“My mother told me she loved m. She has never said that to me before in my life. Never.”
The quote, above, is from the daughter of one of our clients. All her life her relationship with her mother had been difficult; when she first started caring for her mother at the mother’s home, it was out of a sense of duty and with some bitterness. After several years, she finally could not do it anymore, and asked us to help with the transition to a nursing home. When her mother had been there for about six months, she turned to daughter and said the words that made it worthwhile.
The focus for Caregivers’ Advice is often on helping the caregiver to “survive.” It is important to remember that there is another side of caregiving. Often, what arises from caregiving is an incredible sense of closeness, love, completion , and even forgiveness. This richness can come to people who have had close relationships as well as to people such as our client, whose relationships have been difficult.
One of the reasons caregiving relationships become close is because of an increase in vulnerability and intimacy. This happens when an adult child does helps with practical, personal, and sometimes intimate tasks, and their parents allow themselves to be helped–sometimes with resistance at first, sometimes with gratitude. They see their parents struggling, having needs and weaknesses. Barriers are let down, and helps children to see their parent in a different light. It also helps the parents to see their children in a different way. When one allows oneself to be helped and allows others to see oneself having needs, one is allowing a closeness to occur.
Adult children can also become closer to their siblings, as they join together to help support their aging parents. Working together can increase communication, help them to get to know each other better, encourage them to talk about themselves, and their family as they were growing up. True, caregiving can bring up dissension, and frustration; old wounds and relationship patterns can be triggered, but with the help of a counsellor or Care Manager, solutions to help them through can be developed.
What will help you focus on the richness and satisfaction of Caregiving?
- Learn what might be coming down the road and find the resources you will need.
- Ask yourself what you want and expect out of Caregiving. After all, it is a relationship, in the end, what do you want to be able to look back and say–about yourself, your parents, and the situation? If what you want and expect impacts on others, make sure they know and agree with those expectations.
- Keep communication open with your own spouse and children, so that you know how caregiving is affecting them. Be ready to get some help to work on that too.
- Take some time to do some fun things with the person you are caring for. Maybe do something with other caregivers and their parent also.
- Learn about, and practice forgiveness, both for yourself and your parent.
- Do what you can do, and hire someone to help with the other parts. A Care Manager can help you with organizing care. Diamond Geriatrics’ Care Managers are qualified counsellors who can help you, your family, or your parents with the emotional as well as the practical issues you are facing.
- Find things with your parent that you can laugh about.
- Understand that the person you are caring for is someone with a disability, not a child, and they have special needs.
- Take breaks and let off steam; take a holiday
- Form a team of people–friends, professionals, families, and organizations– who can help.
- Know the signs of burnout and stop before you get there. This means being ready to say when you cannot do it anymore, or you need to change the parameters of what you are doing.
- Remember that the payoff may come from knowing that you are doing what you are because of the kind of person you want to be.
1. Be prepared for caregiving with these checklists:
- Caregiving tasks you may encounter, click here
- Caregiving decisions you may make, click here
- How prepared are you? Click here
- To see a list of our past newsletter topics, click here
- About caregiver burnout: click here
Happy Holidays from Diamond Geriatrics to all of our Clients, Friends, and Colleagues.