When Parent Care is Emotionally Impossible


"I can't do it, Christy, I just can't!"  My friend Yvonne called me recently after a raw conversation with her husband.  Her mother is rapidly caregiving, eldercare, self-helpapproaching the point in which she will need help managing basic daily activities.  Yvonne's husband (probably thinking he was being a good guy) assumed the natural course of action was to have her mother move in with them.  He pointed out many practical aspects of this arrangement, including the fact that it appears to be the most cost-effective solution.

In Yvonne's mind, this is far from the truth.  "It may look cost effective, but in reality, it would ruin my emotional life and destroy my marriage.  It's a recipe for disaster.  I may be able to be a caregiver for somebody else's mother, but not my own."

I know Yvonne is a warm and loving person who has taken excellent care of other family members.  I also know that a lifetime of emotional abuse by her mother has left Yvonne unable to be an ecological caregiver for this particular woman.

I applaud people who are able to forgive parental abuses, putting the past behind them and stepping forward from their heart to provide parent care for the people who hurt them most.  I am blessed to have witnessed this amazing process, and have seen the healing that can take place for the parent and the adult child.  However, I don't believe that all should be forgiven just because the parent is getting old!

If someone realizes they cannot emotionally bear to provide care for their parents, this is a good thing.  It does not make them a bad person.  It simply makes it clear that a situation needs to be created that allows their parents to be ecologically cared for by somebody else.  There is no need for people to feel guilty about setting essential boundaries to ensure their own well-being.

Yvonne's husband may never be able to fully understand why Yvonne would rather work a second job to pay for someone else to take care of her mother rather than bringing her to live in their home, but he doesn't need to.  He just needs to trust that she is aware of her limits and is wisely setting boundaries.

Have you set limits around caring for your parents?  Please share your story as a comment on this blog.

--Christy Cuellar-Wentz