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Published July 13, 2013, 11:35 PM

Minding Our Elders: Daughter overwhelmed with aging mom’s needs

DEAR CAROL: Mom has lived with me and my 10-year-old son for five years. The first two years were okay but her increasing health issues have now become the center of our lives. I work full time with flexible hours and am now using nearly all of my time off tending to Mom’s needs.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

DEAR CAROL: Mom has lived with me and my 10-year-old son for five years. The first two years were okay but her increasing health issues have now become the center of our lives. I work full time with flexible hours and am now using nearly all of my time off tending to Mom’s needs. My son is not getting the attention he deserves and his father isn’t in his life to help. The man in my life is good to us both and compassionate toward Mom, but I know he feels that I have no time for him. Is it wrong of me to want my own life back? I love Mom but something has to change. She fights the idea of assisted living and I feel like I’m a terrible person when I suggest it. – Gail

DEAR GAIL: You have given voice to a huge issue in caregiving – that of when, as a caregiver, you’ve done all you can do, and the unearned guilt that attaches to the decision. Your mom’s health needs are becoming too much for one person. Your relationship with your son needs more attention and you deserve some time for yourself and your other relationship, as well. That means you need to stand firm on making a change in your caregiving role.

Some communities have small group homes as well as larger assisted living centers so, depending on where you live, your mom could have several choices. You may want to research what is available and even ask for brochures to show your mom. Assisted living could be very good for your mom as she’d likely benefit from socializing with her peers.

Look at it like this. She now has you to do everything for her. It’s natural that she wouldn’t want to change. People in poor health can become selfish even if part of them understands that they are taking advantage of someone they love. That doesn’t mean change isn’t warranted.

Your state’s version of the National Family Caregiver Support Program should offer you some contacts who can give you emotional support as well as offer advice on local services. They can be found on your state’s website under aging services. With experienced people to guide you, you might find it in yourself to stand firm on the idea of assisted living. Reassure your mom that you’ll still be her caregiver and advocate, but let know that you need to make different living arrangements.

I believe you know what to do. You simply need support so you can face your mother’s arguments. For your son, for yourself and for your adult relationship please seek out people who will stand with you while you try to convince your mom that a move to assisted living is necessary. Even if she stays angry for a time, she’ll eventually adjust and probably even enjoy her new surroundings once she makes some friends.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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