Can You Handle Parental Caregiving?
Your Family Life
A national survey by the National Family Caregiver's Association found that the most frequently reported frustration felt by caregivers—76 percent—was the lack of consistent help from other family members.
Unless you live alone, the decision for bringing Mom home to stay shouldn't be a command decision that you make and simply announce to your family. Your spouse and kids, if they live with you, should be part of this decision. The whole family will be greatly affected by your mom or dad coming to live with you. Even if everyone is happy about the idea and supportive, relationships are going to be tested. Kids aren't going to get your undivided attention. You'll feel guilty missing that baseball game. Your husband will need to pitch in more and may find you stressed out and not know how to respond. And there you are: feeling pulled in all directions.
So before you make this life-changing decision, assess your family resources: What are your kids' needs? How much can your husband help given his work demands? What are the strengths of your marriage? What are the weaknesses? What can your siblings do? How is your relationship with your parent? (Is it rocky? Will it disrupt an otherwise harmonious home?) How does your parent get along with your spouse? If you have teenagers or adult children, how can they help? Be realistic as to how your loved ones are going to respond to this new challenge.
If you'll be caring for a parent who has Alzheimer's disease, make sure that everyone understands the nature and course of the disease. Children can become very frightened of Grandma if they don't understand what's going on. And though this is part of life, you'll need to guide your children through the debilitating side of growing old.
According to the National Family Caregiver Association's study of caregivers, 70 percent said that one of the most positive outcomes of their caregiving experience was finding the inner strength they didn't know they had.
This might be the hardest assignment of all. On one hand, you'll be surprised at the inner resources you have when you rise to the occasion. On the other hand, you may find that you are definitely over your head trying to meet your mom's physical, emotional, and mental health needs along with all of your family and work obligations. Take stock of your weaknesses and the things that really rattle you. Determine if any of these factors are going to be frequent hot-button issues for you when you care for your parent.
Say, for instance, your mom has several chronic conditions that require a great deal of scheduling, transporting, and organizing treatments. However, you're one of those free spirits who hates day planners and has yet to replace the battery in your watch. You'll need to enlist someone to either create order in your life or take over that element of your mom's care. If you're squeamish—can't handle insulin shots, incontinence, or changing dressings, and that is what your parent needs on a daily basis—you really need to ask yourself, if you can do this.
If you aren't realistic going into this, then you'll be at risk of becoming resentful or feeling trapped. Not a good place to be.
More on: Aging Parents
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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