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Posted February 6, 2008

Ask An Expert

Caregiver Care: How to Position Your Need for a Break

Q. My husband and I moved from our home in New Mexico to care for his parents. We need time off, but his mother will not accept respite care. She thinks she can take care of herself, but both of them have physical limitations. How do I approach this? They have the financial means to pay for care, but she refuses -- and I need surgery soon and need my husband to go with me. Thank you.

Jeanette D., Camp Verde, Arizona.

A. It’s not uncommon for elderly loved ones to resist help from anyone other than family, and that can be hard on caregivers. Still, it’s essential that you get regular breaks, especially with your upcoming surgery. There are things that you can try to convince your in-laws to accept other assistance, but if nothing seems to work you may have to take a firm stance and simply insist.

Remember that your in-laws’ resistance is driven by pride and fear. Try reaching out to that pride by explaining that you are asking them to help you by supporting your need for time off. Tell them that you love them and it is your joy to care for them, but that you must have breaks for your own health and well-being.

I strongly suggest that you start by calling The Verde Valley Caregivers (928-204-1238), a volunteer-based caregiving program serving your community. They can tell you about the services they offer and other support available to you and your loved ones.

Introducing help in the form of volunteers may be less threatening to your in-laws than bringing in "strangers" who are "paid help."

Alternatively, you could ask neighbors if they would be willing to check in on your in-laws a few times a week while you have your surgery or simply take a break.

If your in-laws are still resistant and need a higher level of care than what volunteers can provide, then you may have to tell them what is going to happen rather than ask them what they are willing to accept. Regardless of your approach, it’s important to make sure that you and your husband present a united front and then stick to it.

This answer is provided by Melissa A. Goodwin, with years of experience working with volunteer caregiving programs that help seniors and family caregivers. Goodwin lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and can be reached at meesarj@msn.com.

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