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Posted: November 21, 2005

Practical Caregiving

Headaches: Sibling Squabbles and Bathing a Neighbor

The ordeals of aregiving take many turns, as Rhonda and Diana have discovered.
Rhonda cares for her neighbor, including bathing him, and wonders how to maintain his dignity when this basic task is up to her. Meanwhile, Diana is in the midst of a family squabble involving her sisters regarding who does the most caregiving for their father. Maybe they all should expend their energy on Dad, instead of this fighting!
Rhonda and Diana recently popped up in my e-mailbag. Let's read their stories and see if I can help.
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Hello Jean:
 
Right now, we are trying to help a neighbor. He has prostrate cancer but his mind is great. He asked if I could give him a bath. He wants to get in the bathtub but is a little shy. I am a little nervous seeing he is getting weaker everyday. Is there an easy way to do this, giving him some privacy, but also watching to make sure he doesn't fall? Thank you.
Rhonda W., Colorado Springs, Colorado
 
Dear Rhonda:
 
I don't think it's possible to give him complete privacy. There are chairs made for the bathtub. The one I used had legs on the outside of the tub as well as inside. The seat was also on the outside and inside. That way Dad could sit down on the chair outside the tub and slide into the tub. The biggest problem was getting his legs and feet over the edge of the tub, but we made it work.
 
Some home health agencies will come out and give baths. If your neighbor has Social Security, there might be a way for the government to pay for it. Why don't you suggest that he talk with his doctor about it? You could also help him call several home health agencies to see what they suggest. The one thing I would suggest is that you be there when someone is giving him a bath. Most people in that field and good, honest people, but as with other professionas, there are others who slip into the field for a short period of time who shouldn't be there and take advantage of the elderly. If you are there, you can watch to make sure they do what they are supposed to do -- and nothing goes missing. After you feel sure he is well taken care of, you wouldn't need to be there all the time. As I said, most are good and can be trusted.
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Dear Jean:
 
You have probably heard this before, but I don't know what to do. Mom died many years ago and now Dad needs help from his kids. He broke his hip about six months ago. He gets around with a walker, but he is a little forgetful and has diabetes. My sisters and I take turns going over to help him in the morning and evening to feed him, give him his medicine and do other things that need done.
 
Dad is not the problem. The problem is my sisters. They are always fighting, and now I am the one they are mad at. I didn't think much about it when I wasn't the target, but now I see how it feels and how upsetting it is. The issue seems to be who does the most for Dad. Who takes him to the doctor the most.. Who goes grocery shopping for him the most. Who cooks for him the most. Things like that.
 
My husband stays out of it. I am getting depressed and don't know how to resolve the situation. What can I do to make this horrible situation better? Will counseling help? I do love Dad and want to help him.
Diana T., Little Rock, Arkansas
 
Dear Diana:
 
Your situation is actually quite common. When a parent needs help, tension increases amongst the children and there is more fighting. Your sisters were already fighting, and now the tension is making it worse.
 
Sometimes the more you communicate with your sisters, the better things might be. Sometimes it might work just the opposite and no matter how hard you try to get along, it won't work. That is where a counselor might be able to help. He or she might have some suggestions to help you improve the situation. If there isn't any way to make things better, the counselor will help you resolve your own feelings so your life will be better. If your sisters also would get counseling it might help, but that is something they will need to do themselves. If you suggest it, they might become angrier with you. Don't suggest anything like that until you talk to the counselor about the situation. You need the objectivity of this third party expert.
 
It's good that your husband stays out of the fighting. That will help your marriage. There might come a time when he has to step in and lay down the law to protect you, but it doesn't sound like that time has come.
 
Try not to get bitter over the way your sisters are treating you. Step back and look at the situation from an outsider's viewpoint. Think whether there is anything you are doing to create division. You probably have lived with that type of tension all your life, and you may automatically react certain ways, but still consider what's behind it. Those reactions may cause more problems, and you may need to change those reactions.
 
I hope things improve for you. Life is too short to be upset all the time. Give your husband an extra hug and tell him you appreciate his support. Good luck.

© 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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