Compromise necessary for caregiver health
Dear Carol: Dad broke his hip a few months ago and is mentally slipping. My parents are in their 80s and have been married nearly 60 years. Mom is scared to death that they will be separated, so she struggles to take care of Dad. She looks awful....
Dear Carol: Dad broke his hip a few months ago and is mentally slipping. My parents are in their 80s and have been married nearly 60 years. Mom is scared to death that they will be separated, so she struggles to take care of Dad. She looks awful. Dad keeps yelling at her and saying things he would never have said before. Mom's always crying. I have explained to her that he is angry over his loss of independence, not mad at her. I have some help coming in a few hours a week, but Dad still only lets Mom help him. I know she will feel like a failure if he goes to a home. What can I do? - Teary myself
Dear Teary: Tara Giese of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota has seen situations like this and offers some wisdom:
"When a family member becomes sick and wants to remain at home there has to be compromise between the caregiver, the adult children and the person who is ill. It is nearly impossible for anyone to have everything the way they want.
"It is essential that caregivers have assistance with taking care of their loved one. To take care of oneself is to take care of their loved one. Having assistance is going to enable that caregiver to take care of their loved one for a much longer period of time. Statistics show that caregivers often die or go to a nursing home before the person they are caring for because of the stress of caregiving.
"In the past 10 years of working with caregivers, I have had many individuals who only wanted family members to take care of them, and did not want any outside help. We often ask families to try a service one time to see if it might work. More times than not, they loved having people come in to help out. Most days for homebound people are the same, but if they have someone coming in to provide respite or other cares, it breaks up the day and gives them something to look forward to.
"Family meetings are also important. Maybe there are some things that adult children and grandchildren can help out with. Often, family members want to help more but just don't know what to do. Having a list of tasks that need to be completed each week is helpful and family members can decide who can help with what. Picking up medication at the pharmacist, mowing the lawn, taking Grandpa to lunch all seem like little things, but can make a world of difference.
"Finally, a caregivers' support group is very helpful to caregivers. No one knows what it is like to be a caregiver unless they are doing it. It can be very comforting to be around others who truly understand and validate what it is like to be a caregiver."
Bursack is the author of a support book
on family elder care. To submit questions to "Minding Our Elders" and view past columns, go to www.in-forum.com and
click on Special Projects, then Elder Care. Readers can reach Bursack at email@example.com or write her at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.