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Minding our Elders: Some caregivers criticize rather than support each other

DEAR CAROL: My parents are together in a wonderful nursing home close to where I live. I visit most days after work, spend a lot of time there on weekends and use my vacation hours for their medical appointments. I'm also on call for emergencies....

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Carol Bradley Bursack

DEAR CAROL: My parents are together in a wonderful nursing home close to where I live. I visit most days after work, spend a lot of time there on weekends and use my vacation hours for their medical appointments. I’m also on call for emergencies. I’m not married, so I can’t quit my job.
A married woman who I thought was my friend throws guilt my way because she takes care of her mom in her home. She says that I’m not a real caregiver and that I just keep an eye on my parents and I make too big of a deal of what I do.
I know that I shouldn’t let her attitude get to me but it does. I never seem to have a break from the worry and work that comes with helping my parents, yet I’m made to feel like I’m not doing my job. Thanks for letting me vent. – Lynn
DEAR LYNN: As far as your care of your parents goes, you are doing everything necessary and more. Your parents are getting the social benefits of living with peers and also good medical care. You’re providing plenty of personal care, so don’t let this woman’s attitude bring you down.
Taking care of any vulnerable or sick person in the home is a challenge, and I’m sure that she’s experiencing lots of stress. She may look at your so called freedom from constant care as easy compared with her situation. However, she also has choices if she wants to look closely at what she does. She could hire in-home care or make use of adult day care. If her mom doesn’t have the money for this, she may find respite care through her local human services or Area Agency on Aging. Churches sometimes have people who can sit with elders and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, now known as RSVP, has a program called Senior Companions where a healthy senior can come and visit with an ailing elder to provide company and a break for the caregiver.
Your antagonistic friend has the support of a spouse and, unlike you, apparently doesn’t need to worry about paying the bills while being a caregiver. It’s obvious that you have very different life circumstances than she does.
How sad that because of her attitude you two can’t bond over your shared caregiving experiences. However, if that’s not to be, then you need to distance yourself from her and find other ways to receive support. If you have time to go to a support group, that may help.
Additionally, you could go online and try different caregiver support forums until you find one where you feel at home. You may even find friendly support through other family members who are visiting their loved ones in the nursing home where your parents live.
You are doing everything you reasonably can for your parents given your circumstances. Remember that and detach from people who can’t be more positive and encouraging. You needn’t join them in their negativity, but you can look for support among people with more open minds. Caregivers should be offering each other a safe harbor in which they can exchange information and seek understanding even with differing circumstances.

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