Too Much Eldercare Too Soon


By Joy Loverde

Eldercare, caregiving Developing a more balanced relationship between aging parents and adult caregivers is always a good idea. Besides, helping our aging parents to continuously create purpose in their life is a life-sustaining process, according to Dr. Roger Landry, a preventive medicine physician and president of Masterpiece Living (

And when was the last time you asked your aging parents to help you? Most people have a strong desire to be useful within the family – especially elderly family members. Simple tasks like folding clothes, washing dishes, baking cookies and table-top gardening may be just what they need to contribute to the quality of your life.

On another related topic, when our aging parents are perfectly capable of doing little things for themselves – like getting a glass of water or turning off a light, why do we jump up and help them and wait on them? And how do we get them used to the idea of not being “waited on?”  Are we creating unnecessary helplessness when we do things like this?

My “Golden Rule” in family caregiving is this: never do for your aging parents what they can do for themselves.

Think for a moment about different things you are doing right now that your aging parents can easily accomplish on their own. Make a list of current tasks, starting with the small ones (such as getting them a glass of water). Then, next time your parent asks for water, very calmly and pleasantly the say, "You are able to get the water for yourself, and I am very comfortable in my chair right now, so please get the water yourself. I know you can do it." The first time your parent hears these words he or she may be shocked, and may even throw a tantrum. Again, as calmly as possible remind your parent that they are quite capable of accomplishing this easy task.

Yes, saying these words and not getting out of your chair will feel very awkward at first. What’s more, you’re likely to feel guilty, even afraid; but gather the courage to do it just the same. Your parent may have come to expect too much (you unknowingly set yourself up for this situation), and now is the time to end this behavior.

The process of saying “no” gets easier over time. Slowly but surely your parents will begin to understand that there are limits to what we family caregivers will and will not do for them on a moment-to-moment basis. Who knows, accomplishing small tasks on their own may be just what our elders need to feel good about themselves.

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4 Responses

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by HomeHelpers Ctrl AR. HomeHelpers Ctrl AR said: @mike_gamble Liked TooMuch,TooSoon Parents need to be needed,true,but some kids forget to give back--needs balance. [...]
  2. Great article. So many people take the atitude that it's quicker to do it themselves without giving any thought to the disabling affect that this has on others.
  3. I just checked in from to see what interesting articles you have today and I just love this one. I have to share a story with you about my Mom. Mom had a stroke and couldn't use her right hand and was bed bound. I followed your advice and gave her some towels etc to fold (not too hard to do and not too big). It worked really well and she was smiling while she completed the task. One day I gave her some green beans to snap. I thought that was easy to do. Well, I was apalled when I went back to the room a few minutes later and saw that she was holding the beans in her mouth (since she couldn't move her right hand) and was trying to snap the beans with her mouth and her left hand. I couldn't believe that I was so stupid and gave her such a task to do. I felt soooo bad........She was really trying to help and I was so insensitive to give her something to do that there was no way she could do it. Gotta give her a hand for thinking of a way to do the task. From then on, I was sure to give her something to do that I tried to do one-handed before I gave it to her.
  4. On the other hand, I think sometimes it’s sort of insensitive to insist on this kind of thing. Why should I make my father (Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia) struggle for an hour to dress himself when I can do it in less than two minutes? He’s not a child. It’s not like if he practices for a few weeks he’ll be able to do it more successfully. There’s something to be said for expediency and not dwelling on the things they find frustrating.
  5. Great article! This really hit home for me. I come from a long line of "servant hearts." We LOVE to help, sometimes too much! I'm learning that often I help just as much by NOT helping as when I do. We are also very independent and that makes it so hard for us to let others help us, but as you aptly point out, letting them help us can really be a gift to them! I will definitely try to do better, while taking Thankless Job's point as well and making sure they really are comfortable doing something and want to. When I used to help my Dad with his Parkinson's Disease there were many things he wanted to do and I had to learn to be more patient (another weak area :) ). Other things, he really wanted help with and I was glad to do it. As with so many things in the life of a Sandwich Generation senior home care giver, it's yet another balancing act. :)

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