by Joy Loverde
I received an email from a caregiver who complained that her elderly mother expected to be waited on hand and foot. She explained that what started out as small acts of kindness have become daily struggles for attention. After having interacted with thousands of caregivers in my family caregiving workshops I know all too well that this scenario is all too common. In the hopes of shedding insight on this common dilemma I would like to share her letter with you…
I am 47 year-old daughter living with and in my mother’s home. I have lived here since my mother’s first stroke in 1990. My father died in 1995. I was working at the time and took family leave to help my mom. After a few months, I went back to work.
My mother became ill in the summer of 1996 and was hospitalized for one week. I was the only person to see and stay with her. Because of my mother’s illness and her wanting me to be with her 24-hours, seven days a week, it was causing me a great deal of stress at home and on the job. Several months later, I was fired.
Now I am home with my mother 24-hours, seven days a week, and as much as I love her, it is driving me crazy to be with her. At first, I felt sorry for her when my father died and began sleeping with her because she was afraid to be on the first floor by herself. Now she wants me to wait on her hand and foot and I can't do anything or go anywhere. I have one brother who lives in another state and his response is I live so far away what could I do. Any suggestions to help would surely be appreciated. Thank you for your time and for being there.
Unquestionably, the author is a loving caregiver, and her mother does not realize how fortunate she is to have her daughter there for her; but spending as much time and energy as she does as a caregiver is not healthy. The good news is it’s never too late to create healthy relationship boundaries – if not, there will be nothing left for any one family member to give.
Sharing the care is vital. In the case above, the daughter overlooked an important source of caregiver relief – her brother. I advised her to consider the fact that he may be more willing to help out with caregiver tasks than she thinks.
When we make specific requests of our siblings, they are usually willing to pitch in and help somehow. Not knowing whether her brother currently makes regular visits, I suggested that she extend an invitation for him to stay over for a few nights. After Mom gets used to this arrangement, the sister could ask him to spend the weekend with Mom while she takes time off. Short vacations for family caregivers work wonders and are extremely healing.
Another option for the daughter is for mom to stay with her son at his home for a short while, but no less than a week. If the mother is well enough to travel they can come to an agreement on how mom gets there and who physically takes her there. Whatever the case, mom should not travel alone.
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by Joy Loverde