Sunday, January 27, 2008

Default Caregiving Continued

An excerpt from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving:

“I don’t have anything going on in my life compared to everyone else in my family, so I’m the one who has to be the caregiver.”

If this was a healthy motivation for caregiving I wouldn’t have a job! And I certainly wouldn’t be hearing so much resentment. Usually, what happens here is that the caregiver who believes this statement wakes up one day and realizes that her caregiving responsibilities keep her trapped in a life of pain and anguish. At a time in her life (her divorce, for example) when she most needed to be taking stock of her needs, her desires, and her ability to create a new life she put her life down and took on caring for someone else’s. Her brother and sister are busy living the lives they wanted while she’s losing precious time doing something that’s really not healthy for her over the long haul.

The best thing a caregiver in this situation can do is to choose a time when she will take a break from her caregiving responsibilities to get help figuring out what she most wants for herself. She needs to make plans well in advance (by choosing a class, finding a therapist or career counselor, etc.) and then let the family know that she won’t be available at that time. This is different than saying “I need help” and then having to deal with her siblings’ resistance to giving away their precious time to someone who’s not as busy as they are. By saying “I’m not available” she is making two statements: “I’m doing something important, too” and “Mom needs help I can’t provide at a particular time. What can we do?” If no one is available a new choice about how to handle mom’s care (paid help, church volunteers, elder day care or social programs, or community service support) could be arranged.


tyranny said...

I can relate, I take care of my neighbor, and I get little to no help from the family. Meanwhile I am in school and now facing the prospect of having to find a part-time job. How do I get her family more involved?

Sheryl Karas said...

The best thing is to let the family know you are no longer available at such and such a time and that different arrangements will need to be made. At least that's the place to begin. Especially if you think she's going to be in danger if you're not there.