Friday, February 1, 2008

Default Caregiving Continued Again

When a person feels trapped in their caregiving role there's usually a family pattern coupled with a set of practiced belief systems in place. In this excerpt from The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving I take a look at a very common scenario: the primary caregiver has brothers and sisters who leave all the work to her:

“My family ought to be doing more! I’m only doing so much because they’re not!”

Consider these possibilities instead:

My brother and sister do less because I’m doing more. You can test this by choosing NOT to be so available. Call a family meeting to determine how mom will be cared for when you’re not there.

My brother and sister do not understand the level of care required. An independent assessment from a doctor, social service agency or care management agency might be helpful to get everyone on the same page.

My brother and sister do not agree with me about how best to provide the care mom needs. “They would put her in a facility and I won’t let that happen! They would leave her alone more often and I won’t do that! They would...and I won’t....” Under these circumstances you may need to accept that you have different beliefs about what’s needed and that you choose to act on your beliefs despite your family’s lack of agreement.

Unless something happens to change their belief systems, you cannot expect them to cheerfully shoulder more responsibility. As I said earlier, you cannot force someone to caregive against their will, at least not without major repercussions. So accept any help they choose to do as a gift. And do what you can to gently and respectfully provide information about your mother’s condition. But know, that if nothing changes, you might need to make a different choice about how YOU approach caregiving. That doesn’t mean that you would be wrong and they would be right. It means accepting things as they are—funky family dynamics and all—and being prepared to make different choices as time goes on because of it.

The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving is available online. Click this link to buy it now.

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