Let the caregiving games begin


by Joy Loverde

I have a very close friend (let’s say her name is Jane) who is an only child of an incredibly domineering mother. A few months ago, Jane’s mother demanded that she give up her career (just five short years from retirement) and move back into the family home so Jane can wait on her hand and foot (literally). What’s the catch?  Mom is a wealthy woman who threatens to disinherit Jane if she doesn’t comply.

Jane and I have spent many nights talking over this situation, and in the process she reminds me time and time again not to repeat that common phrase, “Don't say money isn't everything.” Turns out that Jane’s inheritance will be derived from her mother rarely spending money on Jane as a child. She feels deserving of the money, and so be it.

Over the years, Jane has sought counseling from a variety of close friends and professionals including her doctor who has advised her against moving in with her mother. Understandably, Jane is confused and frightened.

I’m not much into giving advice, so when Jane and I get together, the only way I know how to be helpful is to ask the kinds of questions that will help Jane come to her own conclusions on doing what’s best for her.

Here are the questions I asked Jane to consider:

  • Should you choose to move in, are you willing to allow your mother to use her money to control your life?
  • When your mom hits your hot buttons (and she will), what precautions are you willing to make to ensure that you will not lash out at her or worse yet, be abusive?
  • Is your doctor aware that you may be putting your own physical and emotional health at serious risk?
  • Have you considered hiring a family therapist to help you no matter what you choose to do?
  • Will you be able to ensure some level of privacy after you move in?
  • Do you know if your mother will forbid you to leave the house without her even for a short while as a way to take a break?

Jane’s running out of time. Her mother has given her a deadline. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Never underestimate the power of friendship, love and support in the caregiving process. If you know a family caregiver who is going through hard times because of an aging parent, stay close to them as best you can. We’re all in this together.

What is your story?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.