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Posted: November 01, 2004

Practical Caregiving

Joy and Frustration Are Both Symbols of Caregiving

Caregiving is a role that provides certain joys, of course, but it also drives us to the depths of frustration at times. Two cases in point:

Vicki admires the way I took care of my parents, but she doesn't think she can do the same thing. It's just so difficult.

Meanwhile, Judy has been living with her parents for several years, but has led an independent life. Now, she feels frustrated because she can't get away.

What are their options?

____

Dear Jean:

My mother lives about three hours away from me. Her neighbor who also is her friend has been taking her places and helping her when she needs it. That neighbor called to say that my mother is having problems remembering things, and she is very confused. She doesn't know if it is day or night, what day it is and things like that.

I asked Mom to come visit me for a while, but now I have these decisions to make. I am an only child. I have talked about how much I respect you for taking care of your parents the way you did, but now my friends are pushing me to quit my job and take care of my mother. Mother has enough money for me to do that.

The problem is that I don't think I can do it! I get very nervous and upset even thinking about it. I feel like such a failure because I don't think I can take care of my mother the way you took care of your parents. I don't know why I am writing to you. I know you don't have any miracles that will make it easy for me to quit my job and take care of my mother. How did you do it?

Vicki M., Charleston, West Virginia

Dear Vicki:

I'm sorry to hear about your mother. It's so hard when it first becomes apparent that you need to do something to take care of your mother. After all, none of us wants that to happen. It does happen, though, and you need to make the best decisions about her care.

How I did it was to take one day at a time. During the first two and a half years, we traveled in a 32-foot trailer I pulled with a Suburban. I enjoyed traveling and getting to know my parents better. The last two years we were at home because Dad couldn't travel any longer. Those years were very, very long.

Please don't feel that everyone should take care of their parents the way I did. I was in an unusual situation that most people will never be in. I did not have a husband, and both my kids had married within the previous nine months and were not living at home. I was trying to decide whether to build a career in a new direction when Mom and Dad needed my help. I was able to drop everything to take care of them. Most people cannot do that.

What you should do is look at all the alternatives available to take care of your mother, then make the decision that is best for both you and your mother. You are not obligated to physically take care of her yourself. What you should do is make sure she is taken care of the best way possible. Make sure she has everything she needs -- a decent place to live, food, medicine and anything else she finds necessary.

You don't need to move to her city to take care of her. She can move to where you live. She will have to make a change either way, so it might as well be one that is easiest for you. Find out about facilities available in your area ? nursing homes, assisted living, adult day care, and anything else that might help you take care of her. Ask your friends if they know anything about the facilities you are interested in. Call the social workers at hospitals and churches for their suggestions and information. Consult someone you trust.

Then, after you have all the information and opinions, make your own decision. You are the one who must live with that decision, and it must be your decision. Don't do anything because someone else did it or because someone tells you to do something.

Good luck. Your decisions will not be easy to make, but the more information you have, the more certain you will be that you are making the right decisions.

____

Dear Jean:

I am a retired, single woman who has never been married. I am an only child, and I moved in with my parents a few years before I retired. We get along quite well, enjoy each other's company, and it works out well for all three of us.

My question is this. My parents are in their 80's and have started having health and memory problems. It has gotten to the point that I can't leave for even a weekend because they need guidance and direction every day. I get so frustrated, I don't know what to do. I need to get away occasionally. I love my parents and want to take care of them when they need me, but I am having trouble handling being tied to them 24 hours a day. Any suggestions?

Judy G., Ogden, Utah

Dear Judy:

Since your parents can take care of themselves and only need guidance occasionally, why don't you ask someone to stay with them while you take some time for yourself? You might ask a friend, someone at a church you attend, or check with businesses that provide respite care. Then, while someone else is watching them, do something you enjoy.

It's better to get that started now. When it is essential that someone be with them 24 hours a day, they will be adjusted to your leaving and someone else taking care of them.

Also, caregivers need time for themselves. You will find that you take better care of your parents if you take breaks for yourself, so don't feel guilty about it. None of us can be there 24 hours a day for years ? or even months. I hired someone to come in to take care of Mom and Dad while I took pictures of the covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa. It was very relaxing, and I found that after I had a break my attitude was better and I didn't get as frustrated.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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