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January 26, 2009
When Mom Wants to Break Up Your Relationship

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When the Inevitable Moving Day Comes for Mom and Dad

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Getting a Handle on Your Own Stress

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Posted: December 15, 2008

Practical Caregiving

Running Ragged in Caregiving Runaround

There’s never a shortage of guilt and pressure on family caregivers, but sometimes you have to put your foot down and remember that your own care is important too.

And naturally, while you’re providing that valuable care, you need cooperation from the loved one you’re caring for. Without it, your task is doubly hard.

These are the touch points on which Susan in Albuquerque and Christina in Washington recently sought my advice via my caregiving e-mailbag. Let’s dig in and see what they’re dealing with.


 Dear Jean:


Mom is 90 years old and still lives in her own home. She does live close to me, however, and my sister and I have both watched out for Mom, helping her as needed. We have taken her to doctor appointments and to the grocery store, and we’ve cooked meals every night for her and done anything else she needs.


My sister moved away six months ago and now I have the complete responsibility. I check on Mom at least once a day. I would hate for her to fall and hurt herself so she couldn’t get up. She would just lay there until I found her. That is not an option.


My husband will retire in a couple years and wants to travel. That would mean I can’t watch after Mom. He says we can’t take Mom with us and that we will have to put her into an assisted living facility. Mom has said she doesn’t want to move into any institution; she wants to stay home.


I feel pulled between my husband and mother. I love my husband very much, but Mom needs me so badly. She calls when she needs something and I get it for her. Even the thought of putting her in an assisted living home makes me feel guilty and like a failure as a daughter. What can I do?


Susan C., Albuquerque, New Mexico

Dear Susan:


There are several things to think about in your situation. You feel responsible for taking care of your mother. What you are responsible for is to see to it that she gets good care. That does not mean you have to do it yourself. There are some good assisted living facilities where your mother could develop friends and enjoy life, if she is willing. It isn't like a nursing home. They will help her, not take care of her completely.


It's my guess that your main problem is feeling guilty about someone else taking care of your mother. If she is in an assisted living facility, would your sister be able to visit her and watch out for her while you’re gone? Also, this is 2008 with abundant technology. There are cell phones and you can call her every day if you want to. Just remember that your husband and you have to come first: that's the way it is supposed to be.


Another thing to be aware of is that our parents make us feel guilty because we aren't doing everything like they want it done. That seems to come with getting older. Try to watch for your mother manipulating you to do everything she wants. I would guess she is. Gradually break that cycle. Sit down and talk with her about it and set the rules. Create specific times you will go to the store for her, and specific times to do other things for her. It isn't always the easiest thing to do, but it is necessary. I had to do that, too.


You don't have to decide on an assisted living facility now, but why don't you start looking into the ones in your area. Visit them at various times of the day, and eat a few meals there if you can. Ask all the questions you have. You might even take your mother with you to visit when you find one you like. Does she have any friends in one she could visit? That might break the ice for her. Don't talk about her moving into one some day in the future. When she asks questions, tell her there may be a time you can't take care of her as well as they can in assisted living.


As I said above, you don't need to take care of your mother yourself. What you do need to do is make sure she gets the best care possible. To tell you the truth, sometimes someone else does a better job.



Dear Jean:


Mom is living with us, and I’m concerned about her hygiene. She is 84 and has her full mind. She takes care of herself completely, but she isn’t very clean. She has never taken a lot of showers, but I don’t think she is taking any now. When I ask her about it, she says she will take one in a few minutes. I never see evidence that she has. There are no wet towels, soap or anything else. I’ve talked to her about how her skin can have problems if it isn’t washed, but she doesn’t seem to comprehend what I’m saying. Any suggestions?


Christina C., Washington, D.C.


Dear Christina:


I’ve heard from several people with this same problem. An older person doesn’t seem to understand they aren’t as clean as they used to be. Would it be possible to have someone come in to give your mother a shower? I’m sure she would accept it better from someone that is not her daughter. Explain to her how you’ve got to do something to make sure she is clean, and that is the only way you can think of helping her. She might not like the idea, but don’t give in. It is important.

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