wish there was some way to step back even further for a bit, and I'll work on it. Interesting that you had the "yeah buts" as an identifiable group in college!!

Cherie said...

You are really having a tough time and I understand ehere you are comi g from. Sadly there's no easy solution and I have no useful advice to offer. My heary aches for you Jenny.
Would that be Cow Parsley in the first photo. ☺.

jenny_o said...

Cherie: LOL! and thank you :)

Anonymous said...

As a Yeah, but Bird myself, I appreciate your thoughtful and realistic rebuttals. Would you be able to take a week long vacation far enough away that short term help could be employed to do the necessary while you are away? It seems to me you need the mental and physical break from this tremendous strain. Just a thought...not a solution. Sending hugs. Mary

PipeTobacco said...


I am so sorry about what you are experiencing! And, I can completely considerate with you. My MIL has dementia too and exhibits most of the same behaviors and responses your Mom has been having. It is very challenging.

My wife and I have two small differences that what you are experiencing….1) my wife had EPOA for my MIL…. both of my in-laws thought ahead and set it up to happen with a physician’s evaluation….. perhaps 15 years ago when both were robust and healthy…. and 2) my MIL is in an assisted living apartment….. and although she OFTEN mentions going back home…. in her dementia form, the idea of going home tends to disappear after a minute or two after she mentions it.

Wishing you all the patience you can muster. It IS so very hard.


jenny_o said...

Mary: If I told my mother I was arranging for someone else to come in, I am pretty sure (based on past conversations) she would just say she didn't need anyone, just leave her pills and she can take care of everything herself. She does not want anyone else to help. She thinks (and this is the dementia) that I am going to her home every day because I want to and because I enjoy the company. I can't bring myself to tell her the hurtful truth, and it wouldn't accomplish anything anyway. I feel so stuck in this position, and it's not making for a good relationship between us. Thank you for the suggestion; it helps to know others care.

PipeTobacco: I'm sorry about your situation, too; it is indeed challenging. I'm glad your wife has EPOA for your mother-in-law. That is one big thing (not small!) that will help you down the road. Patience is the thing I find hardest to come up with when I do not get a break from the daily contact. And that has to be having a negative impact on my mother. I wish I had a solution. Thank you for the good wishes; I wish you and your wife the same.