Life in the Kingdom of Chaos Where Treasures and Pretties Were In a Royal Mess
Once upon a time there was an imperial matriarch who reigned over the Kingdom of Chaos. The queen presided with a stubborn ferocity and insisted on fortifying her castle walls with buttresses of cardboard boxes bursting at the seams with mystifying collections. Her secondary defense was to encircle her throne with stacks of catalogs and newspapers, filing cabinets, and all manner of eclectic ‘treasures and pretties’. By all accounts … it was a royal mess.
Despite the regular warnings from Her Majesty’s chief advisors, she refused to believe her empire was in jeopardy and staunchly rejected offers of assistance. She perceived her advisors as adversaries and proclaimed that their declaration of aid, extended in the best interests of her health and welfare, was a personal attack on her sovereignty, “Off with their heads!” Furthermore, she forever refused to acknowledge that in truth, she was her own worst enemy. Out of respect for privacy (along the lines of the Witness Protection Program might be closer to the truth), the queen shall be henceforth referred to as Aunt Mildred.
Predictably, the situation ultimately reached a decisive episode with her declining ability to make sensible decisions or care for herself physically. Aunt Mildred became quite ill; unable to make a complete recovery, she relapsed and ended up transported by Ye Olde Ambulance Company to the emergency room. Her life (and ours) literally changed overnight.
Mildred’s independent living status in her apartment (aka the Kingdom of Chaos) at a senior retirement community ended abruptly. She spent the next couple of weeks in the hospital, followed by a transfer to a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility for over a month. Then it was a one-way ticket to small ‘not so royal’ accommodations in an assisted living facility on the recommendations from doctors, a social worker, and host of other professionals. Mildred could no longer care for herself. She was a fall risk and now needed oxygen. Her tendency to self-medicate was beyond dangerous. We eventually filled several grocery bags with out-dated prescription and over-the-counter drugs to be destroyed. Aunt Mildred never saw her apartment, or the bulk of her ‘treasures’, again. Quite frankly, my husband and I wish we could say the same.
This tale, regrettably, does not conclude with the customary phrase ‘… and they lived happily ever after’. Instead of a fairy tale ending, it detoured into a nightmare. Mildred’s chronicle didn’t have to morph into a miserable sequel, but a little friendly counsel from the queen’s former chief advisors may help you avert a similar scenario.
Before facing the challenges of managing the affairs of another person’s life, I’d like to point out that the first step was actually locating crucial documents in the Kingdom of Chaos. There is no kind way to say this, but Aunt Mildred is a certifiable hoarder. If it were not for the fire marshal’s routine inspection of her apartment (she had boxes stacked high enough to touch the fire repression sprinklers located in the ceiling), conditions would have been even worse.
It isn’t as though we hadn’t tried to address the situation repeatedly. If you haven’t found yourself in the unpleasant situation of begging with a quarrelsome ‘squirrel’ to part with ten plastic spatulas because there is simply no more space, count your blessings. (Peace talk negotiations resulted in a tenuous compromise which allowed her to keep her two favorites, by the way.) Coping with someone’s irrational, emotion-fueled attachment to material objects of little or no intrinsic value is exhausting work. Unsupervised shopping expeditions and easy access to cut-rate mail order catalogs made the constant river of stuff flowing into her apartment impossible to dam, or even monitor on a regular basis. Besides, it’s touchy to balance respect for a person’s right to live independently and deciding when it’s time to intervene.
Photograph of Anne Hathaway as the White Queen in Tim Burton's 2010 adaptation. Wikipedia
- "Like Putting an Arsonist in Charge of Fighting Fires"; "[Pruitt] Has Fought Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Limits on Toxic Substances Like Soot and Mercury"
- Oldest Adults May Have Much to Gain from Social Technology: Feeling Less Lonely, More Satisfied and Physically Fit
- They Said She’d Only Need Five or Six Outfits: "I'll Go in Style"
- The NIH and Harvard Health Newsletter Explain A Post-Election Question: What is Broken Heart Syndrome
- The Seasonal Tsunami of Senior Mail; No Longer a Pandora's Box
- Our Eyes Turn Towards the North: Senior Women in Canada
- Turn Off the Newsfeed or Take a Digital Break! Election Stress in America
- Preventing Vital Health Care Information from Being Lost in Translation: A Third of All US Hospitals Don't Offer Language Services At All
- From the CDC: Flu Vaccines Have Been Updated This Season to Better Match Circulating Viruses
- Elaine Soloway's Rookie Widow Series: Pick-Up Lines; All Dressed Up And ...; Playing the Field