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Posted: August 08, 2005

Practical Caregiving

What to Do About Needy Parents and Spouses

It seems that everywhere a caregiver turns, someone wants something. Or "needs" something. How can you separate fact from fiction and keep your sanity as a caregiver?
That's what Lucille wants to know about her "needy" husband, and Mildred with her "needy" mother. I pulled their questions from my e-mailbag. Let's see what you think of my suggestions.
Dear Jean:
My husband had a stroke a few months ago and has become absolutely unbearable. It isn't his disability that is the problem; it's his mental attitude. He is very demanding and doesn't seem to understand how hard it is for me to take care of him and everything else. Sometimes I am almost in tears because of him. He wasn't this way before his stroke. What happened?
Lucille S., Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Dear Lucille:
When a person has a major physical problem like your husband's, they seem to think only of themselves for a while. Dad did that, and I saw many other people do the same thing. They just don't seem to be able to think of anyone but themselves. Many things can affect this attitude, but it is not uncommon.
Is there a caregiver support group you can join locally? It would help to talk to other people in a family caregiving situation. Conditions and diseases may differ, but many of the reactions are the same.
Why don't you talk to his doctor about the situation? He may have some suggestions that will help. I am sure he has seen this happen many times.
I hope things improve for you.
Dear Jean:
Mom is my problem. She weighs over 300 pounds and won't do anything to help herself. Because she has diabetes, she has very bad circulation in her legs. She is gaining more weight and getting much worse. All she does is lay in bed and expect my family and I to wait on her. I do everything I can to make her happy, but it doesn't work. She complains all the time. I feel so bad. I can't seem to do anything right. She is laying there and dying, and I hate the fact that my husband and children are watching this. What do you think I should do?
Mildred H., Indianapolis, Indiana
Dear Mildred:
First of all, try not to feel guilty for feeling the way you do. Your mother is playing on your feelings to get you to do what she wants. For some reason, parents with health problems seem to do that.
Your biggest problem is that it won't get better unless you put a stop to it -- NOW. Sit down and talk to her and explain that you can't be there all the time to do everything she wants. Explain that you have a husband and children (her grandchildren) and that you also need to do things for them also. Set up a schedule to help. Make sure she has everything she needs, and then spend time with your husband and kids. She won't like it and will probably complain and get upset for a while, but once she finds that you aren't giving in, she will accept it because she doesn't have a choice.
Is there any way you can get help with your mother? Medicare paid for the help I got for Mom and Dad. It was only a few hours a week, sometimes two hours a day and sometimes less, but it did help. Both Mom and Dad did more for the people coming in than they did for me. Being their daughter made a difference.
Make sure you take breaks. A break can be just 15 minutes every day, or an afternoon off, or whatever works for you in your situation, but take a break. Do something during your break that you want to do. Tell your parents that you don't want to be disturbed unless it is a real emergency. You will feel much better if you do that.
It sounds as if your mother may be depressed. With her bad health, she can probably see her life coming to an end. Talk to her doctor about the problems. Tell him how you are going to stop doing everything she wants and schedule times to help her. He might have ideas that will help. He might also know how to get you the help with her that you need.
Remember to stay firm when you make changes. Things may seem rough for a short period, but in the long run everyone will benefit.

© 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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