CAREGIVING SPECTRUM EXTREMES: DO IT ALL

Beth’s Story – Do It ALL Yourself!

This is the second of a series of three scenarios of how Family Caregivers respond to the needs of their declining parent.  In our last blog, we discussed Adam’s method, which was doing nothing. Today we discuss Beth, who takes the polar opposite approach. Opposite to our last scenario, what happens when the Family Caregiver tries to Do It ALL?

Even if it Hurts, Do It ALL

Beth lived in the same town as her Mom and checked on her regularly.  Although Beth’s Dad died several years ago, Beth’s Mom has thrived at home alone, with minimal assistance.  But recently things have changed.

Beth’s Mom suffered a series of health events, which seemed to start when she fell at home and bruised her hip.  She didn’t suffer any broken bones, but after this event, Beth noticed that her Mom started to decline. She was forgetting things, like taking her medicine and even forgetting to eat.

Seeing that a little help was needed, Beth begins stopping by Mom’s house each morning on the way to work and each evening on the way home.  Even though she had a very demanding job and a family of her own, Beth loved her Mom and “didn’t mind” the extra time required for her to make sure that her Mom had everything necessary to remain comfortable at home.  

After a few months of providing assistance, Beth’s Mom declined in health even more, which required even more assistance with getting in and out of bed, transferring to the toilet, bathing, meal preparation and all household tasks.  At this point, Beth was spending 2 hours every morning before going to work and 4 hours every evening before going home. After a busy 8 hour day at work, this made for a very long day for Beth.

Beth talked to her Mom about bringing in non-medical home care to help, but her Mom refused.  She said that she didn’t want any “outsiders” in her home – she only wanted Beth to help. Although she had four other siblings, two lived out of state and did nothing to help.  The two other siblings who lived in-state were “too busy” to help. As a result, Beth had to do it all.

Feeling the Strain

Soon, Beth started to develop health problems of her own.  She gained weight, injured her back lifting Mom and suffered frequent headaches.  She also experienced frequent chest pains but “didn’t have time” to go to a doctor to get it checked out.

Beth rarely got to spend time with her husband, kids or grandkids and felt that her life was spiraling out of control.  She had taken all of her vacation time, sick days, personal days and other off-days graciously allowed by her employer so she could help Mom.  She was calling to check on Mom several times each work day and was leaving early whenever possible.

All of this was starting to have an effect on Beth’s job performance.  Although her employer had been very understanding, Beth’s problem was now becoming the employer’s problem.  He needed someone that he could count on to actually be there and be focused on the work that needed to be done. Trying to Do It ALL was affecting ALL of Beth’s life! 

However, Beth’s employer really wanted Beth to stay – but he wanted the “old Beth” – not the Beth he had now.  As a result, Beth’s employer asked Beth to take a couple of months of unpaid leave to get her “house in order”.  He asked her to check back in with him in two months. If she had been able to get things in order, she could return to her job.  If not, he had another person in mind who could easily take her job.

This was also starting to have an effect on Beth’s marriage.   Although her husband loved her, the only time he saw her was when he stopped by her Mom’s house to help after his work day had ended.  Beth’s husband was also spending several hours per day helping Beth to help her Mom. Since he was the only other one to help, his help was necessary.  Beth’s husband wanted their old life back, but saw no relief on the horizon.

Beth’s Options:

  1. Should Beth let her health, job and marriage go down the dumper because Mom adamantly wanted just Beth all the time?
  2. Although she had mentioned it frequently, Beth had not insisted on non-medical caregivers because (a) She suspected that she would have trouble finding one that could get along with Mom; (b) She knew that Mom would not be friendly toward the new caregiver; and she knew that (c) Mom didn’t have enough money to be able to pay for in-home care for very long anyway.  Beth checked and there was no state-funded assistance for non-medical care in her area. (d) Since Beth was on unpaid leave, she couldn’t contribute financially.
  3. Mom still had her cognitive health and told Beth that if she put her in a Nursing Home, that she would “just give up and die”.  Beth knew that this was probably true and didn’t want that on her conscience.

When parents start to decline, proactive planning is critical.  Even though Mom may insist that one of the kids do it all, while the other siblings are “too busy” to help, best results can happen where the family engages in a Mom Centered Family Meeting (MCFM).  We will discuss that process in an upcoming article and will discuss ways that you can get assistance in setting up a MCFM Plan for your family.

Next Step

Beth is in a tough situation!  If you were in Beth’s shoes, what would you do?  Please leave us a comment below with your thoughts or personal experiences.

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In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. We understand the emotions involved while making necessary decisions. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community! There is nothing more cleansing for our situation than knowing that we are not alone!

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Being an Adult Kid who is helping mom as she is declining can be a scary, frustrating and lonely place lacking stability. You feel like you are solely responsible for solving Mom’s problems while managing yours. Some occasional input and a community to plug into would help, especially when facing burnout! This is a way that all of us can be working together as caregivers!

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