Thursday, November 12, 2009

Whew! What an autumn for caregiving!

About six weeks ago, I took my elderly mother to the doctor for a regular visit. It wasn't her GP, but the doctor we saw had a concern about her legs and suggested we she her GP the next morning. We never got the chance. That night I took my mother to the emergency room of my local hospital. We waited and waited for hours and when we finally saw the doctor, she was admitted, ten hours after we got there!

That was just the beginning. She was discharged a few days later and was staying at my home when a bad reaction between medications nearly killed her. A 911 call and and an ER visit later, she was back in the hospital. Then she was a couple weeks in skilled nursing.

Now my mother is back in her own home with home health care and me keeping an eye on her. She's doing well.

Here's the interesting part: I have 3 siblings and 5 nieces and nephews. No one has bothered to do anything - no visits and no calls, EXCEPT for one (short) visit by my oldest brother. When I saw her about an hour later, my mother was all upset. She said my brother cried. CRIED! The reason? He cried because she hadn't called him. Seriously! This grown man, visiting his mother who nearly died a few hours earlier and was still touch and go, cried to his mommy because she made him feel bad by nearly dying and not letting him know!

Are you in that kind of situation too? Are you balancing a career and parental caregiving? Do you have siblings but are the sole caregiver for an aging parent? When you ask for specific help, does the rest of the family tell you they are "too busy" to do anything...practically implying that it's all on you because you have nothing else to do?

If my experience sounds like your own, you aren't alone. There are many people, and mostly women, who are straddled with caregiving while their siblings sit around waiting to see how much money is going to be left at the end.

What can you do?

First, recognize that some siblings habitually make excuses for their bad behavior. Or, like my brother, showed his irresponsibility by making my mother feel that his lack of caring was her fault. It's a technique a lot of people use to get out of doing anything, and not feeling bad about it. If someone is doing this to you, speak up. Don't accept responsibility - especially emotional responsibility - for someone else's failures.

Next, protect yourself. Make sure you incorporate some good thing to look forward to each and every day. Like last Friday, when my stressful mom-morning was erased during a relaxing lunch with a friend and colleague. Over a plate of pasta, a glass of wine and a few laughs, my body relaxed and my mind was stimulated by our lively conversation. I left renewed, and reminded that victories don't happen in a vacuum. Victory happens through attitude, behavior and consciousness.

What about you? Are you a lone ranger caregiver? What have you learned about keeping yourself together that you can share?

1 comment:

Mac said...

Great post! I did it alone ten years ago without the benefit of so much information. I muddled through while my siblings stood ready to criticize and my mother accused me of doing everything against her. My reward is working now for an adult day center where I can (finally) see that caregiving is a universal occupation and that there is a lot of support. Thanks!