Caregivers often find that many of their superficial friends drift away over time because the caregiver is too busy to have fun. These friends are not bad people. They simply don't know what to do to help the caregiver and they find it easier to share their time with people whose lives are less complicated. Are you this kind of friend?
It’s difficult to watch our parents age. As their hair grays, wrinkles form and age spots multiply, we adult children can find ourselves feeling protective. We want to keep them healthy. We want to know that they are safely at home when there’s the slightest risk of bad weather. We don’t want them taking risks that could result in an injury. That’s love, after all, and parents appreciate being loved. It’s a mistake, however, to make yourself director of your parents’ lives simply because they are piling on years.
If you are just a casual friend to the caregiver, perhaps it's best to remain that way. Still, some of you really care about your caregiving friend and want to help, but you don't know how. The following tips may give your some insight into what you can do to help your friend as he or she takes care of their elderly loved one. (Remember to take this as general advice since every caregiver and every care situation is unique.)
Issues between brothers and sisters often seem to come to a head when a parent suddenly needs care. While siblings who have always had a healthy relationship generally find ways to work through their disagreements, many who never truly got along can find themselves frustrated, hurt and even completely estranged from one another in the end. In either scenario, objective, professional advice can be helpful for those families who are working towards conflict resolution at a time when everyone should be cooperating.
It’s been nearly a decade since I began sharing my personal caregiving stories with the public, first via the book “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories” and later through a newspaper column, on my own blog and then contributing to major websites such as Healthcentral.com/alzheimers. When I first started sharing my stories and looking for others who had similar tales to tell, people tended to be reticent about speaking up. Now, sharing caregiver “in the trenches” stories has become a major part of caregiver self-care and even survival.
I've been hearing, lately from caregivers who feel invisible in the caregiving world - or worse - uncomfortable talking about their particular plight. These people read about adult children caring for their beloved parents who, it seems, were perfect caregivers themselves. This fully functional ideal doesn't reflect many people's view of their own families growing up. It is hard for most of them to forgive themselves for resentments that no one else in the caregiving world seems to be dealing with.
Forgiveness, or the lack there of, can loom large in the life of a caregiver. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. That is rule number one for people to remember when they are working toward crafting better relationships with family members and others whom they care about. Forgiveness can have enormous benefits for the health of the person who does the forgiving. Considering that negative thinking can be disastrous to your own health, you may want to work toward the positive habit of forgiveness. Here are some people that you may need to forgive and some reasons why you should.
Are you sick of arguing with Dad over his driving? Is Mom unable to handle her checkbook, but she'll be darned if she'll let "you kids" take over? Is your older brother dead set against Dad going to a locked Alzheimer's unit, even though he's wandered away from Mom's care three times, once in the dead of winter? Family problems can get sticky. Well, we all know that. But when our parents are getting to a point where it's evident that they can't make decisions for themselves, but they are too strong-willed or set on maintaining what they view as their independence, sometimes a trained third party can help wade through the pool of family dynamics that has remained stagnant for decades.
Dear Carol: My brother is dying from aggressive lung cancer. My wife and I live nearly a thousand miles away from my brother and his family, but we’ve always been emotionally close. I've visited when possible, and will again shortly, but our main connection is by phone and email. I know that he’s being well cared for, so that’s not my concern. I just don’t know what to say to him when we talk. Is it good for me to bring up where he is in his health or should I ignore that and talk about other things? It’s just so hard to know what to say, yet I don’t want to quit calling. It’s all that we’ve got. Tom
Even siblings who grew up together with fondness for each other often have different ideas about what the right care for aging parents incorporates. When siblings have clashing personalities, or family issues have driven them apart, finding middle ground on anything can be extra challenging. However, the reality is that for many families the time eventually comes when adult children must make decisions for their parents’ living arrangement, medical care and even end of life treatment. We have more options for care than we did a couple of decades ago,