Friday, May 16, 2008

Using Family Caregiving An Excuse

Dare I bring this up?

Is there ever a possibility that a person is doing family caregiving—excessively, that is—in order to have something to blame for not living their own life?

I had this experience several times when I was a Family Caregiving Consultant: I'd be listening with great sympathy to a caregiver complain to me about how much she or he resented the inordinate amount of work family caregiving took in their lives, how it prevented them from having what they wanted or needed, and how very very angry they were about it. We'd go through the usual intake interview, I'd explore multiple options with them for how they could get more help or make changes in their caregiving situation . . . and bit by bit I'd realize that they NEVER followed through on anything we talked about.

A counselor isn't supposed to take these things personally and heaven forbid we get mad. But not that long ago a light dawned for me: they didn't want to change anything because if they did they'd have to face the real demons in their life. Grief, disappointment, resentment, fear and pain left over from the past that held them back from doing the things they wanted in their lives anyway.

Easier to blame Mom for not accepting help or to blame the family and friends who aren't doing enough than to say "I'm sorry Mom. We have to get help, there's no choice—I'm not available as much anymore. (I'm going to school, I need a job, I'm having a baby, etc.)" Because that means...

Now I don't mean to be insensitive here. A lot of us engage in this behavior. I do it myself at times. But, seriously, is caregiving for mom or dad REALLY to blame for you not living the life you want (and I know this post does not apply to everyone!)... or is it the excuse?

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