Monday, December 13, 2010

holiday caregiving tips: the abilene paradox

While trying to enjoy the holidays as a caregiver / carer, or with a chronic illness / disability do you ever find yourself boxed into a position that no one really wants simply because no one wants to speak up?

Believe it or not there is a name for this, the Abilene Paradox.

Long, long ago before Multiple Sclerosis, even before we were a couple Patti invited me as her date to an award dinner for the paper company she worked for (and yes decades before “The Office” made paper companies fashionable J).

The keynote speaker shared the Abilene Paradox which obviously so impressed me it has stuck to this day. Told as an anecdotal concept of unsatisfactory group decision-making, it was a story of one family’s decision to take a trip to Abilene that no one individual member actually wanted to take but no one wanted to “rock the boat”.

Years ago sitting at home with our infant daughter and Patti listening to holiday music following Patti’s first major MS exacerbation and hospitalization, the absence of outdoor holiday lights came up. I had always gone overboard illuminating basically anything on our property even making it to the top 10 list of holiday displays in our county paper. Obviously life had changed with MS now in ‘our family’ and I claimed this was cool with me. The next day I came home from work and found a single strand of lights on an indoor plant and boxes of my outdoor lights lined up by the door. I could only smile - this family was never headed to Abilene.

Holidays bring together a lot of people many with no frame of reference for daily life with caregiving, illness, or disability. Resist the urge to all rush to agree on something. Speak up! Communicate preferences and needs!

Enduring vs enjoying holiday time together is a choice. 

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. you summed it up so well,Patrick with your last sentenced. It is truly a choice. I'm thinking the majority of your life as a caregiver you have chosen to enjoy rather than endure.


  2. Hi! Patrick There are families that don't speak up?! Obviously not French/Italian Canadians
    There are times I wish everybody in my family would acquire this Abilene complex :)
    Have a great Christmas and Thanks for dropping by my blog.

  3. How well-put and so true - most won't put these emotions into words, I'm glad you did. When folks complain it's only human but there's another day ahead after this one, if we're lucky, and what a waste to spend it whining about something we chose to do anyway. We humans are such fickle folk, yet so filled with loving care. I'm a wealthy person for the knowing of such as you, dear Patrick. Love to Patti <3


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