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Posted: February 14, 2005

Practical Caregiving

So Tired . . . And What to Do?

On the best days, caregivers can take a deep breath ? but not for long. The routine, grind, rat race ? whatever you call it ? begins all over again. It?s so tiring, but what can a caregiver do to ease the load?

Jayne is learning what it is like to have her mother in a nearby assisted living facility ? with Jayne just a phone call or request away. Not surprisingly, Jayne is finding this very difficult. Perhaps she needs to find the underlying reasons for her own feelings, and understand why her mother acts the way she does.

Jayne?s is another story pulled from my e-mailbag. Here?s her story:

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Dear Jean:

I am so tired and frustrated. I don?t know if I can handle this. Dad died many years ago, and Mom has lived an independent and fulfilled life since then. She started having trouble with health matters and getting confused several months ago. She has always been very healthy and alert.

Like many other elderly, she fell and hurt herself. After she was released from the hospital to a nursing home, I made arrangements for her to move into a good assisted living facility close to me.

Now she is driving me crazy. She calls in the morning and thinks it is evening. She wants me to do things for her and she wants to see me 5-6 times a week! I am an only child, so there is no one else who can help, but I have my own life. I work full-time and I want to do things I enjoy. I am getting tired of trying to make her happy when she is perfectly all right. She has made several friends, and they do things together. When she moved here I thought I would visit her once or twice a week.

This just isn?t what I expected. How can I get things to be the way I wanted them?

Jayne L., Richmond, Virginia

Dear Jayne:

Welcome to the world of taking care of an elderly parents. I?m sorry to be blunt, but this is the way it is much of the time. It is one of the most frustrating situations you will probably ever be in, but as you adjust, you are likely to find it is extremely rewarding. You might become closer to your mother than you ever have been.

You didn?t say how long your mother has been in your area; it sounds like it hasn?t been very long. It will take a while for her to adjust. Give her a little time.

In the meantime, talk to her about the fact that you work and that there are other things you need to do. Try not to get emotional about it when you talk to her. Explain that you love her and want to help her, but that you need time for yourself after you get off work and on weekends. Explain that you can?t keep going the way things are right now. Also remind her that she has always had friends, and that she needs to develop friendships where she is now. She will be much happier if she does things with her friends rather than relying on you for all her entertainment. Stress that you will make sure she is taken care of well.

Sit down with her and go over the activities and outings the facility surely offers. Then, the two of you decide which ones she might enjoy. You should make a list of everything she wants to do and put it where she can get to it. At first you may need to call her when she needs to get ready, but she will eventually get used to that routine and you won?t have to remind her all the time. Her friends who attend those events with her will eventually help remind her, if needed.

There are a couple other aspects connected to your taking care of your mother that I want you to consider. Since I don?t know you, I don?t know where you are in these. I just I want you to consider them. As the old saying goes, ?If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn?t fit, don?t wear it.?

First, you are an only child. A lot of people who are only children have always had their parents? complete attention. They didn?t have to share their parents with anyone and quite often their parents made them the most important person in their life. It usually stays that way into their adult lives.

When the parent gets to the point your mother is, that relationship changes. It isn?t because the parent or adult child wants it to change; it is because of necessity. Your mother can?t give you her complete attention because she is failing both mentally and physically. Along with making sure she is taken care of, she needs you to give her time and attention. She is probably afraid of the future and more secure knowing you?re nearby. She is probably afraid of what is happening to her. She needs you to comfort and console her. You have suddenly become the parent, and she needs you to be strong (and present) for her.

That leads us to the second topic I want you to consider. Most of us don?t want our parents to get old and frail. We want them to continue living a strong and healthy life until they suddenly die. That?s why most of us don?t prepare for the time our parents need us to take care of them. You may be experiencing the grief that goes along with losing your mother, even though she is still here. Naturally, the time is coming when she will not be with you any longer, and you may be having trouble facing that. Please consider this also.

Once you realize some of your feelings and come to terms with your mother?s feelings, you will be able handle the situation better. It isn?t something you have a choice about. You have to face things that are happening and you can?t control what?s happening.

Don?t give up. Your situation can improve, but it will take a little time.

© 2005 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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