Ever since COVID-19, my relatives won't let anyone visit my grandfather, who lives with them. They say this is out of precaution for his health. This is creating some hard feelings between his other adult children, who want to see him, and the adult children he lives with.
Meantime, they are still taking him on outings outside, where there are people in the vicinity including their own friends—even if socially distanced. Of course, I would also like to see him. I feel this isn't good for him to be isolated like this without his say and I am concerned about friction within the family (which was already present to some extent). What can be done?
Chloe P., New York
On one hand, it is probably a very good thing that your relatives have been caring for your grandfather at home as early in the summer; it was reported that upwards of 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths in America have been associated with nursing homes.
However, it does seem like a double standard if the relatives caring for him let him interact with non-family but are restricting family. Could the reason for this be the family frictions you mentioned?
Perhaps there is an issue of trust? Do your grandfather’s caregivers feel that family won’t respect social distance but their friends will?
People have had a wide range of responses to the pandemic—some have been very strict about isolating themselves, even from family, while others have been much more relaxed. To a certain extent this is justified because some families have much greater risk factors than others. For example, I know of one family where the mother was pregnant throughout the lockdown. The baby was born in late September, and they told their close neighbors, who were also good friends, that if the friends’ children started going to school, they would not feel comfortable having the kids play together. Even though babies do not seem to be as much affected as other groups theoretically, this is of course understandable, since their immune systems are not quite as strong as adults'.
There is also the issue that some people are more fearful of COVID-19 than others either because of the information they are consuming or their disposition, and experience is showing that COVID-19 is something of a wild card in terms of who has severe reactions.
Could either of these factors be at play with your grandfather’s caregivers? If so, I’d be inclined to give them grace.
Of course, the risks and fears need to be balanced with your grandfather’s quality of life and his wishes. Are you or someone he trusts able to talk with him directly about what he wants?
Since the situation is centered upon him, I would push things only as far as he desires. Maybe he would prefer to have all his children on speaking terms instead of having some insist on seeing him and thereby increasing family friction.
Three suggestions as your family embarks on what will be difficult discussions: First, focus on appreciation for the sacrifices of the caregivers and concern for your grandfather’s well-being. Even if the rest of the family doesn’t feel the caregivers are doing well or maybe don’t have pure motives (is there inheritance or other advantages involved?). Whatever the case may be, appreciate the good they have done as this can help calm tensions.
Secondly, be patient (unless his state warrants immediate action). Perhaps suggest to the relatives that you would like to visit him over the holidays so they have time to become comfortable with the idea.
Finally, during the discussions, listen very closely to the caregivers. There is something you can do during difficult conversations, which is to repeat back what the other party has said such that they agree that you have accurately summarized their point. This helps to make the other party feel understood and respected, feelings that are important for a fruitful discussion.
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June Kellum is a married mother of two and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.