Remember when you didn’t worry about your parents? They took care of their own affairs, and it never crossed your mind that there might come a time when they wouldn’t be able to keep house, run errands, cook their own meals, do the laundry, pay the monthly bills, and attend church like they’d been doing for as long as you could remember. These things were so much a part of your reality that you took them for granted. Sure, after your mom’s illness she needed help for a few weeks with little things around the house, but mostly your dad managed these. And when he began to forget little things here and there, everyone laughed about it and your mom may have covered for him more than anyone knew.
For some family caregivers, the role emerges gradually. You pitch in from time to time, and one day you realize you are planning your week around when you need to be available to help your aging loved ones. You find doctor’s appointments intruding on little league practices or high school performances. You notice the house isn’t as clean as it once was and feel the need to tidy up when you come for a visit. You take a load or two of clothes home to wash while you do your own housework, just to keep your dad from having to go down into the basement. You notice stacks of unopened mail lying around the house, and some have colored labels signifying second notices or cut-off warnings. Suddenly you realize that, in addition to managing your own life, you have taken on the management of your parents’ lives as well.
If you find yourself needing to be the manager of everything these days, the situation can feel uncomfortable for everyone involved. Your parents may not realize how dependent they have become, and question why you do everything for them; a spouse or siblings might resent your managerial role with your parents or question why you felt it necessary to take charge. Your own family might even resent your self-acquired responsibility for your parents and their well-being because your children or spouse feel neglected or forgotten.
One or more family conversations can help everyone get on the same page about when and why your managerial role is necessary right now, and what needs to happen next to make the best of the situation. The 40-70 Rule is a great resource for having these conversations.
An objective professional can also help guide the family dialogue through the necessary steps to manage everything in its turn. Geriatric Care Managers are a good resource for this type of intervention, but so are home care professionals who have many years of giving counsel to families dealing with situations like yours. They can make recommendations, give referrals, and offer solutions that can help you balance out your life and responsibilities while caring for those throughout your corner of the world.
Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about managing your life and your parents’ lives as a family caregiver.