Get Back on Track with Eldercare – Part One


by Joy Loverde

When you are a family caregiver, there are many reasons why you may feel compelled to shoulder too much responsibility and become overly involved in your elders’ lives. Whether we are caring for an aging parent or elderly spouse or partner, feeling needed and useful is a positive life-enhancing experience. However, doing more than is necessary creates problems – and lots of them. Too much assistance and too much attention are equally harmful for the caregiver and the care receiver.

Although first-hand care for the people you love can, at first, result in a positive, tangible boost to the quality of their lives, when you go overboard and do too much for them, not only are you standing on the brink of getting sick, or worse yet, depressed, you also stand the chance of eroding the care receiver’s sense of dignity and competence. Family caregivers in the burnout stage will exhibit a variety of symptoms including chronic physical illnesses, ongoing feelings of helplessness, and disillusionment.

Is this something “nice to do” or is this a “have to do?” That is the number one question we need to be asking ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis.  People often ask me what I mean by this. The concept is really quite simple. Averting family caregiver stress, illness or depression requires that you become more in tune with the time-management concept of “nice to do” versus “have to do.”

If you stop and think about it, how many times do you hop to and get your Mom a glass of water when she is quite capable of getting one herself?  She needs the exercise every bit as you do. When you know for sure that your elders are safe and capable of performing perform day-to-day tasks for themselves, you’ll be doing both of you a favor by backing off and letting them do the task themselves.


4 Responses

  1. You are so right, Joy. In counseling there is the concept of "learned helplessness" which I could see happening in my father as a result of getting more assistence than he needed in assisted living. I think this happens because caregivers get impatient sometimes with an elder's slowness. Another factor is the idea which we often see in print that the child becomes the parent to their aging parent. I think this attitude is very slippery--since the elderly are not children, even if they have dementia. There is something to be said in preserving the original parent-child relationship by not taking control of anything you don't have to as a caregiver. You said it so well.
  2. Your article is great and touches on a lot of issues we explore in our blog on My Care Journey. My Care Journey is an online community of family caregivers of aging loved ones, gathering together to learn, share and support one another.
  3. Thank you reminding caregivers to think.. have to do or nice to do? Let's not train our care recipients to depend too much on us.. that can be overwhelming.. and then we forget to care for ourselves. Thanks, Joy!
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